Audi RS Q3 road test review | All eyes on me
PERHAPS it's the automotive world's greatest oxymoron.
The "sports utility vehicle" is Australia's modern-day golden goose, with buyers flocking to the segment.
Although very few can live up to the sports moniker. Given the additional ride height it's almost impossible to achieve a truly athletic ride, although the luxury manufacturers are now defying logic and gravity.
Audi is at the forefront of delivering all-conquering SUVs. The SQ5 is a spectacular offering, but now this RS Q3 is stealing the limelight.
It's the first RS model to be priced less than $100,000 - the $81,900 sticker makes it a bargain compared to the others within Audi's high-end stable. The RS stands for RennSport, translated from German as "racing sport". And like other RS offerings currently available, there are no massive wings or Tupperware garnishes to highlight its ability. The design remains understated…instead letting the refined mechanical package do the talking.
Just because it wears the hallowed RS badging don't expect to be climbing into a cabin surrounded by roll cages and fire extinguishers.
Apart from the moniker splashed delicately on the instruments, leather trimmed seats, flat-bottom sports steering wheel and dimpled gear shifter, its design is essentially your standard Q3.
The central 17.7cm colour screen pops up from the dash and can be folded by the touch of the button, and once you become comfortable with Audi's dial system to flick your way through the various menus and operations it's all fairly easy.
Using the dual zone air con can be a little cumbersome, you have to hold the switch to rapidly raise or lower the temperature. It's only a small issue, but circular dials which you can turn quickly are easier to use. On the positive side altering the fan speed is faster than some of the other Audis available.
Two adults can fit easily in the back with some consideration from those up front, three could fit but would be best left to shorter trips.
On the road
Prod the right foot and it's akin to a frightened cat. The little SUV can rip from stand still to 100kmh in 5.2 seconds, which is certain to smoke just about all-comers from the lights.
Possessing a wonderful power range there is always hefty momentum available at the whim of your right foot.
Sending the power to all paws is a donk which has an International Engine of the Year trophy in its cabinet. The turbocharged five-cylinder is an absolute belter of a powerplant which doesn't disappoint.
Yet with that punch Audi had to address the height to avoid hefty body roll along with brakes. The RS Q3 sits 25mm lower than the standard model, has a complete redesigned suspension set up while brakes are bolstered with Audi's wave disk design up front.
Helping improve weight distribution, the battery was moved to the rear on the driver's side.
The end result is a remarkably nimble and savage little beast. Drop it into drive and it will amble around town without fuss, but change the drive mode to dynamic and make use of the paddle shifters where it lives up to the RS badging.
What do you get?
Complimentary kit includes 17.7cm colour display with sat nav along with a 20GB hard drive and two SD card readers and 10 speakers, Xenon headlights, automatic parking system with rear view camera, Nappa leather trim with RS embossed lettering, dual zone air con, cruise control.
There are a few kits available to amp-up the RS Q3, like the "performance" grouping which includes 20-inch alloys, sports seats with diamond-pattern stitching, red brake calipers, Bose sound system, digital radio and carbon fibre inlays for $5250.
A safety pack including automatic high beam, blind spot warning, hill descent assist and active lane keeping assist costs $2490.
Its primary rival will soon arrive in the form of Mercedes-Benz's GLA AMG ($79,900), and maybe also the Range Rover Evoque SD4 Prestige ($76,695).
Compact dimensions pay dividends when it comes to tight car parks and getting around town.
With more than 400 litres of boot space, and an ability to drop the rear seats the RS Q3 is handy for the weekly grocery shop or carting sporting gear.
With special treatments front and back, along with LED daytime running lights and LED tail lights, the RS Q3 doesn't look dramatically different from its other compact siblings.
There are a couple of external package options, including matt aluminium or high gloss black features, for $1500.
Produced at the Martorell plant in Spain, this is the eighth model to wear the RS badge. While debatable whether the Q3 version lives up to the hallow racing heritage, but there is no doubting it's a fun and dynamic SUV.
Perhaps this is the best indicator of where we're headed - given the popularity of SUVs, and the popularity of niches within niches.
What matters most
What we liked: Remarkably adept in corners for an SUV, strong acceleration ability.
What we'd like to see: More sporting exterior and interior pizzazz, circular dial air-con operations.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, servicing is annual or every 15,000km.
Model: Audi RS Q3.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive compact performance sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 228kW @ 5200-67000rpm and peak torque of 420Nm @ 1500-5200rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed S tronic automatic.
Consumption: 8.8 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.2 seconds; top speed 250kmh.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $81,900.