The first RS-branded SUV to come from Audi - rapid as it is - is a strange thing indeed

I don't enjoy raising people's hopes before I disappoint them, so I'll get
done with the bad news first – the madcap small SUV featured on
these two pages won't be coming to our shores. You can decide for yourself later on if that's a good or a bad thing, but first let's examine the curious case of the new Audi RS Q3, a car that fills a niche nobody thought should (or needed to) exist in the first place.

The fourth RS model to be released this year, the RS Q3 is the first Q-model to receive Audi's top-drawer performance treatment. Based on the Q3 compact SUV, it has been sprinkled with RS pixie dust by the same people at quattro GmbH who brought us the RS7 you saw on the
preceding couple of pages.

Yes, quattro GmbH may have a reputation for making rather oddball performance vehicles (the first RS-branded car was the RS2 Avant of the mid-1990s, a compact wagon equivalent to today's fire-breathing V8-powered RS4 Avant), but the RS Q3 is quite certainly the oddest one
of them all.

There's a simple reason why speedy SUVs such as the RS Q3 are scarce (BMW’s X5M and X6M being other notable examples). They're tall and heavy, which means bad news for handling and therefore, a large task for quattro GmbH to recreate the dynamism the RS badge is so famed for.

At first glance, however, the package seems promising enough. The RS Q3 is equipped with a 2.5-litre, 5-cylinder engine that pushes out 310bhp and 420Nm. It's the same engine used in the RS3 and TT RS, although in the latter cases, the award-winning 5-pot motor produces 340bhp and 450Nm. But while slightly down on punch here, it's still a good deal of power for a car whose primary function is rather more utilitarian/lifestyle-y compared to its more focused brethren.

But it isn’t as if quattro GmbH hasn't tried to sharpen the Q3. In RS guise, it sits 25mm lower than regular Q3s and has a clever quattro all-wheel-drive system that can apportion the optimum amount of
torque to each wheel.

Regardless, with its larger overall footprint, the RS Q3 has to settle for a
century sprint timing of 5.2 seconds against something like the RS3, which does the same benchmark in 4.6 seconds.

That's more than decent, but straightline dashes these days are fairly easy to do (what with the advent of turbocharging), so the million-dollar question is this: Does the slightly out-of-place newcomer do justice to
the RS badge?

Yes and no. An emphatic affirmative comes from the RS Q3's soundtrack. With right foot firmly buried to the carpet, the offbeat growl that accompanies the 5-cylinder's climb up the rev range conjures memories of the original Quattro of the 1980s. The sensation of speed isn't as fearsome as in other RS models, but the car pulls eagerly from as low as 1500rpm with a good, creamy spread of torque, sprinting towards the next corner with a respectable amount of urgency.

Everywhere else, the RS Q3 is a little more patchy. The dual-clutch transmission can sometimes find itself caught in the wrong gear, especially in its more aggressive Sport mode.

And while it handles more than decently, it's only decent as a tall SUV can be, meaning despite the wonderfully resolved chassis and the superb ride quality, it's still too detached and too much of a dilution of
the RS formula to be truly worthy.

Despite that, is the oddity that is the RS Q3 a winning concept? It depends on who you're asking, really. If you're a fan of the RS6 Avant or the RS3 hatch, then the answer will probably be a "no". On the other hand, if you like high-performance, high-riding cars wrapped up in smartexterior styling and with a suitably dramatic interior, then the RS Q3 is achingly desirable.

When all's said and done, your answer to the above is irrelevant because the car is highly unlikely to land here.

At an estimated cost of over $360,000, it represents an unknown quantity that's too expensive for Audi Singapore to risk learning the answer to.

SPH Magazines


This article first appeared in the November 2013 issue of Torque.

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