Audi RS Q3 Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
Advertisement
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Advertisement feature

The full story of audi's 2023 dakar rally

View the latest news
Tuesday 31st January
Advertisement

Driving

What is it like to drive?

Predictably the RS Q3 shares its five-cylinder, turbocharged motor with the RS3 hatchback. It’s true that this 2.5-litre petrol engine has been around for a while, but nowadays it’s cleaner (thanks to a petrol particulate filter), lighter (an aluminium crankcase saves 18kg alone) and more powerful than ever before. You’re looking at 395bhp and 295lb ft, for 0-62mph in 4.5 seconds and a top speed pegged at 155mph (or 174mph, if you give Audi another £1,600). And you bet there’s more to come. 

Massive props to Audi for not downsizing to a 2.0-litre four-cylinder (which it could easily have done) - the five-cylinder, which has rightly won a load of International Engine of The Year awards, is a defining characteristic of this car, giving fantastically inappropriate pace and brilliantly incongruous noise. It might have lost a degree of sparkle in the last couple of years - emissions rules mean it doesn’t crackle and pop like it used to, for example - but it’s still one of our favourite engines.    

Advertisement - Page continues below

It really is crackers fast, this thing. Get it above 2,500rpm and it flies along. From 0-62mph (i.e. speeds you can legally reach in Britain) the RS Q3 doesn’t feel much quicker than a Cupra Ateca or BMW X2 M35i - but from then on it’s in another league entirely. As you’d hope/expect, given it has another 90bhp and costs thousands more to buy. Power is sent to all four wheels (up to 85 per cent to the rear axle, should it be required) via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic that for the most part operates smoothly, but often frustrates. If you want to go quickly stick it in manual - up-shifts are fast on more than half throttle. Shame it doesn’t always give you the gear on the way down, though. 

Less smooth are the optional ceramic front brakes (the rears are conventional steel discs). Of course they provide tremendous stopping power, but there isn’t enough bite at the top of the pedal. And once pad does grab disc they can be tricky to use smoothly. You’d get used to them, but better save your £4,475 and stick with the standard steel discs, which are much more suited to normal road use. 

Then spend £995 of it on the adaptive dampers. Without them the RS Q3 is overly firm-riding, jiggling its passengers around its well-appointed cabin unless you’re driving on an improbably smooth road (that said, it doesn’t feel too bad over speed bumps around town). The RS Q3 never stops being firm, but the dampers’ Comfort mode takes the sting out of its tail. Leave the other modes well alone - something that’s mercifully easy to do thanks to the RS Q3’s configurable ‘RS’ modes. 

Just as modern BMW M cars have individual modes accessible via shortcut buttons on the wheel, the RS Q3 has an RS button on the steering wheel that lets you access two drive modes you’ve setup yourself, meaning you can avoid Audi’s pre-set modes entirely. We reckon the optimal setup is Dynamic everything, Normal steering and Comfort suspension. 

Advertisement - Page continues below

So set, cross-country the RS Q3 is tremendously fast. Especially if the road is a bit greasy, or covered in mud and wet leaves. It just grips, and feels totally and completely secure however idiotically you choose to behave behind the wheel. You sit nice and high, so you can see through bends you can’t in a normal hot hatch, meaning it’s easy to get into a fast flow. Of course the RS Q3 isn’t massively involving - there’s little feedback through the steering - but it’s nonetheless quite beguiling. 

Those big wheels might look the part, but they produce a fair amount of road noise. At least the engine keeps itself to itself when all you want to do is just get where you’re going.

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Audi RS Q3 RS Q3 TFSI Quattro 5dr S Tronic
  • 0-624.5s
  • CO2202.0g/km
  • BHP400
  • MPG
  • Price£51,115

the cheapest

Audi RS Q3 RS Q3 TFSI Quattro 5dr S Tronic
  • 0-624.5s
  • CO2202.0g/km
  • BHP400
  • MPG
  • Price£51,115

the greenest

Audi RS Q3 RS Q3 TFSI Quattro 5dr S Tronic
  • 0-624.5s
  • CO2202.0g/km
  • BHP400
  • MPG
  • Price£51,115

Variants We Have Tested

compare car finance
Powered byZuto Logo
more on this car
Take one for a spin or order a brochure
Powered byRegit Logo

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Subscribe to BBC Top Gear Magazine

Save 50% on a year - just £32.99
subscribe