Colin Hubbard reviews the 2014 Audi RS Q3
The Q3 is the smallest of the Audi SUV range sitting below both the Q5 and Q7 and is the only one to date to have been subjected to the RS treatment. It is bigger than a 5 door A3 by 10cm in length and 5cm in width which means it's easy to park despite feeling much larger due to the increased height.
Inside the extra height translates to much better use of cabin space. The extra seat height means your legs are slightly down and forwards as opposed to straight out so it feels much roomier than a conventional car. In the back there is a surprisingly large amount of legroom for what is a baby SUV.
It's perfect for a family with small children as the rear seat sides are flat so a child seat sits perfectly stable. In addition the height of the thing means you don't have to bend down to buckle them up.
The engine is Audi's proven in-line 5 cylinder turbocharged unit taken from the TT RS although strangely detuned in this application by 29bhp to 306bhp and by 22 lb/ft to 310 lb/ft. Maybe I should have said retuned as it delivers torque lower in the rev range than the TT so is smoother and less manic, but still fast.
Drive is through a double clutch 7 speed gearbox (no manual option) mainly to the front wheels with a Haldex controlled differential capable of delivering 100% to the rear wheels when required. Even though it is an off-road type style vehicle it is more Sports Utility Vehicle in that it doesn't have a low ratio gearbox or locking diffs for serious off roading. This is a good thing as it saves weight and the complication of big heavy diffs and extra gearboxes.
All this translates to a 0-62 sprint in 5.2 seconds and onto a limited top speed of 155mph. It feels that fast too with overtakes being completed effortlessly. The engine makes a fabulous noise, the odd number of cylinders make the engine tone a deep warble, a little like the original UR Quattro.
Should you want to go off roading in it there is good ground clearance and it is equipped with various buttons such as hill descent control and hill-hold assist which use the electronics to control individual brakes but I really can't see any owners wanting to take their car on anything other than a slightly muddy field.
The quattro system is designed more for on road performance and with a locking electronic diff the power is applied most efficiently - when tootling along power is mainly fed to the front but be more aggressive with the throttle and the back end is loaded up to ensure power isn't spun away. It drives like a very grippy front wheel driven car, although on occasions you can feel the power coming from the back end.
The chassis is firmed up and lowered 25mm over a standard Q3 and, along with the 20 inch wheels with all round 255/35/20 Dunlop Quattromax tyres, it delivers incredible handling for something as tall as this. Aluminium has been used extensively in the suspension components to reduce unspung weight which helps wheel control as a lighter mass can adapt quicker to constantly changing surface conditions.
To aid the balance of the car the engine is buried away at the back of the engine bay and transversely mounted to tuck it behind the front wheels. It works well as there is little mass in front of the wheels so the car hardly understeers at all despite its 1700kg mass.
It's not delicate by any means, those huge wheels put a stop to any tip toe'ing around, but it's safe, predictable and is oh so grippy that I had massive confidence in its ability at the end of the week I spent with it. The increased height doesn't make it as top heavy a beast as I thought it would and it is genuinely stable, strangely enough I would say more so than my own TT.
The brakes are also something else being 18inch wavy disks with 8 piston calipers at front with a more conventional arrangement at the back. I have never seen bigger brakes on a normal road car, their stopping power is superb and their steel construction means there's good feel in the left pedal. Wavy disks were introduced to Audi RS models to save weight and give a little more air to the pads to keep temperatures down. They look superb and some bling behind the alloys.
Sadly the steering doesn't have the same feel as the brakes. It's light and feels remote in your hands. I never had any issues with the weighting and placing on the road but sometimes I hadn't a clue what was going on with the road surface beneath the tyres.
The driver's seat is a nice place to be. The lofty driving position gives clear views over cars at junctions and over hedges on country lanes so you have better information making journeys safer and capable of faster progress.
The sports seats could do with a little more lateral support in the hips but are comfortable and look the part with RS Q3 stamped into the backrest.
The dash is the usual Audi top notch design and materials and is laid out so it is functional but also handsome. The lower dashboard is pilot orientated which makes total sense as the driver is the one in control so need goods visibility and accessibility to the instruments, a nice touch and something which I haven't seen for a while in a modern car. Some optional genuine carbon fibre dash, console and door inserts lift the interior nicely.
The infotainment screen sits atop the dash in clear view of the driver but there is also a second colour info screen between the speedo and rev counter which along with the usual trip computer info also lets you scroll between music settings, nav directions and chassis set up.
The steering wheel is oddly a flat bottomed design borrowed from the R8 with no clear purpose as there is bags of room between the wheel and your knees so it doesn't aid getting in and out, which is what it was originally designed for. No harm done as it's nice to look at and feels great in your hands but, like the bonnet vent in the Mk2 Mini Cooper, it serves no purpose. There are several buttons and toggle switches on the wheel which let you navigate the radio and dash functions. I was fluent with them after a few days and appreciated them when really concentrating as you don't have to take your eyes off the road.
