Three years ago, Audi launched the RS Q3 and the one thing you’d never say it needed more of was power because 347 horses is more than adequate in a car the size of a shoe. But there’s always room for more and so for the 2017 model, Audi has released a Performance version that takes the horsepower up to 367. So how does the extra oomph translate to the road?
Brilliantly. During my weekend with the Java Green tester, the heavens opened up and we had a storm on our hands. The strong winds and wet roads made for hazardous driving conditions, not that I could tell, because of its prodigous amounts of grip. What’s more, my view out of the windshield was akin to watching a silent movie, with the fine Nappa leather-clad cabin with inlays of carbon fibre and aluminium cocooning me from the harsh elements. I couldn’t hear a whisper of the wind or the rain lash down, which speaks volumes about the build quality of the RS Q3. However, even more impressive than that was its ability to remain glued to the road when everyone else was struggling for control and there’s a word to explain this phenomena: quattro.
The bright green Audi didn’t put a foot wrong, even with large puddles on the road and me and my lead foot doing my level best to unsettle it out of T-junctions and the odd corner out of town. Couldn’t do it. The permanent all-wheel drive system was able to deliver the 565Nm of torque effortlessly thanks to its hydraulically actuated, electronically controlled multi-plate clutch (it distributes the grunt automatically between the front and rear axles as needed) and always seemed to have immense traction at its disposal. All this during the wet, and the next day when the sun was shining again and the water had evaporated off the blacktop, it proved even more sure-footed; the wheel-selective torque control prevented slip through targeted braking actions on all corners, resulting in precise control and sporty handling.
With a sharp-shifting S-Tronic seven-speed gearbox and a suspension lowered by 20mm over the standard Q3, this compact SUV was a hoot to drive — especially as the made-for-five family hauler can hit 100kph from rest in just 4.4 seconds. I left everyone at the traffic lights. With three drive modes to select from via the Audi drive select button, Comfort and Auto never got much use — I was always in Dynamic, which stiffened up the steering and suspension and quickened up the throttle response. In this mode, the RS Q3 seemed to shrink around me as I weaved past slower-moving traffic with the alacrity of a hot hatch.
Naturally, I didn’t get near the top speed of 270kph on the highway, but at the limit, it felt composed and the blown inline five-pot was hardly fussed. The 2.5-litre TFSI, which has a claimed fuel consumption of 8.6 litres per 100km, has won the International Engine of the Year award in its category six years in a row and it was easy to see why.
The spark-ignition engine with direct injection displayed terrific pulling power throughout the rev range — and a wonderful soundtrack to boot. The motor was one of many highlights, but there were others such as a comfortable cabin loaded with tech including hill-start assist, MMI navigation system, parking system with reversing camera and all sorts of amenities including a panoramic roof that bathed the interior with light, and a banging Bose surround sound system.
It looked pretty good too, and I’m not just talking about the bright paint; it rode on 20in five-spoke wheels, featured sportily designed bumpers with large air inlets and a heavily profiled diffuser.
There’s a lot to take in, but what I took away from this one was that it’s one of the best in the high-performance compact SUV segment.