Audi RS Q3 review
The Q3 becomes the first Audi SUV to be badged RS, and its 306bhp engine and sweet chassis ensure it doesn’t disappoint
The RS Q3 is the first Audi SUV to wear the flagship RS badge. It originated at Audi’s performance division, Quattro GmbH, where engineers added the 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine from the RS3 to a Q3. But the result was so convincing that the car was given the nod for production by then-technical development head, Michael Dick. The first UK cars arrive in early 2014, and feature a 306bhp version of the engine – down from 335bhp in the RS3. This still gives excellent performance, especially as the pretty sharp chassis and lofty driving position combine with the engine to make the RS Q3 surprisingly fun to drive. Conventional hot hatches are better, but the Q3 also has practicality on its side, with a big boot and decent interior space.
Our choice: Audi RS Q3
In keeping with the beefed-up powertrain, the RS Q3 has been given a nice-looking set of five-spoke 20-inch rims, a more aggressive front bumper, extended side sills and a single oval tailpipe, which pokes out of the rear bumper. Inside, there’s a 6.5-inch colour display screen, although the RS lacks the intuitive MMI system of more recently released Audis. To make sure you don’t forget you’re driving a performance flagship, you do get heated sports seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and an RS-specific instrument cluster.
It feels odd to get up into an RS model, rather than lowering yourself down into a sports seat, but the high driving position actually helps you go faster thanks to improved visibility. The engine is superb, delivering plenty of power and a great soundtrack, although its 420Nm of torque can overwhelm the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox when accelerating hard. The steering is light but it’s pretty direct, although this can be beefed up by selecting the Dynamic driving mode. This also adds a little extra bass to the exhaust note. There’s a bit of body roll when cornering hard, but the ride is pretty supple the rest of the time. The upgraded brakes are excellent, too, and have a special wave-shaped front disc to help dissipate heat from repeated hard stops. Grip is excellent, and that’s helped by the four-wheel drive system, which apportions power to each wheel as required. It does this more subtly than on more expensive RS cars with more tech, but feels more engaging as a result.
Audi is well known for building high-quality products and the Q3 doesn't feel like an exception to that rule. Audi finished in the top ten manufacturers of 2013 according to the Driver Power poll. Like the standard Q3, the RS uses plenty of solid materials and feels like it is built to last. The five-cylinder engine is very strong, and has been around for a long time in terms of its basic design. The Q3 also comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and three years' RAC breakdown cover, which should help keep bills to a minimum. With a five-star Euro NCAP crash rating, as well as 94 and 85 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, it should prove to be very safe as well.
The Q3 boasts hot hatch performance, but plenty of usable space. Although its suspension is 25mm lower than a regular Q3, the RS still has a high enough ride height to make it very easy to get in and out of, and to load the 356-litre boot. Drop the rear seats, and this increases to 1,261 litres of space. The Q3 does have quite a large transmission tunnel, so that compromises passenger room in the middle rear seat, but four adults could easily undertake a long journey in plenty of comfort.
Audi claims 32.1mpg for the RS Q3, thanks to its stop-start system. That’s pretty impressive given the size of the engine and the performance on tap. That said, if you do explore the upper reaches of the engine’s range – and the sound it makes at full chat will encourage you to – fuel economy drops dramatically, and so will the longer-term cost of replacing brake pads, tyres and other consumables. The Q3 is expensive to buy, but its residual value after three years or 60,000 miles is 52 per cent – second only to the Porsche Cayman.