IF VISUAL IMPACT is any measure of success, then I can say with complete conviction and utter confidence that on looks alone, Audi will sell every single RS Q3 Sportback it can build, and then some.
In retina-searing Kyalami green, this Sportback RS Q3 looks like a shrunken Lamborghini Urus. It even sounds like a mini-Lambo thanks to its wailing turbocharged five pot.
Helping dial up the visual aggression over the standard Q3 are 10mm wider wheel arches, enormous 21-inch alloys, that massive yet somehow underplayed front valance, and an elongated roof spoiler. Shrinking violet this is not.
Still, it’s just an Audi RS3 on stilts, right? Not quite. The more powerful 2.5-litre turbo engine is now 26kg lighter thanks to its alloy block, according to Audi, which helps to overcome the neutral-to-understeer demeanour of its low-slung relative.
Headline figures of 294kW and 480Nm don’t hurt, either, though the edge of the five-potter’s siren warble has been dulled by the addition of a petrol particulate filter to the exhaust circuit. The gear ratios in the sevenspeed auto are slightly taller, which changes the 0-100km/h to 4.5sec, and allows a top speed of 280km/h.
The calibration of the quattro system helps hugely with agility, too; this is one of the most pointable small Audis we’ve ever driven … and it’s a bloody SUV! Audi claims that 100 percent of torque can be directed rearwards, while each wheel can be electro-mechanically grabbed to aid direction changes.
Adaptive damping is standard fare, and while the range of comfort between Dynamic and Normal is narrow, the latter allows the 255/35 R21 tyres front and rear to key into the road with greater bite. The RS Q3-specific variable-ratio steering rack also gives arm-crossing purchase at corner entry where other SUVs would have long given the game away.
Super-sized 375mm brake rotors (380mm carbon ceramics are optional) and six-piston calipers provide a high, firm pedal, too.
The seven-speed dual-clutch ’box is still overly protective of the engine in manual mode, but at least the milled alloy paddles are a thing of beauty to use. The same goes for the rest of the cabin, actually; the RS Q3 Sportback looks and feels top grade throughout.
Rear headroom in the Sportback is surprisingly okay, thanks to tucked-up headlining – though it’s not as good as its SUV-shaped fraternal twin, which is also marginally cheaper at $89,900.
The performance SUV is a thing, like it or not. It’s a bit thirsty and a little porky at 1655kg, sure, but the secondgen RS Q3’s aim to quell the naysayers through dynamics has ratcheted up the bar for the entire category.
Striking exterior design; shockingly competent dynamics
Hefty weight; thirsty for size; slightly dulled five-pot sound