► Mildest of facelifts for Audi’s quick SUV
► Slight power hike for the 2.5-litre five-pot
► Swifter gearchanges, quieter cabin, less thirsty
You’ll know from our recent twin-test that the RS Q3 had some catching up to do. Merc’s GLA 45 AMG was a real thorn in the Audi’s side, having the performance to blow the hitherto unrivalled compact SUV into the weeds. A response was called for, and this is it: a mildly facelifted RS Q3.
But worry not. There’s more to see here than the now-familiar practice of chucking on a new set of LED headlights, a redesigned front bumper and a bigger pricetag; the German horsepower war lumbers on.
Click here to read our review of the pre-facelift Audi RS Q3.
What’s powering the 2015 Audi RS Q3?
The engine is the very same, and very impressive, 2.5-litre five-cylinder we know and love from the RS3 and TT RS. Output has warmed to 335bhp thanks to an ECU remap, and torque grows by 22lb ft to 332lb ft. The resulting 0-62mph dash is yanked precisely into line with the aforementioned AMG. Funny that.
Thanks to a large area under the torque curve you’re not left wanting for in-gear acceleration – unlike Mercedes’ ultra-boosted, ultra-laggy four-pot turbo, for instance – and it’s difficult to dislike the off-beat five-banger thrum.
When cogs do need swapping, the new RS Q3 has another ace up its sleeve. The seven-speed S-tronic ’box gets a software upgrade which bolsters its appeal over the more sluggish seven-speeder in the GLA, changing gear quicker and more smoothly than before.
Any other technical tweaks for 2015?
There’s extra sound deadening too, with the result that even with the Drive Select system (which adjusts steering weighting, throttle response and gear-change swap speed) in Dynamic, you’ve got a car that’s surprisingly refined and driveable, even at low speeds. The optional RS Sports Plus adaptive suspension installed on our car morphs to match whatever Drive Select is set to; expect flat, composed handling in Dynamic and a far softer edge with more body-roll in Comfort.
While slightly improving the RS Q3’s fuel economy, shorter gearing for lower ratios and a longer seventh gear for cruising also improves the way the thing drives, both for high-speed hauling and low-down amusement. It’s addictive fun hammering up and down the first four gears on a quiet B-road – there’s more than a hint of rally car pedigree here, and we applaud it.
But it isn’t all plain sailing for the RS Q3. The cabin still needs a fair few options chucked at it before the cheaper plastics and switchgear from lesser Audis fade into insignificance. It feels a little thrifty in there to carry the RS moniker. Then there’s the steering – while recalibrated and decently weighted no matter which mode you’re in – it still lacks that feedback so crucial to testing the very outer limits of the brilliant Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Perhaps that’s more a compliment on outright grip than a major dynamic shortfall, but this is meant to be a performance model, even if it’s an SUV.
Still, we’re fond of the sizzling Q3. It’s a livelier thing with bags of character and now it’s easier to live with too.
But then there’s the big question: why this over an RS3? For similar money you can ditch the taller stance, gain the MQB platform’s versatility, retain the five-pot mill and still get Quattro. While the RS Q3 is now a better car than the GLA 45 AMG, it might be worth holding on for the hot A3 – due next summer – before deciding if SUV elevation is really a must-have.