► Oddball quick SUV gets a new flagship
► More go, more show, special paint
► £3.4k premium over the £45k RS Q3
Don’t tell me, it’s got more power?
You got it. Audi’s once novel small-but-quick SUV had a modest power hike as part of a makeover early last year, and now one becomes two with this flagship Performance offshoot. Improved cooling and a meatier fuel pump mean the turbocharged five is now good for 362bhp, up from 335bhp, and the 0-62mph sprint down nearly half a second to 4.4sec.
Curiously – and Sir Isaac Newton’s gonna hate this – the official CO2 and mpg figures go unchanged at 203 and 32.8. To let the world know you found the additional £3365 required for this version, the Performance liberally splashes its exterior with matt titanium detailing and, if you fancy it, fetching Performance-exclusive Ascari blue paint.
In every other way the car’s as per the RS Q3: 20-inch wheels, RS sport suspension that drops the car 20mm on its springs, optional adaptive dampers and suitably potent RS brakes with eight-piston calipers and 365mm discs up front.
Why on earth would you want a really fast Q3?
Well indeed, though the recipe’s actually much more intriguing than it might sound. An RS3 engine dropped into a standard Q3 would be very funny, at least until the first roundabout, but the RS Q3 is of course nothing of the sort. The chassis is more than capable of giving pretty credible answers to all the questions the engine can throw at it, with impressive body control and a pretty good stab at ride quality given the 20-inch wheels. The steering is admittedly pretty lifeless, but it does at least put the car almost exactly where you want it without fuss.
Inside you’ve comparable space to an A3-sized hatch, so not all that much, especially in the back seat, but the high-rise driving position brings advantages when you’re at speed cross-country, something the RS Q3 loves to do. It hasn’t the nuance to break corners down into satisfying, memorable moments of kinetic collaboration between man and machine, but that isn’t to say the Audi isn’t a rewarding car to drive.
Stay within its lofty limits, leveraging the RS Q3’s strengths of great forward visibility, huge speed, accurate steering and impressive raw grip, and you’ll be astonished both by how quickly you can get to places – and how much you’ll enjoy doing so.
It’s nearly £50k…
It is. The standard RS Q3 costs £45,820, while this one will set you back a total of £49,185. On paper it makes the fastest Evoque look like a bargain, but that car can’t summon anything like the RS Q3’s astonishing acceleration, both in gear and from a standing start. Merc’s GLA 45 AMG is similarly potent but similarly priced too, and lacks the Audi’s hugely flexible and very charming five-cylinder engine (both are blown but the Audi displaces 2480cc, the necessarily peakier Merc just 1991cc).
Being a contemporary Audi, the RS Q3 is nicely finished inside and out, possessed of styling that’s elegantly restrained/tediously predictable (delete as applicable) and blessed with the kind of indefinable but covetable sense that it will, over thousands of miles and countless daily drives, slide effortlessly into your life. Refined, comfortable, impressively muted given the vast rubber footprint and with a slick transmission following last year’s software update, it’s a car to take the sting out of any commute or intercontinental cruise.
An RS3 is faster and considerably cheaper…
It is, and while we’re not convinced the ballistic little low-rise RS3 is the finest hot hatch around, it is a very fast, very capable mechanism for the hugely rapid if emotionally detached navigation of tricky roadways.
But the RS Q3 Performance is a different beast, one that adds increased practicality (a 356-litre boot against the RS3’s 280 litres; that SUV visibility thing) to the script and that broadcasts its potency with a little more subtlety. So while a powerful small SUV seems like an odd concept, since both cars fall short of spine-tingling involvement it’s the RS Q3 that might actually make more sense.
The price premium over the standard car has been judged with fiendish brilliance: the Performance is only a bit quicker, but it is quicker. It only looks a bit cooler, but it does look cooler.
The RS Q3 is an intriguing example of the nonsensical honed to the point of making some twisted kind of sense. The Performance is the same, only more so.