Audi’s go-fast RS fleet has grown to eight with the arrival of the RS Q3, a high-performance version of its compact SUV.
Ingolstadt’s factory speed shop, ‘quattro GmbH’, has stuffed a 228kW/420Nm version of its 2.5-litre turbo five cylinder under the RS Q3’s bonnet, with drive going through a seven-speed ‘S tronic’ dual-clutch ’box, to all four wheels, the rears managed via a hydraulically operated, and electronically controlled, multi-plate clutch pack on the back axle.
The transverse, DI engine is a retuned version of the EA255 unit used in the TT RS coupe and outgoing RS3 Sportback (not seen in Oz), with maximum torque delivered over a broad spread from 1500rpm all the way up to 5200rpm.
And it would want to, because despite the use of aluminium for the bonnet and tailgate panels, the RS Q3 weighs in at a hefty 1730kg, making 0-100km/h a rapid, rather than stunning, 5.5 seconds.
Getting there is massive fun thanks to the turbo five’s characteristically rorty engine note. The specific 1-2-4-5-3 firing order, design of the inlet manifold and a flap inside the sports exhaust system combine to produce the same throaty howl as the original Sport Quattro campaigned so successfully in world rallying by the likes of Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, and Walter Röhrl, close to 30 years ago.
Suspension upgrades include a revised damper tune and shorter springs, the latter lowering the car by 25mm. Brakes are bigger, with 365mm ventilated and slotted discs at the front, gripped by monster eight-piston calipers, and 310mm vented rotors at the rear. Standard rims are 19-inch alloys, with 20s optional.
External changes include an RS front bumper with quattro emblem cut into the air intake, matte alloy trim on the grille surround and roof rails and RS door sill plates and trim strips. A roof spoiler, central diffuser, and an oversize oval tailpipe differentiate the car from the rear.
Nappa leather trim sets the performance luxury tone inside, with the front sports seats incorporating heating, electric adjustment and four-way lumbar control. The leather RS steering wheel is fitted with alloy shift paddles and the multi-media interface is the premium version.
The twisting climbs and steep descents of Austria and Northern Italy’s most challenging passes on the RS Q3’s global launch offer the perfect opportunity to explore the car’s dynamic abilities. Intermittent rain showers bring the benefits of quattro traction to the fore.
In ‘normal’ driving the quattro system sends the majority of torque forwards, but as speeds and cornering loads rise, it is redistributed between front and rear axles, up to a maximum of 40:60, front to rear.
Charging through the mountains the RS Q3 feels nimble and composed. As the rev counter swings towards the engine’s 7000rpm ceiling, the thrumming note grows into a full-blown roar, with full throttle up-changes capped off by a spitting, guttural bark. It feels more car than SUV, thanks to a fluid relationship between engine, steering and brakes.
With the gearbox in manual, the wheel-mounted paddles (or central shifter) deliver rapid, snappy changes, and with ESC in sport for delayed intervention, the suspension tune provides a delicious blend of handling balance and ride comfort.
Grip from the 225/35 Pirelli P Zero rubber on the optional 20-inch alloys fitted to ‘our’ car is huge, the RS Q3’s electro-mechanical steering supplies excellent feel, and the powerful brakes are unfazed by ‘enthusiastic’ use.
The RS Q3's current price is $81,510, but the updated model is set to arrive before year's end with more power (250kW/450Nm), faster gearchanges and more equipment, so if you are tempted by this baby RS, it might pay to have some patience.