REVIEW | 2021 Audi RS Q3 scores a high five

04 November 2021 - 07:47
The five-cylinder unit in the RS Q3 has won its class in the International Engine of the Year award for nine consecutive years. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The five-cylinder unit in the RS Q3 has won its class in the International Engine of the Year award for nine consecutive years. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

In a modern car world with so much change, it’s good to see some traditions survive.

The five-cylinder engine is part of Audi lore, having earned its stripes in the rapid Quattros that won world and SA rallies in the 1980s. And who can forget the unique roaring-whistle of the five-cylinder WesBank Modified Audis raced locally by Terry Moss and Chris Aberdein in the 1990s?

In Audi high-performance tradition, quattro drive and a quintet of engine cylinders go together like carrots and peas, as Forrest Gump might say.

Today, that mechanical pairing survives in a small handful of high-performance Audis, including the RS Q3 sports SUV. Its 2,480cc petrol engine, with a little help from its turbo friend, sends outputs of 294kW and 480Nm to both axles. This five-cylinder unit has won its class in the International Engine of the Year award for nine consecutive years.

The RS Q3 doesn’t quite aspire to break land-speed records. It lacks the brutality of V8-engined SUV monsters including the RS Q8 from its own stable, and the RS Q3’s domain is populated by six-cylinder rivals like the BMW X4 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLA 43 4Motion.

Unless you’re seeking to break the aforementioned speed records, the RS Q3 has all the pace you’d realistically ever need. It is satisfyingly thrustful across the rev range and doesn’t have any lag to speak of, while the odd number of cylinders give its throaty roar a unique timbre.

The test car ran a 4.9 second 0-100km/h sprint and the top speed is governed to 250km/h — or you can get Audi to unlock a 280km/h top speed for an extra R28,900.

Sporty trimmings add to Audi’s usual high-class interior. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Sporty trimmings add to Audi’s usual high-class interior. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

A drive select system influences the transmission, suspension, engine, steering and quattro drive, and there are several modes to tone down or intensify the driving experience. Additionally, two individually-configurable RS modes can be quick-selected on a steering wheel switch.

The RS Q3’s straight line prowess is matched by accomplished direction-changing abilities. It squats 10mm lower than regular Q3s on sports suspension that keeps it pressed down without the top-heavy feel usually associated with SUVs.

The test vehicle had the optional adaptive chassis control where the suspension can be stiffened at the press of a button. It all made for confidence-inspiring handling that allows you to attack turns with gusto. It has a notable lack of understeer; this dreaded fun-sapping characteristic is quelled by quattro drive that distributes the power as needed between the axles as needed, with wheel‑selective torque control.

The ride is impressively comfortable for a car with sports suspension, though the low-profile tyres need to be carefully guided over potholes or gravel roads.

Braking power in this range-topping Q3 is upped to RS specification with six-piston calipers and large disks. They do the business in bringing this sizeable vehicle to quick stops, though some brake squeal indicated that the test car had previously endured some punishing drives.

The RS Q3 is available in two body styles, a standard SUV and the Sportback which has a sleeker side profile. The Sportback’s 29mm flatter roofline robs some rear head room without becoming impractical, and regular-sized adults won’t feel too cramped in the back seat. It’s a relatively spacious, family-sized vehicle with rear seats that can be slid fore or aft and have tilting backrests. The Sportback’s sizeable 530l boot is only 20l less than the standard body style.

Styling tweaks give this range-topper a sportier edge over humbler Q3 models. The frameless black grille, striking boomerang-shaped blades in the bumper, and red brake calipers strike a pose that will have some hot-hatch drivers thinking twice about challenging it to a traffic-light dice. If you want to really pop out, choose the Kyalami Green of the test car.

The RS Q3 is available in a standard SUV body style and this sleeker Sportback. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The RS Q3 is available in a standard SUV body style and this sleeker Sportback. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Inside, a high-class sporting ambience is laid on by Nappa-clad RS Sport seats with honeycomb stitching. The RS sport leather steering wheel is flattened on the bottom in racing style and has shift paddles.

Special RS displays provide information on tyre pressure, power output, lap times and g-forces.

The standard spec sheet is well stocked but one has to dip into the options catalogue to buy extra features like adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone charger, lane change assist and the dark styling package pictured here (including the striking black wheels).

The RS Q3 is a likable mix of sporting prowess and practicality. Whether or not one is sentimental about the historical significance of five cylinders and quattro drive, this sports SUV bundles those numbers together in an appealing way, including a price tag that undercuts the competition.

Tech Specs

Engine

Type: Five-cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 2,480cc

Power: 294kW

Torque: 480Nm

Transmission

Type: Seven-speed S tronic auto

Drivetrain

Type: Quattro all-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds (claimed); 4.9 seconds (as tested)

Fuel Consumption: 9.0l/100km (claimed), 10.5l / 100km (as tested)

Emissions: 206g/km

Standard features

Leather RS sport seats, touchscreen infotainment system, USB ports front and rear, navigation, electric windows, electric mirrors, smart keyless entry, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, climate control, six airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, sports suspension, Matrix LED headlights, rain sensor wipers, cruise control, hill-descent control, parking aid with rear camera, Audi virtual cockpit digital instrument panel

Ownership

Warranty: One year/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km

Price: R1,150,000

Lease*: R24,528 a month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Audi RS Q3 Sportback quattro

We like: Performance, ride, styling

We dislike: High cost of options

Verdict: Swift, stylish and sensible sports SUV

Motor News star rating

****Design

****Performance

****Economy

****Ride

****Handling

****Safety

****Value For Money

****Overall

COMPETITION

BMW X4 M40i, 285kW/500Nm — R1,515,042

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupe 4Matic, 287kW/520Nm — R1,453,400

Porsche Macan S, 289kW/520Nm — R1,271,000


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