The just launched Audi Q3 crossover SUV has the credentials to match the RS insignia it proudly carries. RS in German stands for RennSport, which translates into Australian as Racing Sport.

The Audi RS Q3 is all about performance and plenty of it. Let’s look at acceleration as a benchmark. Back in the mid 1980s when I first began road testing cars the kings of the road were Brock Commodores. Time after time I took them to Oran Park raceway south-west of Sydney and tried to get them to accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in under six seconds. Something they were never able to do in real-world testing.

This week’s test car was an Audi Q3 in RS trim. Despite being an off-road SUV (well, sort of off-road) and it managed to sprint from zero to 100km/h in a mere 5.2 seconds.

That 5.2 seconds (which is only a little short of eternity in drag racing) was way under the Brock Commodore’s time – and with three fewer cylinders.

The HDT car had eight cylinders, the Audi just five (yes, it’s a five-cylinder powerplant). The 2.5-litre turbocharged direct-injection engine pumps out peak power of 228 kW between 5200 and 6700rpm and top torque of 420Nm from only 1500 revs. Forget the unreal world of a drag strip, that sort of performance gives you lots of confidence when overtaking. Particularly if you’re overtaking one of those idiots out there who insist on accelerating when you pull out to pass them, something I’ve struck several times recently.

This prodigious Audi hi-po power is put to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The latter can be operated by the driver in manual mode via a centre console shift lever or steering wheel-mounted paddles.

Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive system shifts power between the front and back, the majority of torque going to the front wheels under normal driving conditions, shifting quickly towards the rear wheels when the fronts show signs of being overpowered.

(Hypothetically, if the Brock car had all-wheel-drive, 21st century electronics and a seven-speed gearbox could it have done the 100 km/h sprint in 5.2 seconds? The answer, probably.)

The Audi RS Q3 has electronic stability control with Sport mode. It can be completely deactivated for track use, though so many modern car computers can actually do better than human beings that we would be tempted to leave it switched on.

Compared with the standard Q3, the RS’s body has been lowered by 25 mm and it runs on as standard on 19-inch wheels – our review car had the 20-inch wheel option.

Off-road running, hmm, perhaps not. Still it kinda looks like an SUV.

At the front, huge 365 mm brake discs and eight-piston black-painted callipers carrying the RS logo help to keep all that performance under control.

Ride comfort is pretty good for a full-on sports model, with it being caught out only on broken road surfaces. Electro-mechanical steering is precise and offers driver feedback that is not unsettled by such conditions.

Inside, there are many cues to the fact that this is a sports model: Nappa leather front sports seats carrying the RS Q3 logo, a flat-bottom steering wheel with finger-tip system functions and specially designed RS instruments.

Bluetooth and sat-nav are standard and the Bose surround-sound system drives 14 speakers with up to 465 Watts of power, enough to get the best out of hip-hop or Handel.

The rear luggage area will takes up to 356 litres of stuff, increasing to 1261 litres if loaded to the roof.

Want something out of the ordinary in an SUV crossover, and only have $81,900 (plus a few thousand more for the government and the Audi dealer) to spend? Then it will be hard to go past this latest model in the Audi RS lineup. Audi RS Q3 has a fascinating blend of practicality and performance and will be loved by those who take pleasure in high-performance driving.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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