I must admit, the idea of a small performance SUV wasn’t very appealing at first. SUV’s - by nature - are rather large, cumbersomethings rarely cutting it in off-road conditions. They also tend to have blunted dynamics and an increased thirst at the pumps so that their drivers can be made to feelsuperior to the peasant in the sedan, gawking at them in traffic.
However, therein lies the beauty of the RS Q3. It’s far lower than the standard Q3 and there are no pretentious bash plates or off-road garnishing. It’s simply been designed to look like a really angry version of the brand’s small SUV and I really like that purposeful design brief. In typical Audi RS fashion, the design is understated but highly effective. My test unit had massive 20-inch wheels; I believe that 19-inch items are standard and judging by the massive waved front brake discs the large wheels are warranted.
The brakes are totally warranted as well, considering this car’s straight line shove. It’s truly a serious performance car with 228kW/420Nm from its 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine, which emits a 1980’s rally car soundtrack. It sounds fantastic and the burps from the super fast seven-speed S tronic transmission add to that aural appeal. Claimed 0-100km/h sprint figures are just 5.2 seconds, which is entirely believable from my experience.
I was so taken by the interior acoustics and neck-snapping acceleration that I got slightly carried away and paid for it at the pumps. On a proper combined cycle with a gentle right foot I managed a figure just south of 11 litres/100km which is more than the claimed 8.8 litres/100km but still commendable for a car with this type of performance.
The most impressive aspect of the vehicle is its dual personality. It can be quite refined and smooth or savagely fast and loud. It’s truly easy to drive and drive fast, but at the same time it’s also a very accomplished open-road cruiser.
As with many sports cars, we see ride quality being compromised in the pursuit of dynamic handling but with the RS Q3 there’s a good balance. While there’s quite a bit of understeer when pushing on, there’s also a level of comfort when tackling twisty bits that few sports cars can offer.
The interior strikes a good combination of sophistication and sporty appeal. There are the usual Audi design elements and top-notch quality throughout with subtle details like RS logos on the seats, door sills, steering wheel and gear lever, along with the carbon fibre inlays which admittedly are an option but do add something in the way of aesthetics. The one thing I wanted from the interior was slightly more supportive seats, especially in terms of lateral support.
In conclusion, the Audi RS Q3 is a car that doesn’t really make sense and is something I didn’t see myself growing fond of. Yet, throughout my tenure with the car I couldn’t help but be impressed with its dynamic ability, raucous soundtrack, understated looks and superb quality.
At R696 500 it’s certainly not inexpensive but owners might find it worthwhile when they hand out their first batch of traffic light hidings in this sleeper from Neckarsulm.