IF you are uncomfortable being part of the growing SUV fraternity, but still need to be in one, you’ll be looking for something with that additional oomph. Something with enough of a difference.
Audi makes some functional and efficient cars with mass appeal, but it’s the smaller-run models that grab your attention and sticks feathers into the cap of the nearly Olympic four rings brand.
In the SUV space, the Q3 and Q5 provide smooth, efficient and practical service.
But open up your wallet some more and you can access the added dimension of excitement.
The Audi RS Q3 Sportback mixes in practicality and dubious efficiency (it takes 9L to give you 100km and is in the C2 VES band) without compromising on performance or entertainment value. This is some serious wolf in sheep’s clothes (depending on choice of colour).
The award-winning, 5-cylinder engine takes you from standstill to 100kmh in a raspy but effortless 4.5 seconds. It enjoys the sprint and is game to keep going. The compact 2.5 TFSI engine is 26kg lighter than the predecessor thanks to the aluminium on board.
Riding on 21” wheels, the RS Q3 is more grippy and firm than it is smooth and luxurious. But if you’re willing to cough upwards of *S$320K for this particular variant of the Q3, you must have known what you’re in for.
And to further kick it up a couple of notches on the performance front, the RS Q3 has your usual range of drive modes as well as RS1 and RS2, which can be engaged on the multi-function steering wheel. It’s hard to differentiate between the two RS functions and the Dynamic mode just by the sound of the engine, but there are customisable features that help to tweak your ride.
But hit the RS button, and your RS Q3 gets all vocal and naggy as it growls when you accelerate and yowls when you hit the brakes or drop gears. Paddle shifts are handy when downshifting gears to attack a corner or heading downhill.
It’s enjoyably noisy if you’re in the cocooned cabin. But it may be frowned upon outside; though it will certainly turn heads.
Even in idle it was constantly mumbling and rumbling like a grumpy green beast.
The Kyalami green RS Q3 Sportback tested here is loud on the eyes, too. Shrek would have shed a tear at the gaudiness of the paintwork. Not that it needs much pigmental advantage. The styling of the RS Q3 is already racy, with the honeycomb grille and boomerang blades framing the side air inlets.
Viewed from the side, with the design blades along the sides and the sharp slope of the rear, it looks like a frog about to pounce.
And pounce it certainly does, with eagerness, as the all-wheel Quattro picks its way purposefully through the chosen terrain. The ride is a bit rocky as the journey gets more edgy, all along accompanied by the soundtrack of that engine, pushing out 294kW and 480Nm of torque from under 2,000rpm. And in a relegated, also-ran role, you have the Bang & Olufsen sound system, which does a good job of filling the cabin.
The presence of driver aids will always strive to keep you on the safe side of the journey. Best not to tempt things too much, and save the high-energy bits to spaces designated for them. (Not many in Singapore.)
The driver-oriented set up ensures you have many things within reach, either on the steering wheel or on the touchscreen. The virtual cockpit plus with that special RS display fills the space with information. Too much to take in if you’re moving at speed.
What’s missing is a head up display!
The cabin is a mix of textures and patterns — honeycomb design on the Nappa leather seats, dimples on the steering wheel, the bright shiny buttons and trims, the plastic, and splashes of alcantara on the doors and dash, which might pose a dust trap.
Wireless charging and two ports for cables in the front keep you connected with your devices. Folks at the back enjoy connectivity as well. Apple CarPlay was quick to set up, but also died suddenly while using Waze. This meant using the Audi navigation system in the interim, which was, when compared to Waze, unclear with visual directions that were at times not provided early enough.
But it’s this curious mix of fun, energy, future-forward features and slight imperfections that makes this such an engaging drive.
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