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Audi RS Q3 2014 review

Short, sharp, always ready for action; Audi's sensational little RS Q3.
EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2014 Audi RS Q3 with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Audi's RS Q3 has the distinction of being the least-expensive RS-badged, high-performance Audi money can buy. Riding on the coat-tails of the brilliant SQ5, the second of Audi's fast SUVs arrived with great fanfare and much promise.

With the the all-new Porsche Macan and Mercedes GLA breathing down its neck, the RSQ3 needs to deliver.

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VALUE

A price tag like $81,900 might seem like a lot of money, especially given the distance between it and the top-spec Audi Q3.

The RS additions are obvious - five-cylinder engine, 25 mm lower ride height, electrically adjustable sports seats and body kit that adds skirts, bumpers and wing.

Along for the ride is Audi's MMI with dashtop screen, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, alloy pedals, leather trim including the flat-bottomed steering wheel. There's also front and rear parking sensors, a (terrible) reversing camera, auto headlights and wipers, power windows and mirrors, comprehensive trip computer and keyless entry and start.

Our test car also benefited from the $5250 RS Performance Pack, which brings the wheel size to 20-inches from 19, a digital radio, embossed leather seats, premium sound and red painted brake calipers. A whopping $1300 adds black bits in the interior and exterior.

DESIGN

Chunky. In big-wheeled, deep-bumpered RS form, the usually slick Audi Q3 is rendered stubby and angry-looking. The Q3's grille is replaced with the now predictable black honeycomb, gloss in this case, and the huge wheels fill the arches to meet the lower ride height halfway.

Inside is almost pure Audi Q3, with very little to distinguish it from an up-spec TDI. The seats have some additional adjustment but everything, apart from the flat-bottomed, perforated leather steering wheel is the same. It's good, if a bit bland by Audi standards.

Rear seat passengers might have a hard time squeezing through the small door aperture but once on board will be quite comfortable, with plenty of leg and headroom for sub six footers.

There's lots of little useful storage spots and the boot floor is high, flush with the bumper but with storage cubbies beneath.

The instruments are very good until you come to the speedo - it's all mashed-up on the right-hand side to read to a slightly silly 300 km/h and so even on the better-spaced lower speed side, it's hard to tell what speed you're doing.

The MMI 7-inch screen can be manually folded away and is controlled from the dash-mounted MMI wheel. The rotary control is not in a great spot and is not as user-friendly as those found in the Audi A3 or A4.

Sound is good, with Bose DSP along for the ride and the Bluetooth connectivity easy enough to manage (no USB, proprietary cable only).

The sat-nav is standard Audi, with an easy input method and a good clear voice for the instructions, which are also shown on the screen between the dials.

SAFETY

Six airbags, ABS with brake force distribution, traction and stability control and seatbelt pre-tensioners amount to five EuroNCAP stars.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The RSQ3's 2.5-litre five-cylinder TFSI engine hammers out an impressive 228kW of power and a whopping 420Nm of torque. This is enough to catapault the 1655kg RS to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds while officially using 8.8 litres per 100 km on the combined cycle.

Despite our addiction to the hyperspeed acceleration, we used fuel at a rate of 11.9 L/100km.

Drive reaches the ground through all four wheels, fat 255 rubber and a seven-speed DSG transmission.

DRIVING

It's hard to pinpoint what it is about the RS Q3 that makes it a lot of fun, because before you get into the bendy stuff there's a couple of problems to overcome.

First is the unfortunate and awkward driving position. It's fine if you have uncommonly short legs and/or long arms but is otherwise hard to get right. The seats aren't much help as they lack in lateral support and need more behind the shoulder blades because you need to sit upright to deal with the too-high steering wheel.

The seven-speed DSG automatic seems to have a hard time dealing with all that power and torque. When waking from stop-start it's prone to lurching if you lift your foot off the throttle to try and smooth progress or avoid a pile-up.

When you put your foot down and keep it there, the transmission can occasionally forget what to do at the redline and you may find yourself shouting, "Upshift!" to remind it.

Booting the RSQ3 is hilarious - even in teeming rain it doesn't bother lifting its skirts, it's quite happy for the substantial rubber to tear them free and leave them on the road. In the dry, acceleration is brutal and near-instant, throttle response razor sharp above 2000 rpm when in dynamic mode.

Between corners you'll pick up serious speed as the combination of towering mid-range torque and well-spaced gears conspire to shred your licence. The drilled, crinkle-cut front brakes with eight pot calipers will wipe off considerable amounts of speed without much provocation and the all-wheel drive grip will allow you to carry what's left through the corner and out again with utmost confidence.

The exhaust blares away a bit tunelessly but rewards with the now-mandatory off-throttle crackle and foot-flat parp! on the upshift.

It's hard to believe how fast you're going when perched on that high driving position, but Audi RSQ3 keeps your faith alive by delivering at every corner and in every braking zone. The only significant improvement to be wrought for a future update is more steering feel, but that's just being picky.

And then, when you've had your fun, you can flick into comfort mode and the throttle and gearshifts smooth out for a reasonably relaxing (if sometimes jiggly) ride home. The trade-off is worth it for the huge fun to be had.

Verdict

The standard Audi Q3 is a good car but is probably not the best base for Audi's high-performance RS division. The SQ5 is a phenomenal machine and the signs were good for the RS Q3, the cheapest of the RS line. Unlike the SQ5, this car has a couple of significant flaws while not giving enough away on the price tag.

That said, it's a lot of fun - some fast Audis can seem a little inert, but this has an entertaining rawness and repeatability. A back road blast is more fun than some hot hatches, including the S3.

It's a car looking for buyers rather than buyers looking for a car. As long as you're happy to live with the flaws the buyers have a ball.

Pricing Guides

$46,248
Based on 10 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$43,990
Highest Price
$51,888

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.5 TFSI Quattro 2.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $43,990 – 51,888 2014 Audi RS Q3 2014 2.5 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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