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Car reviews - Audi - Q3 - RS Q3 Performance

Our Opinion

We like
Demonic engine and noise, savage performance, build quality, RS club accessibility
Room for improvement
Commercial driving position, Sub-RS exhaust volume, wide gear ratios

13 Oct 2016

AUDI has christened the updated version of the RS Q3 the ‘Performance’ which we don’t think is entirely fair on the version it replaces.

It may have lacked the evocative moniker but with 250kW and 450Nm, the previous version didn’t exactly lack the ability to go fast in all conditions and all directions. How does zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds sound?Nonetheless, Audi deemed it necessary to give the manic SUV an extra 20kW and 15Nm, slashing 0-100km/h performance to 4.4s, which is faster than the original V8-powered R8 supercar.

Acceleration is fierce and addictive, especially paired with the strange but intoxicating five-cylinder soundtrack, but when put into the small-SUV context, the way the RS Q3 goes and sounds is simply unbelievable.

Are we being greedy if we say we would like even more of that sound? The RS Q3 has a lovely note but it is not quite as antisocial as the volume of the RS3 Sportback, which shares the same engine and is one of the best-sounding cars on the road.

The straight-five turbo gets to its red line surprisingly quickly without dropping off near maximum revs and with a wonderful demonic note that is quite unlike any other engine. We are delighted that the glorious five-pot will live on in an all-new alloy version when the RS3 Sedan arrives.

It may not seem like it has been given a significant power upgrade but with an unladen weight of 1655kg, the Performance’s extra grunt is obvious.

Negotiating bends is just as exciting. SUVs of all sizes and prices used to approach corners like a bomb disposal expert approaches a suspicious package.

Gingerly, and sooner or later something unexpected was going to happen, but not with the RS Q3 Performance.

Its massive 20-inch wheels and excellent Quattro all-paw transmission bite into the road surface in all conditions and send confidence inspiring messages to the driver through the steering and tack-flat chassis. We particularly like the steering weight with the drive mode selector in Dynamic.

With the clever Quattro system preferring to send power to the rear axle when driving enthusiastically, the handling is more RWD than AWD and understeer is pleasantly absent, but when the tail end grip is used up, the nose wheels imperceptibly help out for serious pace.

When driving with a calmer temperament, the system biases the front wheels for improved fuel consumption. Audi says the monster of the Q3 range will return a combined fuel economy figure of 8.8 litres per 100km, which is commendable given what it can do when efficiency is not a priority.

Audi’s S tronic dual-clutch transmission does well to handle the momentous power output with quick shifts and smooth operation at lower speeds. Yank on a steering wheel paddle shifter near maximum revs and the box will click the next gear into mesh with a satisfying urgency but if you are a little late and hit the rev limiter, the dual-clutch will punish you with an agonising delay.

Generally, operation is slick and quick but the seven ratios are a little on the wide side. Its long legs are great for feasting on the many kilometres of a road trip but when hacking through twisty sections of tarmac we would have liked a more tightly-bunched cog set that could be smashed through with a more racecar feel.

It may have the agility that defies what jacked-up crossovers and SUVs are supposed to be able to do on-road, but the RS Q3 has a few reminders of its humble underpinnings, such as the driver’s seat position.

The beautiful black leather and white diamond-quilted stitching sends all the quality messages that Audi is a master at, but the upright almost commercial vehicle seating position is not quite conducive of the RS brand.

Not all reminders of the RS Q3’s connection to lesser variants are necessarily negative though and occupants are pleasantly reminded by a high seating position with good surrounding visibility, enough headroom for tall passengers in all five seats and easy loading access. It might have Nurburgring conquering athleticism but it’s still a small SUV.

Real carbon-fibre interior trims, generous equipment and a quiet cabin when cruising are all features that boost the value equation, and validate the purpose of a small SUV that can hit 270km/h.

Some may wince at the $84,216 starting price before on-road costs and while that may seem a lot for a vehicle in this class, it is a way into the celebrated Audi Sport RS club that is only beaten by the $78,616 RS3 Sportback.

The outgoing RS Q3 was fast and hugely enjoyable on a twisty road or racetrack but it didn’t quite have the raw, relentless pace that its badge-brethren offered, however, with what seems like only a relative small increase in engine output, the new Performance version is finally deserving of the fabled RS badge.

While almost all models in Australia’s challenging new-car market tussle for positions like candidates in an executive management recruitment interview, the RS Q3 has created its own job.

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