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2014 Audi RS Q3 First Drive Review

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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
The Auto Channel

December 17, 2013; When Audi’s quattro GmbH division comes up with a high performance version of a certain model, it is designated RS, for RennSport (or racing sport). So far, quattro has stayed away from developing super sporty variants of the heavy Q5 and Q7, but announced earlier this year to start production of the RS Q3. The latter is more likely to offer sporty and dynamic handling than its large brothers, while – important for sales – it is also a member of the fastest growing compact SUV segment worldwide.

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The first driving event was organized in conjunction with the ‘Land of quattro Alpen Tour’. The 4,440 kilometer long Tour over 44 passes in the Alps was organized to celebrate Quattro GmbH’s 30th anniversary.

Early September, this mile stone had already been celebrated at the IAA auto show in Frankfurt with the unveiling of the 700 p strong : hybrid Audi Sport Quattro Concept.

It speaks for itself that Audi had taken the yellow concept car for display in every departure city of each of the 14 legs of the marathon. I was invited to take part in the second wave, starting From Innsbruck, Austria and finishing in Merano, Italy on the first day.

Audi had brought the latest RS models to the Alpine countries, but most interesting, of course, was the completely new RS Q3, that I drove on the first day and during the latter part of the second day across the Süsten Pass to Interlaken, Switzerland. According to Audi, the mountain roads and passes were ideal for bringing out the best of the RS models, that all are equipped with quattro-all-wheel-drive.

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The red and silver RS badge on the Q3 creates expectations, so the quattro engineers left no stone unturned to make the most of the crossover SUV. Under the hood is the 2.5-liter TFSI direct injected gasoline engine, that we know from the TT RS and the RS3. The power output of the 5-cilinder turbo engine, which recently captured the ‘Engine of the Year’ award for the fourth time in a row, has been decreased from 360 to 310 hp to increase fuel efficiency. According to Audi, the RS Q3 should be able to reach a consumption of 8.8 l/ 100 km (European cycle), which translates into 26.7 mpg. Not bad for a performance model that weighs nearly 3,800 pounds and accelerates from zero to 62 mph in just 5.5 seconds.

However, you do not have to rev up the engine constantly, as it delivers its maximum torque of 310 pound-feet already from 1,500 rpm up and until 5,200 rpm. Quattro’s permanent integral AWD shows no sign of losing drive forces, even when acceleration out of tight bends and the RS Q3 storms up-Alp with ease.

When we just started and I pushed the throttle at low revs, there was a tiny little moment that I thought the motor was lacking power, but wait (just a fraction of a second) until the turbo starts working... It is really lovely to have so much torque available! You will appreciate that we used the many tunnels in the Alps to listen to the engine sound. When possible we adjusted to a lower speed in order to leave some space between the car in front of us. Then, hit the throttle and enjoy.

Michael Berchtold, quattro’s project manager said that it was considered to equip the RS Q3 with two exhaust pipes. “But with an inline motor like this, you would see from the fumes, that only left exhaust is warm and that would look weird.”

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Under normal, in this case sporty conditions, the 7-speed S-Tronic automatic transmission does its work in a fast and sophisticated way. But there is an exception; when you ‘fly’ from hairpin to hairpin and consequently have to brake strongly, the transmission shifts somewhat roughly and a bit reluctantly. This can be ‘solved’ by paddle shifting, but after one pass, you have the feeling that enough is enough and that you may be ‘lazy’ enough to let the car do the work. With less driver pressure on the brake pedal and on the throttle, the S-Tronic transmission is well fit to deliver . But hey, this is no rally car, it even is not a performance sedan! But the RS Q3 is much more athletic than I would have expected.

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>Even though the RS Q3 has a sports suspension that is an inch lower than the standard Q3’s, it stands higher on its wheels than any other RS model. It is a simple fact that generates some body roll. But apart from that, the Q3 feels absolutely solid and the ride is excellent. Not uncomfortable on bad surfaces or speed bumps and well-balanced in its handling. The quattro engineers have given the RS Q3 standard the Audi Drive Select system, for choosing the driving dynamics that suits you most. It leaves the dampers in auto mode, with engine, transmission and the electric power steering are in Dynamic. Compared to the RS sedans, the SUV lacks the firm steering feel, is a bit too common. But that said, it reacts without hesitation, so it is a lot of fun to actively drive through the many bends of our Tour route.

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Inside, the sporty feel is enhanced by the flat bottomed steering wheel, while the chic atmosphere of the cockpit with its RS-logo’s and beautifully finished leather sport seats make you instantly feel at home. Prepare you, so to say, for an active stint at the helm of the RS Q3.

And looking at the CFRP (carbon fibre reinforced plastic) panes and the aluminum sports pedals including the huge foot rest at the left, you realize the car is prepared too, for a dynamic drive.

You may ask: is the Q3 a real RS? Honestly, I think RennSport is a bridge too far, but if we use Really Sporty, the abbreviation makes sense.

The fun part is that the Q3 is a practical model, reason why the segment is getting so popular. As RS, the Q3 offers the best of both worlds: performance and practicality. And that is why customers may be tempted to pay quite some money for the youngest Quattro model.

In Germany the Audi RS Q3 sells for just under 45,000 euro (before) tax. At the moment that would be some 60,000 dollars. Americans do not need to start saving yet, as Audi has said that the RS Q3 will not reach the North-American market. But that may change in 2015!

Technical details 2014 Audi RS Q3

Engine - 5-cyl. Inline, direct injection, turbo

Displacement - 2.480 cc (121 cu-in)

Horspower - 228 kW/310 hp @ 5.200-6.700 rpm

Max. torque - 310 lb-ft @ 1.500-5.200 rpm

Aandrijving - quattro, permanent all-wheel drive

Transmission - 7-speed S tronic automatic, double clutch w/ paddle shifters

Tires - Pirelli P Zero TR, 255/40R 19 front and rear

Top speed - 155 mph

0-63 mph - 5.5 s

Fuel consumption - 8,8 l/100 km (26.7 mpg) Eu cycle

CO 2-emission - 206 g/km .

To improve weight distribution, the battery has been placed under the cargo floor.