Audi RS Q3 (2015) road test

  • Audi's sizzling compact-off-roader-supercar gets facelift
  • Big news is under the skin with engine and gearbox changes
  • Still priced optimistically but now a class-leading car

Since the Audi RS Q3 was launched last year it enjoyed the relative luxury of having no real rivals to speak of, but then came along the Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG in February and all of a sudden Audi was on the back foot. The GLA was considerably faster even though it had a smaller 2-litre engine.

As part of the entire Q3 range’s facelift for 2015, the RS model has been given extra attention to keep up with the Jones’.

Uprated engine and gearbox

The excellent 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine now develops 30bhp and 30Nm more than before, meaning the RS Q3 accelerates from 0-62mph in exactly the same 4.8 seconds as the Mercedes.

It’s better to drive than the AMG, too. A healthy spread of torque and sharp throttle response means the engine feels more flexible, instead of having to wait for the turbocharger to wake up and do its thing.

Audi has further refined this aspect of the RS Q3 through a re-work of the S tronic gearbox’s programming. Shifts are now quicker and smoother, so the car is easier to drive.

A raft of new sound deadening material has been applied to make the cabin a quieter place to be. While there’s still some roar from the massive 20-inch wheels, it’s noticeably better in this regard.

More kit as standard

As with all Q3s above SE spec following the facelift, the RS Q3 gets a new retractable load cover along with a powered tailgate. LED headlights join distinctive rear indicators which sweep across the rear lights in the direction you’re intending to turn.

You’ve also got the option of adaptive suspension, which Audi snappily calls RS Sports Suspension Plus. This works very impressively, blending comfortable ride quality in Comfort mode with level, stable and confident cornering in Dynamic. We’ve only tried this system on smooth German roads, so will have to try the car in the UK to find out if it’s worth the extra cash over the standard setup.

Of course, thanks to the fact Audi is a premium German manufacturer, there’s a huge list of optional extras to choose from. You might consider applying some to the cabin, which can seem somewhat drab compared to other top-spec performance cars. A little too much has carried over from the normal Q3 in this respect.

Our test car came with some attractive carbon fibre inserts which offset the poorer plastics, so a few hundred quid here may indeed be money well spent.

Verdict

Easy one, this. There’s one rival, and thanks to the facelift the Audi is better. Its only problem is the forthcoming RS3, which will have the same engine and many of the same chassis components. It’s difficult to see why you’d pick the RS Q3 in this respect, but if you must have a compact 4x4 supercar, pick this one.