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Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Home News Cars Review: Audi RS Q3 Sportback

Review: Audi RS Q3 Sportback

It’s summertime, so what better way to go on a road trip than with Audi’s RS Q3 Sportback? Jason Saundalkar writes

The Q3 is Audi’s smallest crossover and, in standard guise, is designed to be a comfortable and stylish vehicle for small families.

The vehicle T&FME tested last month was not a Q3 however, but rather, the Q3’s pumped up, shoutier cousin, the RS Q3 Sportback.

‘RS’ (Racing Sport) vehicles, regardless of the model in Audi’s line-up, are range-toppers that sit above the ‘S’ (Sport) vehicles. With a RS vehicle, expect better performance, as well as sharper and more aggressive styling – the latter also serves to differentiate RS vehicles from their less expensive S counterparts.

Dressed in look-at-me “Kyalami Green” (unique to the RS Q3 Sportback) and augmented with RS bumpers and other exterior flourishes, my tester proved an attention getter, whether I was cruising on a highway, sitting at a traffic light, or pulling up to park. In fact, a friend who saw a side profile shot of the RS Q3 on my Instagram account even texted to ask if it was a Lamborghini Urus! Job well done on the styling then, Audi.

The T&FME test car had US $7,200 in optional extras, which took its final price to a significant $76,700. The extras included handsome 21-inch five-V-spoke anthracite black finished alloy rims that were wrapped with low profile tires, a black appearance package, RS sport exhaust system, brake calipers finished in red, and several other exterior and interior appointments.

Considering the already significant base price, I reckon it is worth spending the extra money because they complete the look and add useful functions (more on this later). With the extras fitted, I’m confident no one will look at this RS Q3 and mistake it for a regular Q3 or even the Q3 Sportback (the latter sits in between the Q3 and RS Q3 in the model family).

Interior appointments and features
Inside the cabin, there are a few sporty touches including decorative Carbon Twill inserts, illuminated RS scuff plates, a flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped RS steering wheel and steering-mounted paddle shifters. The cabin is logically laid out, like most modern Audis are, however as this is an entry level crossover in Audi’s product family, you don’t quite get the same uber plush and luxurious interior that you get from the mid and higher-end Audis.
That said, there were a few surprising omissions considering the vehicle’s significant base price and optional extras: the driver’s seat on my RS Q3 tester had the optional power driver seat specified but there was no memory function; the steering wheel is manually adjustable only; there’s no head’s up display, and the ambience lighting, despite being optioned with “Ambient Lighting Package Plus” didn’t quite blow this reviewer away.

That said, the illuminated scuff plates and projection of ‘Audi Sport’ (from under the sideview mirrors) on the ground looks great when the sun goes down or you’re in covered parking.

Most of the touch points I regularly interacted with felt good, while the standard dual-zone climate control proved easy to operate via its dedicated controls, which meant not having to rely on the touch-sensitive Audi MMI screen/system. And, despite the sweltering Dubai weather (between 40-to-44C through the test period) and reasonably large glasshouse, the climate control managed to maintain comfortable temperature in the cabin, even at midday.

The Audi’s adaptive cruise control system and lane departure warning system/lane change assistant (both optional extras on this tester) were also highly useful convenience features, that helped take the stress out of rush hour traffic over the test period. As great as these features were, the 360-degree camera system (also an optional extra) was perhaps the most useful convenience feature, as it made parking and getting in/out of tight spaces a piece of cake. If you intend to spec your RS Q3 Sportback with big wheels, don’t forget to get this camera system because it will save you from scuffing those gorgeous – not to mention expensive – rims.

Moving to the second-row seating, the seats are comfortable but if you are taller than six feet, you will struggle with legroom and headroom, the latter due to the sloped Sportback roof (it does look cool though). Despite that sloping roofline however, you still get a decent amount of boot space at 530 litres, so it’s a vehicle that you could put your weekly shopping into, as well as do airport runs with.

Plenty of show but what about the go?
The RS Q3 boasts a turbocharged 2.5 litre five-cylinder engine that develops 400hp and 354lb/ft of torque, and it is mated to a seven-speed ‘S tronic’ gearbox, which feeds a Quattro all-wheel drive system. As you’d expect of a modern Audi, this vehicle’s driving dynamics can be tweaked via the ‘Audi drive select’ programme – it offers several modes: efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic and individual (individual lets you manually adjust drivetrain, suspension, exhaust and other settings).

If you don’t want to fiddle with these settings, you can leave the vehicle in ‘automatic’ and it will adjust to the way you drive – on one particularly used and abused road, I dialed in ‘comfort’ and found it offered a slightly more compliant and comfortable ride. ‘Efficiency’ on the other hand is an exercise in patience, as it turned the car into an eco-focused accountant that did everything it could to save me petrol. I must have tried it for 15 minutes before I thought to myself ‘life is too short’.

This being a RS, I spent a fair bit of time in ‘dynamic’ mode and that’s when I discovered the Audi’s more playful side. It was not an explosive transformation but every time I buried the loud pedal on an empty road or at the apex of a corner, the little green Audi put a big grin on my face. At full throttle the car surges forward with considerable authority, whilst creating a sublime howl that comes into its own from 3,000rpm and carries on to 7,000rpm.

In ‘dynamic’ the RS Q3 Sportback’s ride quality does become quite stiff, while the gearbox holds onto lower gears even at cruising speeds, so I don’t recommend staying in this mode indefinitely. If you are hammering along, you’ll also need to pay attention to your speedometer because you’ll be at finable speeds, even on highways, in a matter of seconds. (I reckon a HUD should be standard issue on any car with 400 horses under the hood.) Audi says this car will do the 0-100km dash in 4.5 seconds and it certainly feels fast, going off the seat of my pants.

At neighborhood speeds, the engine has enough low-down torque to move the approximately 1.8-ton crossover with light throttle application. Unfortunately, when you’re being gentle with the throttle pedal is when the gearbox seems to be at its unhappiest. Shifts can occasionally be felt, and this seemed to be the case regardless of what drive mode I had the RS Q3 in. It’s not a deal breaker because when you’ll appreciate those lighting quick shifts when you’re engaging in a bit of spirited driving. But, considering the price of the vehicle and the fact that this is an Audi after all, I expected more refinement from the dual clutch gearbox.

Verdict
The RS Q3 Sportback exists to address the growing demand for performance orientated compact crossovers. While it isn’t perfect and is quite pricey, there’s no denying it’s a handsome thing with character and more performance than most owners will ever need on the public roads.

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