Set to get its first public outing at the Geneva motor show in early March, the new RS Q3 crowns the popular Q3 line-up with performance that puts it at the sharp end of the compact SUV ranks, ahead of competition such as the 242bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder BMW X1 for outright straight line pace.
The RS Q3 is distinguished from lesser Q3 models by a series of traditional RS design elements. Included is a high-gloss black honeycomb grille insert, matt aluminum grille frame, deeper front bumper with sizeable air ducts for the engine bay and front brakes, coloured keyed wheel arch flares, deeper sills underneath the doors, matte aluminium-look exterior mirror housings, a more prominent spoiler atop the tailgate, a deeper rear bumper with an integral diffuser unit and larger chrome tailpipe.
At the heart of the new go-fast SUV is Audi’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine. In the RS Q3, the transversely mounted unit kicks out 306bhp at 5200rpm along with a sturdy 42.9kgm of torque on a band of revs between 1500 and 5200rpm. The heady reserves are channelled through a standard seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch gearbox offering three drive modes: D (drive), S (sport) and M (manual). Also included is a launch control function designed to provide optimal traction under hard standing-start acceleration. Drive is permanently transferred through an electro-hydraulic operated multi-plate Haldex-style clutch four-wheel drive system to each wheel with the distribution between the front and rear varying depending on the amount of available grip. Audi claims the 1655kg RS Q3 sprints from 0 to 100kph in 5.5sec and hits a top speed limited to 250kph.
The increase in performance has seen myriad changes to the suspension, which has been lowered by 25mm over other Q3 models and is fitted with stiffer springs and dampers and larger diameter anti-roll bars for added body control. The RS Q3 rides on 19-inch wheels as standard, with a selection of three different 20 inch rims available as an option. The brakes have also been upgraded with 365mm steel discs featuring a distinctive wave design that is claimed to reduce weight and eight piston calipers sited up front.
Inside, the new Audi receives grey faced instruments, leather trimmed sport seats with RS Q3 logos embossed into the seat back, a leather bound flat bottom three spoke multi-function steering wheel with contrasting stitching, matching gear lever trim, black piano finish trims, aluminium pedals and foot support and a black headlining. A driver information system provides information on turbocharger boost pressure, oil temperature and lap timer.