Audi RS Q301 | 11 | 2013Scotcars rating

    Audi pumps its Q3 full of adrenalin, but is all the extra muscle and performance necessary?

    WINTER'S JUST ROUND the corner, so it's timely that we should turn our heads to one of the latest four-wheel drives to hit the streets. But this isn't your normal, mudplugging SUV: this is Audi's 155mph RS Q3 (watch our video of the new Audi RS Q3).

    Now let me hold my hands up right from the start: I've never been a fan of the Q3. It sort of falls into a niche which I'm not sure actually really exists.

    Sure it's an Audi SUV, with all the inherent quality, technical and mechanical wonders that go with it, but what's actually the role of the Q3?

    I'm not a fan of its external styling, and while there's plenty of space for front occupants, the rear legroom borders on the 2+2 you'd find in a sportscar.

    And strangely enough, turning the Q3 into a sportscar is exactly what Audi has done with the RS Q3: it's the fourth RS model Audi has launched this year, and the eighth overall.

    Fitted with the 306bhp 2.5-litre turbo petrol engine borrowed from the outgoing RS3 Sportback, it's capable of screaming from standstill — through the seven-speed S tronic auto gearbox — to 62mph in just 5.2secs. And where legal, it'll hit 155mph. Oh, and despite all that performance, it's still possible — according to Audi — to eke out 32.1mpg.

    Related: Audi RS Q3 a residual winner

    Now, here I'm not going to be nice to the RS Q3. Yes, it's had 25mm shaved from its ride height, but it's still — and always will be — an SUV. Just look at it's overall height and its high centre of gravity: it's never going to be a sportscar.

    That inevitable fact leaps out at you when you barrel into a tight bend for the first time carrying what you believe is enough speed to get you through it safely: suddenly you'll realise the softer suspension and degree of bodyroll separates it from a true Audi RS.

    And the other thing? It doesn't — most definitely, doesn't — like undulations in the road. On one of the sections of the roadtest in the Cotswolds, the car's handling was jittery and wouldn't stop tramlining, requiring constant corrections on the steering wheel. Not really what you want.

    In complete contrast, on billiard table-smooth surfaces, the sports suspension — linked to the standard 20in alloys — did its supple job, thus ensuring the cabin was a peaceful place to be.

    Pace? God, the car's got pace. It's quick: seriously quick. But I'm not sure, quite honestly, why you would ever utilise such pace and straight-line performance in an SUV.

    Now I may be missing the point here, and I'm willing to accept that. But I just don't get the RS Q3.

    Of course I can't question the unmistakably high levels of build quality both inside and outside the car: after all, it's an Audi. Plus it comes with Audi's stunning quattro four-wheel drive system.

    It appears Audi is pitching the RS Q3 at the kind of buyer — certainly one who can afford the £43,000 purchase price (oh, plus the test car had almost seven grands' worth of extras) — who relishes an extreme form of dynamic rigour with the pleasantries of comfort.

    Keep the seven-speed auto' in Drive mode, and it'll dawdle through the quaintest, quietest countryside village without as much as rousing the sleeping ducks in the pond.

    Maximise your right foot though, and the RS Q3 turns into a fire-snorting angry beast which would have mothers locking their children away for safety.

    So, the RS Q3. It's a strange thing.

    At the moment it's in a niche of one: it has no direct rivals. That, of course, will change next year with the arrival of the Porsche Macan, and a hot version of the Range Rover Evoque.

    Until then, Audi has the field to itself, and it expects to attract around 500 buyers in the next 12 months.

    I have to admit, I won't be one of them, but strangely, I can see why it would appeal to that certain type of buyer.

    Related: Order books open for new Audi A8

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £43,000 / £49,965
    Engine / Power: 2480cc 7-speed S tronic /307bhp
    How fast?: max 155mph / 0-62mph 5.2secs
    How big/heavy?: L4410mm W1841mm (excl mirrors) H1580mm / Weight 1655kgs
    How thirsty/CO2?: 32.1mpg combined / 206g/km
    InsGP/Road tax: TBC / £620, then £280/year
    Alternatives: Range Rover Evoque, BMW X3, Porsche Macan (2014)

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