As mentioned previously the back seat is family friendly but it's also good for adults. There is plenty of head and leg room for 6 footers and you can squeeze three in.
The boot is the one downside to the car and the first thing my wife said to me when the car was dropped off, "it's lovely but the boot isn't big enough for us". It is perfectly usable for the weekly shop and if you go to the tip the seats fold down to create quite a large void to fill with rubbish, but on a weekend away it would quickly fill up and then you would have to start filling up the cabin or install a roof box.
The problem lies with the height of the boot floor, it is level with the boot sill which is quite high in itself and so there is approx 7 inches of lost boot space below it, this space being filled by a Bose subwoofer, tyre compression kit and some storage areas. It would so much more usable if the space had been left open and a shelf installed like in the VW Up so when you need the extra space you could take the shelf out and the boot would instantly be more accomodating. The items currently in the void could easily be relocated to the sides of the boot.
As I have eluded to in my mid test review you can't get under a cars skin the same way on a short drive so this week trial let me get a really detailed feel for the car.
The first and quite small detail I noted was the cruise control, it's very user friendly and lets you click up notches 1mph at a time with the target speed show in the dash display.
The interior lighting at night makes the cabin a special place to be. The Bose speakers have warm lighting around them and there is illumination to many key areas such as under the door handles, by the window switches, in the footwell areas, pretty much everywhere it's needed without being too bright.
The Xenon plus headlights prove you don't need daytime to get daylight as these super powerful units were really effective once the sun disappeared so long as there were no other cars about.
In terms of drinks holders I counted eight, and all in useful positions. Between the front seats were two which would hold a large cup of Costa coffee and the rear armrest featured the same. Each door then had a large void which would swallow a large bottle of wine but also have space for sunglasses and CDs. Brilliant!
The electronics were all in tune with each other and not a glitch was experienced during the week. The sat nav took UK postcodes (take note Peugeot) and a nice touch is when you park up and turn the engine off (via the stop/start button as the key isn't used) the stereo stays on and only goes off when you open the driver's door. Not once in the week did the DAB radio lose signal so Planet Rock was broadcast loud and clear through the excellent Bose hifi.
On the outside the full RS treatment has made an already well proportioned car into a gorgeous looking car. It features wheel arch extensions, extended side skirts and deeper front and rear bumpers.
The front end has some large air intakes which are filled with black gloss honeycomb whilst the lower grille features some tasty quattro branding. The rear is finished off with a tailgate lip spoiler, gloss black diffuser and a large single outlet stainless steel exhaust tailpipe.
During the week five people asked me why there's only the single exhaust outlet when many Audi RSs have dual exit exhausts. I don't know the reason for this and can only presume it was to save weight or maybe to identify an RS Plus version in the future?
Some silver highlights to the mirrors, rear spoiler and front brake cooling ducts compliment both the Sepang Blue Pearl effect paintwork and titanium five spoke sport 'Rotor' alloys to create a real head turning car.
On average I was achieving about 23mpg when driving hard on my twisty country road commute but on my last day with the car, when I drove calmly with the transmission in Drive as opposed to Sport, it managed a 32.4mpg. That's pretty impressive for something so tall and with the performance on offer.
As a package the RS Q3 is a well rounded family friendly car that also offers the driver some fun. The well developed chassis and high powered engine from the RS TT has turned the Q3 into a great cross-country machine but one you could also take on a long journey.
As far as rivals go I can't see any that tick the same boxes.
The closest would be the yet to be released Mercedes GLA45 AMG has which doesn't quite have the same interior space and class as the Q3, plus, if it's anything like the A45AMG, will be a mini-SUV nutter. I think the Merc would be outclassed in this company.
The only other potential rival is the BMW X3 but as they don't sell a petrol version and not even a really hot version then it doesn't get a look in.
The list price for the RS Q3 is £41,745 but this car was fully loaded with options and cost just south of £50k. Quite some price, but then again quite some car.
It's been said many times that Audi make the best interiors and the RS Q3 does have a stunning interior. Factor in that stonking engine, a well sorted chassis and great looks and you have the makings of a fantastic family car.
Price - £41,735 (as tested £49,965)
Engine – 2.5 litre, inline-5, turbocharged, petrol
Transmission - 7-speed twin clutch auto
Drive – 4 wheel drive Quattro with electronic diff lock
0-60mph – 5.2 seconds
Top speed - 155 mph (limited)
Power – 306 bhp
Torque – 310 lb ft
Economy – 32.1mpg (combined)
CO2 - 206 g/km
Kerb weight – 1,666 kg