The Irish Mail on Sunday

TheLaraCro­ft oftheSUVcl­ass

The RS Q3 is the Lara Croft of the souped-up SUV class – a car with both beauty and brains



Audi RS Q32.5 TFSI Quattro

The last day but one of a week’s holiday can be the strangest of affairs. With talk around the breakfast table of packing and whose flight leaves first and gets in at what time and where dominating the conversati­on, it’s like the holiday’s already over. Drives me to despair, it does. Why hasn’t everyone read The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle? Then we’d all be okay. Eckhart is the master at teaching us to rejoice and give thanks for the moment we’re in, as opposed to fearing and being dictated to by moments we’ve yet to encounter – and which may never arrive.

When confronted by such premature-home-time-doom-mongering, I imagine we’re embarking on one of those bonus Saturdays where we’ve all just met up for a cheeky night away at a country hotel. Note to self, however. I must remember the same philosophy should apply to testing a car for a week. It’s not over till it’s over, especially when we’re talking the brand new Audi RS Q3.

Ooh, Mama! When she was dropped off I found myself looking at the delivery sheet to check how long I could hold on to her for. I immediatel­y sensed a winner and a week of fun.

For a start, she cuts a magnificen­t figure. Meaty and muscular yet stylish and refined. The perfect balance of brawn and beauty. A millimetre more and she would look too much like a self-conscious gym bunny, over-trained and over-ready for something that’s probably never going to happen. On permanent standby to bore the pants off the nearest person stupid enough to ask about their ‘regime’.

The whole RS accessoris­ation really elevates the Q3 to a different level. She is totally Kool And The Gang! The first Audi SUV, compact or otherwise, to get the full-on RS treatment while also achieving the jump on other manufactur­ers rumoured to be giving their own mini-SUVs an adrenaline injection.

She benefits from way more than just a few nips and tucks hither and thither, starting with her front and rear bumpers, a heads-up that some serious research and developmen­t has taken place. Her skirt continues the message, lowered by 25mm for better performanc­e and fitting snugly over her beefy 20in wheels (as standard!) in the process.

Her previously pouting mouth has been supplanted by a giant black grille, menacing-ish but just about erring on the right side of Neandertha­l so as not to scare the children. Her bum, not to be outdone, sports a tailpipe more akin to the cross-section of a transatlan­tic pipeline than a motor car exhaust. And what a sound!

Audi also seems to have blown the badge budget on more RS epigrams than you’d find in Rod Stewart’s silk hanky collection. And just to leave you in no doubt, there’s the signature flat-bottomed RS steering wheel, underlinin­g the whole shooting match.

Sticking with the interior, she enjoys an impressive collection of concentric instrument clusters, sharp and simple yet stylish and fresh. The sportily quilted seats are nothing short of gorgeous, and the ones in the front can be extended for those of us with longer pins who thus require more support under our thighs.

A brilliant idea, simple and so sensible – as is the dashboard popup screen. You want it down? You press it shut. You want it back up again? Another tap and it reappears. How often, in countless other vehicles, have I been perplexed, wondering how to get my panorama info screen free?

So, it was all going very well between the RS Q3 and myself… and then suddenly it was that day, the day before we had to part. Was there anything new left for us to experience together?

Oh, go on then. Just because I could and I thus far hadn’t, I flicked the gear stick across to the left to see what she was like in flappy paddle manual mode. For the previous five days I’d been so happy with her 310bhp and her growling soundtrack in auto mode, I hadn’t thought to bother. But wooaaahhh… thank God I did!

To say she’s quick doesn’t come close. She is Ferrari quick. I mean, not actually but virtually. Because of what she is you just don’t expect she’ll have anything more to offer.

Truly, I could have driven her forever, not that you’d want the fuel bill at the other end. Clearly this car has no time for the petrol piggy bank. I don’t know why Audi even bothers talking about potential fuel economy in the accompanyi­ng literature. And as for including an eco stop-start function (which Audi has), well that’s just taking the mick.

With her general handling also falling in the bloody fantastic category, the only other notable gripe I had was that the sat-nav is probably the least technophob­e-friendly I’ve come across in a car of this class.

Even my wife, who has super powers when it comes to gadgetry, couldn’t fathom why it refused to acknowledg­e the existence of Blackbushe Airport (where we wanted to go). I know it exists because lots of planes land there and I’ve flown in and out of it at least 20 times.

To finish then, and back to the Q3’s newly invigorate­d lungs. The same week I had been test-driving a very special car, which you’ll hear about in the coming weeks. It’s the fastest car I have ever driven, but I’ll tell you something for nothing: this little wonder didn’t feel that much slower.

All round, the Q3 is the Lara Croft of this new range of super-sporty SUVs, business from the waist up but ready to party from the waist down. Less of an Audi and much more of a Wowdi. Wish you’d been here.

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