The first performance 4x4 built by Audi’s Quattro tuning division was the unhinged Q7 V12 TDI, a lofty two-and-a-half-tonne leviathan with a 493bhp twin-turbo 6.0-litre diesel engine. It cost £100k and was intimately acquainted with understeer. Quattro’s second attempt at a hotrod SUV – and the first to officially wear an RS badge – is more sensible.
Yet another RS model from Audi?
The RS Q3 is also the fourth and final RS model to be launched in the space of twelve months, part of an expansion that’s doubled the number of offerings from Quattro, but after the RS5 Cabriolet (a miss to shame an English penalty taker) and the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback (both back-of-the-net hits) what will the RSQ3 deliver?
What's the RS Q3's spec?
There are hints that it might be compromised – the interlinked Dynamic Ride Control suspension found on bigger RS models is absent, and there’s 49bhp less than Mercedes’ forthcoming GLA45 AMG rival, despite a cylinder and 500cc more – but Quattro’s been working on the RS Q3 for a while. I first drove a circa-300bhp ‘evaluation prototype’ two years ago, and even with spring and damper settings lifted straight from an S-line model the rough-and-ready mule had promise. And in the intervening two years Quattro hasn’t mucked it up.
Wait...this is a driver-pleasing Audi?
An RS5’s chassis is constantly jousting with UK roads, but as with the RS6, the RS Q3’s suspension (lowered by 25mm) works on British Tarmac, much better than an Evoque in its stiff Dynamic setting. The steering’s sound too: no feedback, and not as sharp as the Evoque, but despite Audi’s annoying Drive Select system, Comfort mode isn’t too light and Dynamic mode isn’t too heavy. And there’s mercifully nothing else to tweak or adjust, just a Sport mode for a slick dual-clutch gearbox whose sole foible is the occasional stumble during a full-bore second-to-third shift.
It’s 29bhp down on the RS3 über-hatch (with which it shares the turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine) and there’s an extra 80kg to compromise the dynamics too, but it’ll harass an M3 on a wet B-road. You sit high enough to see past other traffic, the styling is innocuous enough that fellow road users won’t remember your registration plate, and with 310lb ft right across the rev range, big 365mm front brakes, and a little help from four-wheel drive, the RS Q3 now holds the record for my commute, ahead of a Mercedes SLS AMG and the latest Porsche 911 Turbo S.
A £30k Q3 2.0 TDI will do much the same job for most of the time, and when you are utilising the RS Q3’s performance it’ll struggle to return 25mpg, push wide out of tight corners under full power, reveal that its default setting is fast and stable but with little interaction, and that the seats don’t offer enough lateral support. No matter. A performance SUV is a bit of paradox, and we probably shouldn’t like the RS Q3. But we do. Not great, but still good. Much like England.