REVIEW | The 2021 Audi RS Q3 fires on all (five) cylinders
Quattro might be a favourite in Audi numerology. But five is a great omen too. We associate BMW with stout in-line six-cylinder configurations and Rolls-Royce with a silky dozen. And when it comes to the Ingolstadt brand? Though they offer a variety of engine types, the one that gets most enthusiasts going is the iconic quintet.
And many rejoice that it is an arrangement that lives on in 2021. In the prow of the new RS Q3, you will find a five-cylinder unit displacing 2,480cc, armed with a turbocharger. We spent time with the model, launched in April this year, also available for the first time in sleeker Sportback guise.
Award-winning is a hackneyed descriptor in some instances, but this power source really does have a trophy cabinet worth bragging about. It was the category winner in the International Engine of the Year Awards for nearly a decade, before the competition changed its format, evolving with increasing downsizing and electrification trends.
The first-generation model was a pioneer in the high-performance niche of the compact sport-utility vehicle class. Its local arrival preceded the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, while BMW never offered a more potent expression of the X1. When the model hit the market in February 2014, it cost R696,500 and offered 228kW and 420Nm, capable of 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds.
Today, pricing kicks off at R1,094,000. The Sportback carries a slight premium, upwards of R1,128,000. While it retains the same engine capacity, the new RS Q3 is considerably more powerful than its predecessor, with an output of 294kW and 480Nm.
Using acceleration as our marker of progress, the new car is undoubtedly superior, dispatching the run in 4.5 seconds. Top speed is pegged at 250km/h, but that can be unlocked to 280km/h for an extra fee. The extent of weight-saving measures is remarkable to note. For example, the crankcase of the engine is now aluminium, saving 18kg. Audi says a hollower crankshaft saves another 1kg. As before, power is shifted via a seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic, transmitted to all four corners. What would a fast Audi be without Quattro after all?
If you are the proud custodian of a small family, you could convincingly justify the RS Q3 as a viable steed for daily use. Looking beyond the massive wheels (21-inches), snarling, antisocial exterior outfit and lurid paint choices (including a venomous Kyalami Green); there are no glaring compromises over the garden variety Q3.
Luggage space remains commodious (530l), well-suited to month-end shopping trips, with a total capacity of 1,525l if you fold the seats down. In standard form the Q3 has a praiseworthy interior, boasting a simple layout, attractive design with hexagonal shapes aplenty and the easy-to-use Multi Media Interface (MMI) system.
You can tell the RS Q3 is of a (slightly) older crop, versus the latest A3 for example, with giveaways being the traditional gearstick (no stubby selector) and presence of actual buttons over smartphone-like illuminated keys. That is more of an observation than a criticism.
The new RS Q3 seems a lot more cohesive and planted than the former car. Which comes as no surprise because dimensionally, it has a bigger footprint: a wider track, longer wheelbase and increased overall nose-to-tail length. That furious five-cylinder theme song implores you to keep the tachometer needle towards higher digits. While four-cylinder peers come with their over-the-top flatulence and synthesised crackles, the purity of timbre produced by this motor is a treat to be savoured.
And it does appear to have suffered less acoustic muzzling than some of the other offerings in the Audi Sport stable. Although one is sure that a proper, scientific comparison against old and new, with a decibel meter, would reveal that it was not immune to stricter regulations. Like with all fast, all-wheel drive Audi models, it is a forgiving brute. The four-link rear suspension is rarely, if ever, flummoxed by undulations at speed, while the steering, with its speed-dependent assistance, has a surprising amount of weight to it.
The RS Q3 and its famed five-cylinder heart are worth celebrating. And if quick compact sport-utilities are not your cup of coffee, the great news is that you can still get that 2.5-litre shot in the TT RS or imminent RS3 Sportback.