AUDI RS Q3

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

DYLAN CAMPBELL

LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE

I’VE NEVER felt cold like this before. At minus 21 Celsius, you can feel the hairs in your nose freezing. I’m in far northern Sweden and wearing so many layers I feel like a Merino wool gobstopper.

In these conditions our Audi RS Q3 is as much a survival pod as it is test vehicle. Even in temperatures much lower than this – it gets to minus 40 apparently – the RS Q3 can be relied on to start, idle, run and be thrashed pitilessly without any issue whatsoever. And in some sense that should be it – review over.

Except today we’re here to see what this baby Lamborghini Uruslooking, five-cylinder turbo, all-paw rally wannabe is all about. The secondgeneration MQB-platform RS Q3 is certainly, literally, a lot more car than it was; 95mm longer, 10mm wider and 22mm higher than its predecessor and with 78mm more wheelbase. It’s also a notable 135kg heavier at 1790kg.

That is, unless you buy the new 1775kg Sportback bodystyle. Apeing the aforementioned Lambo, the Sportback debuts a 45mm-lower roof, aggressively sloping C-pillars and a smidge less rear headroom for that ‘four-door SUV coupe’ look. If that’s what you’re into.

And we think, despite the extra $3000 cost, we might very well be. Particularly when paired with the 2.5-litre turbo in-line five, which Audi engineers have gloriously retained – and not without a fight, so a little birdie advises.

The rest of the drivetrain is mighty familiar too, a seven-speed dual-clutch ‘S tronic’ powering a Haldex-based all-wheel drive with open differentials abounding. Power is up, now 294kW – curiously exactly twice that of the original 1980 Audi Quattro – with torque now 480Nm. Zero to 100km/h takes a clinical 4.5 seconds with launch control.

You sit high inside in a largely lovely interior dominated by the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display. But all that is quickly forgotten as you’re spinning all four wheels in rooster-tails of snow, the five-cylinder warbling away like some sort of cheerleader. God it sounds good.

In these bordering-on-irrelevant, possibly flattering testing conditions, the RS Q3 is enormous fun and feels more like a tall, heavy hot hatch than an off-roader, the all-wheel drive supplying useable traction and a strong rear-drive feeling. Up to 70 percent of torque can realistically be sent to the rear axle.

Until we drive the $89,900 RS Q3 on Aussie roads it’s hard to know much more about how it drives. We’ve no clue how it rides, but adaptive suspension is standard on Aussie cars and this assuages concerns for the 35-profile tyres on the also-standard 21-inch wheels. But this is possibly all the drive impressions a lot of customers will need, being sold at one look and one flattening of the loud pedal. And knowing that they could drive it in a freezer.

DYLAN CAMPBELL

PLUS

Fearsome pace; slick styling; five-pot acoustics

MINUS

Question marks over how well it’ll work in Oz; no slippy diff

Model Audi RS Q3

Engine 2480cc in-line 5cyl, dohc, 20v, turbo 

Max power 294kW @ 5850-7000rpm 

Max torque 480Nm @ 1950-5850rpm

Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch 

Weight 1790kg

Economy 8.9L/100km (claimed) 

0-100km/h 4.5sec (claimed)

Price $89,900 

On sale Now