The Audi RS Q3 Estate has enough power to send you into orbit, but does the rest of the car have what it takes to back up it's almighty brawn?
Expensive to buy and run.
What do you get when you cross a practical, compact SUV with a high-performance race car? The answer, my dear friend, is the Audi RS Q3 Estate.
The RS Q3’s closest competitors come in the form of the slightly less powerful (four-cylinder engines) BMW X2 M35i, Mercedes AMG GLA 45 and Volkswagen T-Roc R. Although it’s worth mentioning that its performance capabilities are enough to give the far more expensive Porsche Macan Turbo and Jaguar F-Pace SVR a run for their money.
The five-door RS Q3 is also available in a more athletic RS Q3 Sportback body style which is almost identical, though it is slightly less practical given its coupe-esque sloping roofline.
The RS Q3’s invigorating performance is amplified by the 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine it has hiding under the bonnet. Combined with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the almighty engine sends a frightening 395bhp to all four wheels as a result of the RS Q3’s all-wheel drive powertrain.
When it comes to interior styling, the RS Q3 Estate can be found a little wanting (if we’re being picky). The cabin is quite dark and dingy and feels a tad lackluster compared to similarly priced Audi cars. You will, however, receive a leather multi-function RS steering wheel and front RS Sport seats upholstered in either Alcantara or Fine Nappa leather with honeycomb stitching.
Tech-wise, the RS Q3 Estate is pretty well connected. The dashboard mounted 10.1” central touchscreen is complimented by Audi’s RS-specific, 12.3” Virtual Cockpit display.
Practicality is arguably the most significant feature of the RS Q3. The Estate’s wider and taller body shape means it can accommodate more luggage in the boot, as well as an extra 125L with the rear seats down compared to the Sportback version.
There’s no denying the RS Q3’s accomplished performance and appealing style, but it just feels that Audi have put all their eggs in the power-hungry engine basket. Compared to similarly priced rivals, the RS Q3 handles pretty poorly and its mighty engine ensures running costs (MPG) will be through the roof.
Priced at just over £50K, the entry-level RS Q3 boasts all the fundamental features that you’d expect. Highlights include the RS Q3’s front RS Sports seats in Fine Nappa leather with honeycomb stitching, MMI Navigation Plus with MMI touch display and Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus as standard. Standard safety features are available in droves, such as Parking System Plus, Cruise Control, Lane Assist and Pre-Sense Front as well as a pair of LED headlights with LED daytime running lights.
RS Q3 Audi Sport Edition
The Audi Sport Edition looks like it’s going for more of a mystic vibe thanks to its dark and mysterious complexion. The jet black 21” ‘V-spoke polygon’ alloy wheels compliment the dark tinted Matrix LED headlights. The black theme is intensified by the black styling pack which adds a splash of black highlights to the exterior, including the iconic four-ring Audi logo and the Q3 badge. The Sport Edition also features a panoramic glass sunroof and an upgraded RS Sport, dual branch exhaust system with exhaust flap control and gloss black oval tailpipe trims.
RS Q3 Vorsprung
The creme-de-la-creme RS Q3 trim is the lavish Vorsprung. The carbon exterior mirrors and twin inlays add to the glossy, sophisticated characteristics of the RS Q3 even further, while the Vorsprung’s upgraded RS Sport Suspension Plus is a game-changer if you value a comfortable drive - it’s much more comfortable (less firm) than the standard suspension and also allows you to alter between driving modes depending on the terrain. If you count yourself as a bit of a music buff, the standard 15-speaker, 680w Bang & Olufsen 3D Sound System is the stuff of dreams. You’ll also receive a number of innovative safety features including a 360 degree camera, Adaptive Cruise Control and Emergency Assist thanks to Audi’s Driver Assistance Pack.
The strapping RS Q3 Estate displays plenty of unique features to differentiate itself from both the standard Q3 Estate and the RS Q3 Sportback.
The menacing black honeycomb grille is sandwiched in between a pair of LED headlights, while a quattro-style vent sits above and below you get a huge front splitter.
The visual difference between the RS Q3 and the RS Q3 Sportback becomes more apparent from a side-on view. The Sportback’s coupe-style roofline gives it a lower shoulder line and makes it 45mm lower than the RS Q3.
Both models get a pair of distinctive oval exhaust pipes, an RS-specific rear bumper and a roof spoiler. The RS Q3 is also available with a choice of eight paint finishes - including RS-specific Kyalami green and Nardo grey.
The Audi RS Q3 boasts one solitary output - a 2.5 litre 395bhp TFSI quattro S Tronic petrol engine. Audi’s impressive quattro four-wheel drive system ensures that all the RS Q3’s power is distributed through all four wheels, providing the SUV with an abundance of grip to suit any weather conditions.
The S Tronic is in reference to the seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox. If we’re being honest, it doesn’t really cut the mustard. The laggy response time is evident when you’re looking for a burst of acceleration which is annoying and actually quite dangerous given the RS Q3’s ferocious engine.
The RS Q3 Estate is capable of reaching 62mph in a causal 4.5 seconds and maxes out at a top speed of 155mph.
If that’s not enough to satisfy your needs, you can equip the RS Q3 with the Performance Pack Plus (for an additional £1,660) which will unshackle the RS Q3 to a top speed of 174mph.
The RS Q3 Estate offers a decent range of steering wheel and electrical front seat adjustment. You might feel like you’re sitting quite high, but you won’t have to worry about stretching for the pedals.
Front visibility is pretty good thanks to the slim front pillars, while the rear view is clear as day. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the RS Q3 Sportback - the sloping roofline means it has a much smaller rear screen making it harder to see out of.
All RS Q3 models come with a progressive steering system that gets faster the farther you turn the wheel. This makes manoeuvring out of tight spots easy on the arms and ensures tight corners require less steering input at higher speeds.
The quattro all-wheel drive system allows the RS Q3 to take corners at a fair rate of knots. The only downside is that there's very little sense of connection between the steering wheel and the front tyres when cornering.
The laggy gearbox makes driving around town a bit of a chore, but once you get out on the open road, ‘Sport’ mode makes the gearbox more decisive.
To ensure the Audi RS Q3 is a better drive than the standard Q3, it gets a sports suspension that is 10mm lower to go alongside its progressive steering.
Although the standard sport suspension helps to reduce body lean, the firm springs mean the RS Q3 bobbles about on even the smoothest of surfaces. The discomfort is heightened when the RS Q3 meets a few nasty potholes, where you’ll be bouncing about like you’re on the bumper cars.
We highly recommend the optional RS Sport suspension (standard on Vorsprung) if you want a smoother ride. The dynamic chassis control kits the car out with oil-filled dampers that adjust the suspension to deal with different driving situations, giving a sportier response and much-improved comfort.