The second-generation Audi RS Q3 arrives in a crowded market – a far cry from the original car, which effectively kick-started the trend for performance compact SUVs when it arrived in 2013.
Sitting 10mm lower than a standard Q3 and riding on 20-inch alloy wheels (21s on the test car), the RS now gets twin exhausts, but a petrol particulate filter means the carryover five-pot turbo engine doesn’t pop and bang quite as vigorously as before.
Liberal use of aluminium has reduced weight by 26kg, and power has been tuned to 294kW. Quattro permanent all-wheel drive and a seven-speed auto deliver 0-100km/h in a rapid 4.5sec.
Meteoric point-to-point progress is the order of the day here, not driver engagement. There’s plenty of grip but a slight disconnect between what the front tyres are doing and your inputs through the progressive steering rack, which speeds up the further it turns.
The Quattro all-wheel drive system can send as much as 85 per cent of the torque to the rear axle, and it always remains composed when hustled out of corners.
The five-pot’s solitary turbocharger doesn’t deliver a singular punch of thrust, managing instead to mete out shove throughout the rev band and onto a 7000rpm redline. It can be violently fast off the line, the Quattro system helping provide the traction of a pricier Macan Turbo.
Access to all that power isn’t always instant, though; the auto takes its time to drop cogs unless set to Sport mode. This can be troubling when attempting overtakes, so it’s better to use the wheel-mounted paddle-shifters for a more direct response.
Happily, the addition of two customisable RS driving modes (via the steering wheel) makes it easier to switch from regular driving to maximum performance, though the adaptive dampers are best left in their most comfortable setting. In Dynamic they become extra stiff and cause all but the smoothest road surfaces to feel rutted and coarse. It’s more refined at city speeds, and fares much better than some harshly sprung rivals, but the focus is very much on assured handling over comfort.
Inside, front sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel set the RS apart from the recently facelifted Q3. It gets the same 10.1-inch infotainment screen and 12.3-inch virtual cockpit instrument cluster, with an additional RS-specific screen that puts rev count, speed and other performance metrics right in your eyeline.
Overall, the RS Q3 is a pricey compact SUV in a class filled with rivals that best it for interior finish, if not outright pace.
All about the drive on MOTOR reviews
2020 AUDI RS Q3 SPECS
Engine: 2480cc inline-5, DOHC, 20v, turbo
Power: 294kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 480Nm @ 1950-5850rpm
0-100km/h: 4.5sec (claimed)
Price: $90,000 (est)
Like: Reduced weight; extra power; AWD traction; grip levels; information screens
Dislike: Fewer exhaust theatrics; steering feel; interior finish; hesitant automatic
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars