“So hang on… is that a Q3 Sportback?” I ask our hosts at an Audi Sport reveal event near Munich.
“Yep!” is the cheery reply.
“Sooo... is this the first time anyone has ever seen an Audi Q3 Sportback?” comes another question from the cheap seats.
“Also yep!” beams our happy host. “This is the first time for the press to see the Sportback, and the first time you have seen the RSQ3.”
I dunno what they feed the designers at Audi's Ingolstadt HQ, but boy howdy… these kids are on fire at the moment. I can say with complete conviction and utter confidence that Audi will sell every single RSQ3 Sportback it can build, and then some.
In terms of nailing a moment in time from a sense of resolved design and captured zeitgeist, the RSQ3 Sportback, in particular, is a home run shot from the three-point line that goes right between the sticks into the net.
Key, of course, are those oh-so-perfect proportions that – finally – let the small SUV off its design chain. That massive, bluff and underplayed front bar, the 10mm wheel arches, the elegant aggression of the elongated roof spoiler over the arched roofline and those unreal 21-inch rims… it sings together like few cars I’ve seen lately.
The RS Q3 Sportback is the stylish one of the pair – and longer by a whopping 1.6mm – yet the regular RSQ3 still has its own unique blend of practical coolness. “It’s like the RS6 Avant of the pair,” says designer Matt Baggely.
The team reckons they’ll sell in even numbers, but I reckon they ought to turn the Sportback production line up to 11.
And they’ve both got the mechanical chutzpah to back it up. The mechanically identical pair is based on the VW Group’s modular MLB chassis, and are packing – thank all the stars – Audi’s unreal little DNWA 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine.
“We really fought hard to stick with the five-cylinder engine,” said Annette Möllhoff, who led the second-generation RSQ3 program.
Teamed with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed auto, the 294kW, 480Nm five-potter is a signature of the RSQ3’s intent; this little thing will not go quietly into the night.
Those of you playing along will have quickly realised that we’re potentially looking at an Audi RS3 on stilts, and you’d be almost right. The gear ratios in the seven-speed auto are slightly taller, and there’s a new clutch developed for the car, which changes the 0-100km/h to 4.5sec, and onto an optional top speed of 280km/h.
Ceramic brakes are an option, and the all-new suspension system for the second-gen RSQ3 pair can be had in regular or adaptive spec. It sits about 10mm lower on its 21-inch rims than the standard rig.
Those wheels wear 255/35 R21 tyres and hide 375mm steel or optional 380mm ceramic rotors and six-pot monoblock calipers up front, and 310mm steel rotors and a floating caliper in the rear.
Dual exhaust pipes parp out the five-potter’s siren song, and can be had in bad-arse black. In fact, the black theme is a key element from a design perspective. “We wanted to add value with a big gesture, and those big, black areas give it an aggressive feel, but it’s also simple and clean.”
When it comes to the interior of the RSQ3, Audi has ramped things up a number of notches. There’s now a go-fast RS button on the steering wheel, for example, along with carbon and Alcantara details, sports seats with integrated headrests and truck honeycomb trim.
Because it’s an SUV, room for the doggos and the kidlets is still key, and the interior space of the Sportback is surprisingly similar in dimensions to the regular RS Q3. Both offer 530 litres of boot space with the seats up, but the Sportback (1400l) loses a bit to the wagon (1525l) when the seats are dropped.
Rear headroom in the Sportback is surprisingly okay. It’s not as generous as the regular bodystyle, but it’s more than adequate, thanks to a very tucked-up headlining that ekes out a few more precious millimetres.
We’ll drive the RSQ3 soon enough ahead of an expected second-half Australian drop in 2020. Price? Figure on around $90,000 for either car, and as usual, we’ll likely get a tarted-up launch edition with all the good gear.
Sure, I get it, the sportscar-slash-crossover thing shouldn’t work… but wait til you get a load of the Audi RSQ3 in the metal; it might just change your view.