The second-generation Audi RS Q3 has been revealed, this time with a slightly sleeker, low-cut roof version in tow called the Sportback. Rather quickly, the Audi Sport (née quattro GmbH) is increasing its high performance portfolio in a singleminded charge to meet AMG and BMW M head on at every corner.
Audi had previously revealed a Q3 Sportback as a new spin on the five-door crossover, so the bundled addition of the Sportback to the RS roster comes as little surprise, though it does catch those previously mentioned rival brands somewhat flat-footed.
As far as direct competitors go, both the RS Q3 will have its hands full parrying blows from, respectively, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 and the newly launched BMW X2 M35i. However, neither might offer enough firepower to neutralise the Audi’s five-cylinder screamer. Some folk even pit this new Ingolstadt pair to the BMW X3M and X4M, which is ludicrous considering the huge gulf in price and dimensions.
These days, automakers are giving those interested in SUVs and crossovers plenty of choice. Some might say there are too many options, and the inclusion of a ‘coupe’ body style only muddies the water even more. That said, it doesn’t obscure the fact that neither BMW nor AMG have a proper answer to the new RS Q3 Sportback.
The evolution to this second-generation form means it is subject to Audi Sport’s newest design treatment, which now features an all-new front fascia to match the recent RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback, more pronounced wheel arches that add 10mm to its width, a rear roof spoiler, as well as a new rear bumper and diffuser array that integrate its large twin oval exhaust exits.
In terms of their skin deep differences, there basically aren’t any aside from the Sportback’s obviously slanted roof, otherwise maintaining the athletic cues and RS-specific aggressive aesthetic. Ultimately, it does come down to preference, though opting for the Sportback does incur a practicality penalty and some reduction in rear headroom.
Both permutations of the RS Q3 are mechanically identical, armed with the 2.5-litre turbocharged inline-5 petrol found in previous iterations as well as the RS 3 and TT RS, with roots traceable to the rally-bred Quattro.
In its modern form, this engine is a multiple-time Engine Of The Year award winner, and in this most recent deployment delivers 294kW and 480Nm, representing a 17 percent performance increase. The updated motor is also 26kg lighter thanks to an aluminium crankcase.
For more compact performance vehicles like these, the inline-5 configuration is ideal thanks to its compact proportions allowing it to be transversely mounted while its displacement and spread of combustion pressures distributed over 5 chambers instead of just 4 mean inherently higher tolerances. It's no wonder this engine is a tuner favourite. The fact its firing order gives it a like a characterful mini-V10 soundtrack is lovely bonus.
With the performance bump, the new RS Q3's 100km/h sprint is dealt with in 4.5 seconds before topping out at an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. Tick the box for the Performance Pack, though, and that can be raised to 280km/h. Both ride on 20-inch alloys and a suspension lowered by 10mm over the standard car. Larger 21-inch wheels and ceramic brakes are optional extras.
Being an Audi, naturally, the quattro permanent AWD system is present here as well, though aided with wheel-selective torque control for improved roadholding and agility. Prior to that, drive is funnelled though a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission.
Inside, the RS Q3 duo features a cabin that's a fair amount unique to Audi Sport to stand out but subtle enough to remain familiar to anyone who’s sat in a Q3. Pay attention and you’ll notice the flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, Alcantara trimmings, Nappa leather sports seats, and copious amounts of red contrast stitch work.
Both the RS Q3 and RS Q3 Sportback are confirmed additions to the Australian market and should make landfall in Q2 of 2020.