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First drive: Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.

First drive: Audi RS Q3
Audi crams its raucous five-pot turbo into the Q3 to create a strangely enticing performance SUV.


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Audi RS Q3

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The new Audi RS Q3 is here to take on the likes of the BMW X4 M40i, and it's doing it to a rocking, Eighties soundtrack. Is it actually any fun, though?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi RS Q3
Pricing: £66,030 as tested; starts at £53,600
Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic, quattro all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door performance SUV
CO2 emissions: 202g/km (VED Band 191-225: £1,280 in year one, then £465 per annum years two-six of ownership, the £145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 28.8mpg
Top speed: 174mph
0-62mph: 4.5 seconds
Power: 400hp at 5,800-7,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,950-5,850rpm
Boot space: 530-1,525 litres

What's this?

This is the Audi RS Q3 and it's going to be the most mental car on the school run, ever. You might think that the rival yummy mummies-and-daddies are showing off with their Porsche Macans and BMW X4 M40is (the cars that Audi reckons the somewhat smaller RS Q3 competes with) but they've seen nothing yet. Or at least, heard nothing yet.

We'll come back to that point, but first - what exactly is an RS Q3? Well, obviously, it's a Q3 and it's the high-performance version. You'll easily spot it thanks to the massive Singleframe grille at the front, now finished in a black honeycomb, with supplementary snorting great openings (some of which are fake) in the bumper and the leading edge of the bonnet.

You can have it either in the regular Q3 body shape, or as the slightly sportier-looking Sportback with its sloping, fastback rear end. Normally, we're not so keen on these coupe-SUV shapes, but the RS Q3 Sportback kinda makes it work, so fill your boots if you must. You'll only find it to be less practical than the standard car when you fold down the rear seats, when you'll notice that there's 200 litres less loading space.

The rest of the cabin is as per the regular Q3, except someone's fired an Audi RS blunderbuss at it. So you get the same mix of big central touchscreen (angled towards the driver) and digital 'Virtual Cockpit' instruments, which comes with some RS-specific displays. There are also gorgeous, contrast-stitched, high-backed RS bucket seats up front, and they're the type of seats you can happily spend all day ensconced in. Our test car also came with lashings and lashings of optional carbon-fibre and Alcantara trim, including a flat-bottomed steering wheel entirely wrapped in Alcantara. Mmmm, grippy.

Outside, you can spec the wheels up to a massive 21-inches, there are Matrix LED lights front and rear, and you can choose from standard, stiffer and lower suspension, or RS Sports Suspension Plus, which comes with adaptive dampers.

Under the bonnet lies Audi's potent (to put it mildly) 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine, with 400hp and 480Nm of torque. And in this, ladies and gentlemen, we have our true star of the show...

How does it drive?

To put it mildly, the RS Q3 is a car defined and dominated by its engine. That 2.5-litre five-cylinder unit makes some of the best noises we've ever heard a mechanical device produce. Honestly, the only vaguely affordable car we've driven that sounds as good as this is the Ford Mustang Bullitt. Where the Mustang emits a classic sixties rumble, the RS Q3's engine is stuck firmly in the eighties. The ur-Quattro-esque growl will have you immediately reaching for the bobble hats and rally jackets, and staking out a viewing spot in the nearest stretch of forestry. Of course, it's much, much more refined and more smooth than that original Quattro engine, and when you fire it up in comfort mode, you'd barely notice any aural difference between this and any other reasonably potent modern engine. Stretch its rpm legs, though, and it comes over all Mouton-Rörhl in your ear canals, grumbling and barking in a manner that has you checking over your shoulder to make sure Dai Llewellyn isn't trying to barge past, mid-stage.

And it's quick. Not quite as kicked-backwards-down-a-liftshaft as in the slightly lighter RS 3 Sportback or Saloon, but given half a second to draw its breath, this engine just fires you at the horizon like a five-cylinder cannon. A time of 4.5 seconds to 62mph is impressive enough, but keep your foot in and it just keeps gathering speed, in a relentless, runaway-train fashion. We simply ran out of brave pills before the five-pot ran out of puff.

So, the engine is brilliant (even net of the disastrous economy and emissions figures). What about the chassis? Well, we can't say that the chassis doesn't keep up with the engine, but it's not as sparkling and lovely as the powerplant. The RS Q3 gets, of course, quattro four-wheel drive, which is generally rear-biased and which can send 100 per cent of the engine's power towards the rear wheels if you need it to. You can, under extreme, hooligan levels of provocation, get the rear end to squirm out into a small slide, but it's not what the RS Q3 likes to do. Instead, simply adjust the steering (meaty, satisfying weight, but not much actual feel) towards the point on the horizon for which you wish to head, squeeze the go-pedal, and the RS Q3's chassis will effortlessly, competently manage the power and direction demands and deliver you to destination way, way sooner than you expected.

In the Audi tradition, it's not a huge, laugh-a-minute barrel of fun, but it is wonderfully sure-footed, safe and confidence-inspiring. Even with that surfeit of power, you'd have to be doing something really, really silly to bin it. Meanwhile, comfort-wise, you're going to want the adaptive dampers. The RS Q3 is naturally stiff and firmly sprung, but in Comfort mode the clever dampers smooth things out enough to make it useable enough for everyday driving.


Thirsty, with high emissions and very definitely not cheap, you could accuse the RS Q3 of being a bit out of step with the rest of the world right now. Heck, there's not even a battery or mild-hybrid system anywhere in sight. Still, though - fire up that Eighties soundtrack from the engine and feel the sheer thrust on offer, and you'll be hooked. Someone pass the Duran Duran album; I'm heading for the forests...

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain

Neil Briscoe - 6 Dec 2019    - Audi road tests
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- Q3 images

2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.

2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.2019 Audi RS Q3. Image by Audi UK.


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