Great engine, noise, grip and cross-country pace
Harsh ride on cars without DCC, grabby ceramic brakes, expensive, gearbox
What is it?
Audi Sport - formerly known as Quattro, it’s the bit of Audi responsible for RS-cars such as the RS3 and RS6, as well the R8 and the company’s Formula E, DTM, GT3 and TCR programmes - wants to double sales of its road cars by 2023. And this thing is gonna help it get there. Say hello to the new RS Q3 - the fastest small SUV you can buy, with a near-400bhp five-cylinder engine, a top speed of as much as 174mph and the option of ceramic brakes. Yes, really.
Small performance SUVs are, as we know, very much in vogue right now. In the last couple of years we’ve seen the Cupra Ateca, VW T-Roc R, BMW X2 M35i, Mercedes-AMG GLB35 and Skoda Kodiaq vRS go on sale. And there are plenty more on the horizon. But the RS Q3 has been around for years, having first gone on sale in 2013. There was nothing quite like it back then, and there still isn’t today. Not until Mercedes sees fit to replace the AMG GLA45, anyway.
As standard the RS Q3 rides 10mm lower than a regular Q3, on RS-tuned suspension. Aesthetic changes include new bumpers and skirts, flared wheel arches and big wheels. Oh, and a dual-exit exhaust, in place of the old RSQ3’s single tailpipe. Inside there are some serious seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Prices start from £52,450, or £53,600 for the RS Q3 ‘Sportback’ and its 45mm lower roof-line. Audi expects the Sportback to be more popular than the regular RS Q3 (sales will be 60 per cent Sportback, 40 per cent standard, says Audi), despite the additional cost and compromised interior. We’ve driven both, but underneath they’re mechanically identical. So of course they feel exactly the same to drive...
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
On paper the RS Q3 is a silly, silly car that defies rationalisation. But in reality it’s... quite likeable. Much more so than the GLB35, or indeed any other performance SUV of this size. The question remains: who really needs an Audi Q3 - a family crossover - with almost 400bhp from a five-cylinder engine, ceramic brakes and a top speed of 174mph? Nobody, that’s who. Sensible money buys something else entirely. For this money, probably a Porsche Macan, which is a more complete car. But sensibleness is seldom fun. Avoid the Sportback, unless you really dig the way it looks, and absolutely get the DCC. Bit of an oddity, but not without charm.