Audi RS Q3Audi UK has just aired to the media their latest two new high performance RS models, the RS7 Sportback,

five door executive coupe with quattro all wheel drive, an eight-speed automatic transmission and a mighty 4.0-litre, V8, 552bhp turbocharged petrol engine and a thunderous exhaust tone.

Although deliveries of this £83,495, 155mph, or a 189mph monster when derestricted, begin in November, only 200 units in a full year are allocated to the UK. So for my pre-launch media test drive I’m covering the RS Q3 compact five door SUV because order books are open now for deliveries starting in January next year and only 350 units are scheduled to be available annually to UK customers.

Not only is the £43,000 RS Q3 the fastest compact SUV on the market it is also Audi’s first RS Q model.

Audi RS Q3The Q3 range has been a significant element of Audi’s overall sales growth in this country with sales doubling in 2012 and 2013 and now will achieve around 12,000 registrations this year. The new high performance RS Q3 costs £10,000 more than the current top of the range Q3 range due to its higher performance and added specification.

According to Audi the new RS Q3 quattro 310PS S-tronic will compete against the BMW X1 xDrive 20i M Sport 184PS automatic and the Range Rover Evoque 2.0 Si4 Dynamic 240PS automatic. The Audi model is considerably more expensive to buy than both competitors but again in true Audi style it is the most powerful and consequently the fastest, but at the cost of poorer CO2 emissions and fuel economy. Audi say it will also have the best residual value by a long way retaining 52% over 3years/60,000 miles against 39% for the BMW X1 and 39% for the Range Rover Evoque.

But for affluent owners it will be the performance that matters most. The top speed is restricted to 155mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is just 5.2 seconds. Bear in mind this is a compact SUV we are talking about, but for family transport with a performance edge. Can people legally use all that performance on our UK roads? Of course not so the question to any high performance car owner is why buy one? The answer is always the same, “because I can and I can afford it”. Audi customers want the best and ‘ego’ matters in the executive car market.

Audi RS Q3Audi RS Q3At the core of the RS Q3 is Audi’s award winning 2.5-litre, five cylinder turbocharged TFSI petrol engine with 310PS of power and a massive 420Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm. Talking about torque remember this is a petrol unit, not a turbodiesel engine always renowned for more ‘grunt’ than petrol. Drive is through a seven-speed S-tronic auto gearbox to the quattro all wheel drive system which shuffles electronically controlled driving torque to each axle and each wheel as the driving conditions dictate. Officially this model will return 32.1mpg in the Combined Cycle but actually 27.4mpg on test, which considering the spirited driving on Cotswold roads, when the dawdling traffic allowed, was reasonable. Less so are the 206g/km CO2 emissions which mean more costly VED road tax and company car Benefit-in-Kind tax than the two main competitor’s versions of the BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque. The VED road for the RS Q3 is £620 for the First Year rate reducing to £280 year two onwards. The BIK tax is 33%.

So what else does the RS spec offer for the Q8? To cope with all that power you get high performance eight-piston front brakes with drilled ventilated discs, sports suspension lowered by 25mm and 20-inch alloy wheels. There is Audi drive select function for variable set-up including Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes. Comfort was best given the firm ride and it didn’t interfere with the outright performance and response. The power delivery right through the range is huge and thankfully the steering is precise and accurate with immense stopping power offered by the uprated brakes. The ride comfort is firm but the ride under fast cornering conditions is generally controlled and lacking in uncomfortable body-roll. Yes it’s classed as an SUV but it will be no off-roader as such with its lowered suspension. However there is enough traction and ground clearance to cope with fields and broken track surfaces. Where the quattro system excels is with high speed on road performance and in Winter coping a little better with slippery wet, ice and snow covered roads.

Audi RS Q3Other standard RS spec goodies are xenon plus headlights with automatic range control, LED daytime running lights, rear lights, brake lights and rear indicators. The new model gets bespoke RS front bumper, deep honeycomb grille with RS badging and quattro graphics splashed across the air inlet under the grille. There are styling tweaks all round including vast air intake vents, side sill and wheel arch extensions, front and rear underbody guards and the single RS large oval tailpipe.

Inside it remains the usual Q3 layout; neat front, cosy rear seat leg space with a 356-litre boot which extends with the rear seats folded up to 1,261-litres. There is the usual high quality Audi feel for all surfaces and the RS touches include black Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel with multi-function controls, steering wheel mounted aluminium gearshift paddlers, 6.5-inch display screen, concert sound system with 10 speakers, dual zone climate control, RS bespoke instruments, Audi drive select which influences the steering assistance, exhaust noise control and accelerator response, front and rear park assist and RS Q3 sill trims.

You can actually see, touch, feel and experience what the extra £10,000 adds over the previous top of the range Q3. It is quite clear what the RS version brings to the premium end of the compact SUV market sector.

Whether you actually need all that performance, which is almost faultless, is another issue? As the saying goes, “if you can afford it flaunt it” and the RS Q3 clearly has plenty to flaunt to justify its high price.

MILESTONES: Audi RS Q3 2.5 TFSI quattro S-tronic 5-door compact SUV. Price: £43,000.
Engine/transmission: 2.5-litre, 5-cylinder direct injection petrol with turbocharger and intercooler, 310PS (305bhp), 420Nm (310lb ft) of torque from 1,500rpm, 7-speed S-tronic auto, quattro all wheel drive. Performance: Restricted to 155mph, 0-62mph5.2 seconds, 32.1mpg (27.4mpg on test), CO2 206g/km, VED road tax £620 First year rate then £280 year two onwards, BIK company car tax 33%. Warranty: 2years/unlimited. Boot/load space: 356 to 1,261-litres. Braked towing weight: 1,900kg. For: Performance, specification, residual value, sharp handling. Against: Expensive to buy for its compact size, higher tax costs than its main competitors.   Miles Better News Agency

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