Audi RS Q3 review, price and specs | evo

11 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Audi RS Q3 review, price and specs | evo
Audi RS

The Audi RS Q3 is the first four-ringed SUV to get the full performance treatment. Review here

October 2013

What is it?

The Audi RS Q3, the first SUV to receive the company’s flagship performance badge. With a 306bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine derived from the Audi RS3 and TT RS and a host of butch styling tweaks, prices start at £43,000.

On the face of it, this could be yet another underwhelming RS variant to file under ‘What were they thinking?’, but experience suggests quattro GmbH is consistently inconsistent with its range-topping derivatives. This alone makes the RS Q3 worth a try.

Technical highlights?

Press the starter button and you immediately discover the RS Q3 wears its heart on its sleeve. Its thumping five-banger has been the core of the TT RS and RS3’s appeal, but perhaps because its gruff warble is more incongruous in the Q3, the effect on your psyche is one of childish delight. Its outputs 306bhp and 310lb ft are more adult, if slightly down on the TT and RS3’s.

Put to the tarmac via Audi’s familiar Haldex clutch-controlled quattro four-wheel-drive system and mated to a seven-speed S-tronic paddle-shift DSG gearbox, the RS Q3 is a gifted sprinter, completing 0-60 in under 5.5sec on its way to a limited top speed of 155mph.

In line with its Q3 flagship status, the RS gets Audi’s Drive Select system, which gives you the choice of three modes Comfort, Auto and Dynamic which control the damping, steering weight and response, and the sharpness of the power delivery. There’s no Individual mode allowing you to pick and mix settings from Comfort and Dynamic, but as the first few miles pass beneath the RS Q3’s fat wheels, you discover that isn’t the issue you might fear.

What’s it like to drive?

More often than not, an RS Audi can be characterised by dead, artificial-feeling steering and all-or-nothing damping, but the RS Q3 immediately confounds that stereotype with clean, linear, intuitively responsive (if a fraction too light) steering and a pliant, controlled ride in Comfort mode. To be honest, you could superglue the Drive Select button to Comfort and live quite happily with this setting, for you can accurately and enthusiastically hustle the Q3 down a challenging B-road without ever wanting for tighter body control, significantly weightier steering or sharper throttle response.

Audi RS

However, moving to Auto mode doesn’t ruin the show. Indeed, it does what you’d hope, enabling the Q3 to up its game or let down its guard, depending on your pace and the demands of the road. Dynamic is the most contrived of the settings, adding resistance to the steering and sharper edges to the damping, but you still might be tempted to indulge on the smoother, faster leg of a solo drive.

In terms of outright pace the RS Q3 is one of those cars that has the potential to make many a hot hatch or sports car driver’s day. It’s a cliché, but because you’re perched a little higher you have a more commanding view of the road ahead. This matters on fast country roads, where enlightening glimpses through corners or over hedgerows aid your confidence and increase safety margins.

The broad spread of power and torque means the Q3 builds speed rapidly and never feels caught between gears, and a crisp up- or downshift is only ever a finger stretch away in any case. The brakes 365mm at the front and gripped by eight-piston calipers have major-league stopping power, and while they have a fraction too much bite on initial application, they’re easy to modulate at low or high speeds and have superb outright ability.

How does it compare?

Of its ilk, it’s far more appealing than the carbuncular Mini John Cooper Works Countryman or equally ugly (and stupidly named) BMW X1 xDrive35i. If you want to be more creative with your £50k budget, then a used Porsche Cayenne Turbo or Mercedes ML63 AMG might prove tempting, while a rapidly morphing market throws up another all-wheel-drive alternative in the shape of the ballsy Mercedes A45 AMG super hot hatch.

Anything else I need to know?

It feels wrong to be writing this, but the RS Q3 is a far more successful and enjoyable machine to drive than the RS3, 4, 5, 6 or 7. And its used values look set to reflect this; a residual value of 52 per cent after three years/60,000 miles is second only to the Porsche Cayman when it comes to being depreciation busting.

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