A rapid little ripper
It’s not cheap at more than $90,000 on the road and the list of standard features is adequate rather than outstanding. Optional packs can push the price tag above $100,000 and into the ballpark of the much larger Q7. Standard creature comforts include satnav, digital radio, 20-inch wheels, Alcantara trim, power tailgate, heated front seats, reversing camera and dipping passengerside side mirror so you don’t scratch the alloys on the kerb. Metallic paint is $1495 and privacy glass is $950. Threeyear/45,000km plan includes three services for $1590.
Snug supportive seats hold you tight through the bends, which is just as well because the RSQ3 is capable of rapid cornering. The ride is surprisingly liveable for a car with such a sporty focus, although the stiffer suspension can mean it’s a bit bouncy over speed humps and bigger bumps in the sport setting. Rear legroom is tight for an SUV and the load area is more hatchback-size than family wagon. Road and tyre noise are generally well suppressed and the controls are easy to use, falling easily to hand.
For a car in this price range the Audi is light-on for driver assistance. It has blind spot warning but there’s no automated emergency braking, lane departure warning or active cruise control. Pay $1990 for an assistance pack and the car will steer you back into your lane if you stray and will dip or activate the high-beams to give you optimum vision at night without blinding oncoming drivers. The pack also includes hill descent control and hillhold assist for those venturing off-road. The standard Q3 scored well in ANCAP crash testing, with 35.15/ 37.
The RS3 hatchback is a Carsguide favourite for its combination of blistering acceleration and day-to-day liveability. The RSQ3 shares its potent five-cylinder turbo (270kW) and claims 4.4 seconds for the 0-100km/h run, compared with the hatch’s 4.3. Somehow, though, it doesn’t feel that quick. Perhaps it’s the SUV ride height or the exhaust note, which relative to the RS3’s is more muted and doesn’t crackle, spit and snarl. Driving modes adapt for comfort or sportiness, the latter sharpening throttle response, gear shifts and steering. On the whole it works well but the sporty steering setting seems to add more weight than feel. Exceptional grip and poise through corners make it feel more like a hatchback from the driver’s seat.
Audi RS3, from $78,616
Cheaper, faster, more economical and more nimble with a better soundtrack, the RS3 will suit anyone who doesn’t need the added practicality of an SUV. Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG, $84,315
Higher outputs but identical 0-100km/h claim plus more driver assistance technology and more standard equipment.
The RSQ3 is well finished and the engine is a ripper but it’s not as engaging as the hatch counterpart. Audi continues to charge for equipment that is standard on cars a third of the price.
RICHARD BLACKBURN CUTS TO THE CHASE