Two years ago, when I first drove the Audi RS Q3 as a prototype at the international launch of the Q3 it was after a day spent behind the wheel of various derivatives of Ingolstadt’s then new entry into the compact SUV market. On that day it was the extra bolstering on the standard Alcantra-clad driver’s seat and flat-bottomed steering wheel that immediately set the then unnamed performance model apart from the rest of the range.
Today, after swopping the low-slung driver’s seat in an RS7 for the same RS Q3's pew, its relatively tall mount certainly takes some getting used to.
Not that the driver’s seat and, indeed, cabin in any modern Audi is a bad place to be, but my lingering instinct in the new RS Q3 was to reach for the height adjustment lever in the search of a few extra rungs.
An RS version of the Q3 is an interesting proposition. Not only because, until the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz GLA45 to our shores, it has no natural rival in the market but also because, at first glance, you have wonder whom its target market actually is.
Whether it's parents seeking extra thrill from the school run or customers not willing to wait for the next RS3 to arrive, Audi South Africa claims to have more than 100 pre-orders for the car and is confident of shifting more than 150 units per year.
Posing on standard 18-inch alloy wheels the RS Q3 just about manages to pull off a sporty stance, despite its default raised body height (lowered as it is by 25 mm over the a standard Q3). A bonafide member of the RS family, matte aluminium highlights (including roof rails and, of course, side mirrors) add a sense of occasion to the package, while the a large rear diffuser, oval tailpipe and roof spoiler offer comfort to those humbled in the traffic by a mere compact SUV that it was at least a sports version.
Indeed, there’s nothing humble about the drivetrain in the RS Q3. Category winner of engine of the year for three years in a row Audi’s impressive 2,5 TFSI five-cylinder engine is one of the finest in the business. Mated with a slick seven-speed S tronic transmission, in this application there is 228 kW available between 5 200 and 6 700 r/min. But it’s the 420 N.m of torque available from a low 1 500 r/min that leaves the most lasting impression.
It’s the kind of engine that doesn’t require any additional exhaust note amplification or artificial enhancement. Only a mechanical valve within the system activated via standard Audi Driver Select determines the volume (Auto, Comfort or Dynamic) of the soundtrack. One can only hope this engine finds its way into more Volkswagen Group products in the future, as it really is wonderful in both its uniqueness and character.
Pushing on in the RS Q3 you’re always aware of the relatively high centre of gravity in the vehicle. That said the standard RS sports suspension admirably manages to keep unwanted body-roll in check. Carry too much speed into a corner and you can feel the 235/50 R18 front tyres working hard to keep the car’s nose on the chosen trajectory - but maintain the line they certainly do. Floor the throttle early on the exit and Audi’s proven quattro technology acts as a slingshot.
Audi claims the RS Q3 will complete a 0-100 km/h run in 5,2 seconds.
You have to admire Audi for following up on its recent promise to increase the rollout of both its S and RS performance derivatives, including within less likely model ranges. But the real credit and admiration for producing such a capable and fun-loving RS-badged compact SUV needs to go to Audi’s Neckarsulm-based quattro GmbH workshop. While I’m interested to read the profile on to whom exactly this model is aimed at, the RS Q3 nevertheless wears its RennSport badge with pride.
Model: Audi RS Q3
Engine: 2,5-litre, 5-cylinder, turbocharged
Power: 228 kW between 5 200 and 6 700 r/min
Torque: 420 N.m between 1 500 and 5 200 r/min
0-100 km/h: 5,2 seconds
Top speed: 250 km/h
Fuel consumption: 8,8 L/100 km
CO2: 206 g/km
Est price: R696 500
Maintenance plan: 5 years/100 000 km
Service intervals: determined by onboard computer
*According to Audi