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2014 Audi RS Q3 First Impressions

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Innsbruck, Austria -- What’s really fast, looks boss, can go off-road, handle better than many sports cars in its price range, and you will want one?

The answer is the Audi RS Q3.

The RS Q3 combines some of Audi’s best compact-performance elements in a package that is both appealing and enticing. Quicker than any compact crossover should ever be, the RS Q3 is bar none the penultimate small grocery getter that triples as a weekend track killer and weekend family hauler for trips to the cottage. This is no sales pitch: I rocked this vehicle through the heart of the Alps along with the RS 6 and a few other fantastic cars. Although the RS Q3 was the “lesser” of the lot, it still blew my mind.

What is an Audi RS Q3?
The Audi Q3, on which the RS Q3 is based, is Audi’s entry-level compact crossover aimed at the masses desiring a small vehicle capable of urban and extra-urban exploration while leaving a minimal impact on its environment.

The RS Q3, as with all Audi RS vehicles, tips the scale of sanity with go-fast bits that are not unfamiliar to the likes of the TT RS and other such high-performance cars from the luxury brand based in Ingolstadt, Germany.

While the Audi Q3 will make its way to North America, the RS Q3 is not expected to land on our side of the Pond.

2014 Audi RS Q3 Price and Specs
The 2014 Audi RS Q3 actually has quite a bit in common with the TT RS, mainly the turbocharged inline 5-cylinder 2.5L TFSI engine. Its output is rated at 310 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque.

Between the motor and the road, the RS Q3 makes use of Audi’s 7-speed dual-clutch S tronic automatic transmission and ingenious Quattro AWD system.

Its advantageous power-to-weight ratio allows the RS Q3 to reach 100 km/h in only 5.5 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h.

Pricing for the new Audi Q3 has not yet been set, but expect it to hover in the mid-$30k.

Driving the 2014 Audi RS Q3
My expectations of the RS Q3 were very different from those I had stepping into the RS 6. In fact, I stepped out of the wagon of my wet dreams into the super-CUV; it was therefore unlikely at that point that even a Bugatti Veyron could have impressed me…

However, the 2014 Audi RS Q3 did. The 5-pot mill was the element that truly caught my affections. We carved the Alps in groups of RS cars (yes, quite a sight to behold) and although the RS Q3 was the weakling of the group on paper, it managed to tango with cars nearly twice as powerful.

The engine’s trick lies in the fact that max torque begins to drop off at the same time as max hp comes on tap. All 310 lbs of torque are available as of 1,500 rpm providing impressive go from the onset. Turbo lag is not, aided in large part by the TFSI’s direct-injection system. Then there’s the distinctive noise created by a welltuned 5-cylinder engine: a true and unique aural delight.

The old and often used adage is that power is nothing without control. The 2014 Audi RS Q3’s specifically sport-tuned suspension and large Pirelli P255/35R20 tires seriously help grip the tarmac. On the uber-tight switchbacks, only the impression that the RS Q3 is nose heavy would slow me down. At all times, the RS Q3 would turn in quickly and crisply (although not with the same tenacious determination as the RS 6) and with limited body roll. Remember, this is a CUV, not a wide, low-slung oh-so-sexy station wagon…

As part of the control aspect, brakes are always very important. The Audi RS Q3 features oversized front discs clamped by chest-wide 8-piston callipers. Brake pedal feel and response is perfect, with the right amount of feedback and easily dosed.

One final element is Audi’s Drive Select, which modifies the vehicle behavior through power steering assistance, throttle response, and exhaust flap control. The available modes are comfort, auto, and dynamic.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s the driver that enabled the RS Q3 to dance so easily with the RS 5, RS 6 and RS 7…

Inside and Out of the 2014 Audi RS Q3
The 2014 Audi RS Q3 is the least aesthetically “RS” of the group. Its overall exterior styling is more Q3 than RS as most of what makes it an RS is located up front. The blacked-out RS front bumper with massive funnel-shaped air intake is the clearest sign of the vehicle’s intentions. The 20” wheels, rear diffuser, and large oval tailpipe wrap up the Q3’s physical enhancements.

The cabin is touched in a similar manner. Little is done to what is already a lovely cabin. The tasteful Nappa leather seats can be ameliorated with optional diamond-patterned stitching, which is in a word: dirty… Also “dirty” is the flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle-shifters and carbon accents.

The RS Q3’s interior is snug, but will accommodate four passengers in comfort and with a fair amount of gear.

Comparing the 2014 Audi RS Q3
The 2014 Audi RS Q3 has one current quasi-equal and it’s the BMW X1 xDrive 35i. Purely on numbers, they are very close, but dynamically the RS Q3 takes it.

The latest Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG might have something to say about the Audi’s superiority in the very near future.

Sadly, we North Americans may never get to find out which is best… We’ll get the cake but not the icing.
 

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