For a small vehicle, Audi's new RS Q3 has big presence, writes Richard Bosselman.
THE concept of starting small and building up to the big time is taken quite literally in Audi's determination to induct sports utility models into the specialist RS clan.
The Q5 and even the (next) Q7 are in line for RS membership, but bumping both in admission to the club is the most petite crossover Ingolstadt currently offers, the Q3. The effect is dramatic. A slightly detuned TTRS five-cylinder turbo-petrol engine driving all four wheels via a dual-clutch gearbox powers this blitz babe to 100kmh in 5.5 sec and to 260kmh flat out.
Surely no school run shuttle of this size is faster. It's an astounding achievement, given the car is no lightweight - the bad boy treatment bangs up the kerb weight to 1730kg and assuredly it has the ''right'' styling and soundtrack to boot. Obviously it is positioned at a much higher plane than the mainstream four-wheel-drive diesel and newly arrived front-drive petrol which fill out the family.
Pricewise it's on a different planet, too; versions of the next-size-up Q5 are actually cheaper. For a small vehicle, the RS Q3 has big presence: the look is hugely hardened and being the only RS car with a single exhaust doesn't keep it from dolloping out a deep-throated warbling roar appropriate to the badge.
Massive brakes, gripped by eight-pot calipers, are another talking point. The ''Q'' part of the name stands, of course, for ''quattro'', but the wheel/tyre choice, the suspension's lack of yield and the modest ride height - 25mm lower than a standard Q3 - remind it's more about a fast and furious on-seal scenario than for pottering away from tarmac. You certainly wouldn't want to head beyond cellphone range if venturing offroad. Still, for school run sizzle, this is definitely in the top echelon, and it has all the right brand kudos and luxury touches.
Standard equipment includes xenon headlights, Audi's familiar MMI control interface with sat nav, a seven-inch (17.8cm) screen and 20GB of hard drive space, parking sensors with reversing camera, Bluetooth with audio streaming and dualzone climate control, and lots of leather.
While it doesn't feel as intimate or as immediately involving as a hot hatch - the driving position is too tall to feel carlike - it's easy to get playful.
Grip is impressive, there's reasonable feel through that trademark flat-bottomed steering wheel and start getting serious with the throttle and it will redirect most of the power to the rear. By then you might also be hand-activating the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, mainly with good results, although it struggles with the engine's full power off the line.
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