If life truly does begin at 40 and when you’re just a few months shy of that number, you certainly hope that it does, we motoring enthusiasts can look forward to many more years of Audi’s fabulous five. Audi’s five-cylinder engine is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
And while the headline grabber might be the 294kW TT RS, it’s a source of great joy that a German car manufacturer has the good humour to stuff a 270kW five-potter into the nose of a compact SUV.
The updated RS Q3 Performance, to give it its full title, replaces the regular RS Q3 that debuted in Australia in 2014. In its short time on sale, the 250kW RS Q3 found over360 homes, proving that there’s a market for ultra-high performance compact SUVs. As the name implies, the RS Q3 Performance ups the ante over the original with an additional 20kW and 15Nm (now 465Nm). The power peaks from 5550-680Orpm, while maximum torque is on tap from 1550-555Orpm where it neatly segues into maximum kilowattage.
Official combined cycle consumption is pegged at 8.8L/100km, but you’ll never get close to this after you hear that five-cylinder aria. The engine’s inherently warbly timbre is probably at its most subdued in the RS Q3 (aside from the TT RS, the engine is also used in the RS3 Sportback and sedan), so you do need to toe the throttle that bit harder to get the full effect.
Do so and the RS Q3 is genuinely quick, not just quick fora 1730kg SUV. Audi claims 0-100km/h in 4.4 seconds (which represents a 0.4sec improvement over the 250kW variant) but, like its Porsche stablemate, the Irgolstadt brand is becoming increasingly conservative with its acceleration claims. We’d not be surprised if it scampers to 100km/h in as little as 4.1 seconds. Just as the new TT RS is as fast to 100km/h as a Ferrari Enzo, the RS Q3 Performance is likely to match a 996 Porsche 911 GT2. That’s just crazy.
Top speed is limited to 270km/h. There’s plenty of low-end shove, but the engine punches hardest through the mid-range and when singing beyond 600Orpm. Keep the engine, and turbocharger, on the boil and it chomps through ratios in the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The ‘box shifts decisively when left to do the thinking (especially in Sport mode) but can feel a little slow to respond to requests for manual downshifts. Upshifts are handled with prompt attention.
The Australian launch was on wet and twisty roads in northern Victoria — the perfectvenue to test the RS Q3’s quattro credentials. Torque can be split 100 per cent to either axle, butyou can forget tail-out heroics. The little SUV just feels like a very tenacious front-wheel drive, but that’s not a criticism. In the wet, the front Pirelli P Zero rubber (255/35 all around on the new 20-inch alloys) eventually give up their hold on the tarmac, but it takes some insistent provocation for them to wave the white flag.
Under heavy throttle loads, the tyres transmit the torque to the ground with minimal fuss and the RS Q3 Performance hares down the road. The suspension, 20mm lower than a standard Q3, is firm at lower speeds but rounds off sharper intrusions as the speedo needle nudges 50km/h. At open-road pace, the set-up offers a solid blend of comfort and body control. Given the taller body, there is some roll, pitch and dive, but the control is well above acceptable.
The brakes —which include 365mm front rotors squeezed by enormous eight-piston calipers —are another highlight. Like many Audi products, they require a familiarity phase in order to dial into the pedal sensitivity, but there after you can enjoy strong and consistent performance.
At $84,216, the RS Q3 Performance isn’t exactly cheap, and with our hat clamped firmly down over our ears, we’d recommend that you save some money and go for the just-as-practical, but more dynamically appealirg RS3 Sportback (or sedan because we think it looks better). However, we also know that outright dynamics aren’t number one on everyone’s automotive shopping list, and that the raised seating position of the RS Q3 Performance will be enough of an enticement for some. If you’re in a one-car family and that’s the line you need to spin to get a performance car in the garage, we understand.
Just remember, the RS Q3 Performance has 1261 litres of luggage space (with the rear seats folded flat).
Engine: 2480cc in-lin e 5-cyl , dohc, 20v, turbo
Power: 270kW @5550-680Orpm
Torque: 465Nm @1550-555Orpm
Weight: 1730kg (156kW/tonne)
0-100 km/h: 4.4sec (claimed)
Top speed: 270km/h (limited)