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The Audi RS Q3 is a mighty performance SUV with serious firepower yet manages to be well-mannered when you turn down the fun.

16 Feb 2021

In a world of shared platforms, it seems like every manufacturer can make a performance car out of anything.

It isn't a bad thing. Having a performance variant out of your preferred body style is great. But these new performance cars lack quite a bit of charm and character.

In that respect, the RS Q3 is pretty different.

So it is a fast model?

The RS Q3 is a real sleeper car, especially in this colour and with its badges blacked out
Effectively, the RS Q3 is the top-spec performance model you can get that is based off the Audi Q3.

Here, you do have more aggressive bumpers and definitive twin RS exhausts. Still, it is quite an understated car. There's nothing much that is immediately telling of its performance credentials - even the badges are all blacked out.

There's a lot to like about an understated car. And if attention is a requirement, there are louder colour choices such as Kyalami Green (which is very green).

Some red inside

These red Alcantara inserts aren't just visual enhancements, they feel good to the touch, too
Inside, the RS touches are a little more noticeable. There are RS specific seats, along with red and black Alcantara inserts that adorn the cabin.

But the qualities of the Q3 SUV are still present. Infotainment is sorted via Audi's 10.1-inch MMI display that comes with wireless Apple CarPlay, along with a better 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.

You're not losing out here. After all, Audi interiors aren't just pleasing to look at, they are usable spaces too. Practicality is surprisingly not compromised despite the car having a quattro all-wheel drive system. Boot space remains at 530 litres - similar to the regular Q3.

Didn't you say this car is different?

There's nothing quite like a five-cylinder turbocharged soundtrack
You can tell there's quite a bit of restraint when it comes to the RS Q3, but we haven't got to the best bit yet.

The RS Q3 sports what could be the most exciting engine in its class. It's a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo that makes 395bhp and 480Nm of torque.

Moving off, things aren't apparent that this is a performance SUV. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission doesn't make an effort to be snappy with its shifts at low RPMs either.

But push it past 3,000rpm and the RS Q3 quickly turns into a bull that has seen red.

Rowdy fella

Hit the RS button and the digital cockpit switches to an RS-centric one, displaying the most information related to performance
Power delivery is almost never-ending. In fact, nothing seems to hold back the RS Q3 when it is on full power. And then you realise there is an RS drive button, sitting inconspicuously on the steering wheel. Hit it and you get two pre-set, but customisable RS modes.

The 12.1-inch digital instrument display switches to an RS-specific display. Get on the throttle again and you're greeted with a pronounced and truly special soundtrack that you can only get with a five-cylinder.

In fact, keep your foot pinned and the RS Q3 never runs out of breath. License-revoking speeds are easy - thankfully the six-piston calipers do an impressive job of shedding excess speed - which makes you wonder if there's a need to upgrade to the RS ceramic brakes (a $20,000+ option).

An SUV that grips

With a combination of sticky 255-section tyres and a sorted quattro all-wheel drive system, the RS Q3 offers plenty of grip around corners
Here's another revelation. The RS Q3 can turn. It is indeed more chuckable thanks to its small-ish proportions. Try as you might to find or induce any sort of understeer and there isn't any.

Perhaps the sticky 255-section Continental Sport Contact 6 tyres might've helped, but even in sketchy road conditions and with an even sketchier driver like me, the RS Q3 continues to grip.

This is all a little strange, and it isn't just because the RS Q3 is still technically an SUV. Cars that leave you breathless tend to be those that either give you a ton of driver engagement or scare you enough to stop. For normal folk, that means a fine line between flashing traction control lights, being in control or having none at all.

With the adaptive dampers set to Comfort, the RS Q3 turns into a fuss-free and practical urban commuter
But in the case of the RS Q3, it executes fast driving duties in a clean and effective sort of manner, without actually wanting to kill you. It is a different kind of enjoyment, but it works. Not to forget the supporting aural soundtrack, of course.

And when you turn down the fun, it immediately becomes your silent, sensible and regular Audi Q3 - albeit with a slightly firmer ride no thanks to those large low profile 21-inch tyres.

A sensible performance SUV? Say what?

Nothing can really match the breadth of abilities that the RS Q3 offers. Nobody in their right mind would want a performance SUV that can only be brutal in its abilities. When it comes down to it, the RS Q3 delivers.

The RS Q3 sounds and feels fast, and offers plenty of driver confidence - what's not to like?
You could have a faster car. The Mercedes GLA 45 for example makes a whopping 416bhp and 500Nm of torque. But with a turbo four-cylinder there's only so much audible drama you can extract - without sounding like every other turbo four-cylinder in the market today.

It might not have a crown for being the most powerful, or the most striking. But it is in the RS Q3's turbocharged heart that charms. It does perform in the most spectacular and sensual way it can. That is enough to make it great.

Audi, please don't ever do away with this engine.

Car Information

This model is no longer being sold by local distributors
Audi RS Q3 2.5 TFSI qu S tronic (A)
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Engine Type


5-cylinder in-line 20-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap





294kW (394 bhp) / 7000 rpm



480 Nm / 5850 rpm



7-speed (A) S tronic

Acceleration (0-100 km/h)



Top Speed



Fuel consumption


11.1 km/L

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