First there was the TT RS, then the RS 3 Sportback. Now Audi is introducing a third model to wear RS badges and use its 2.5-liter turbocharged I-5: the RS Q3 compact utility vehicle.
The RS Q3, as the name would suggest, is Audi’s RennSport version of the Q3 compact utility vehicle sold in Europe, and a near-carbon copy of the RS Q3 Concept that debuted early last year at the Beijing Auto Show. The Q3 is roughly the same length and width as the Q5 crossover but has a smaller body and a more compact, cuter look. In other words, it’s Audi’s main rival to the very successful BMW X1.
The X1’s top trim level (at least, in the United States) is the xDrive35i, which uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged I-6 engine making 300 hp, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel drive system. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Audi’s hopped-up Q3 is aiming just above those numbers.
To that end, the RS Q3 uses the same 2.5-liter turbocharged I-5 that motivated the late TT RS and the RS 3 Sportback, which makes 306 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque in this state of tune (some 54 hp less than the RS Q3 Concept, which reportedly made 360). That power is sent to all four wheels through Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive system. Audi claims a 0-62 mph time of 5.5 seconds for the RS Q3 and a top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. Crucially, Audi also says that the RS Q3 scores 27 mpg on the EU combined test cycle.
The RS Q3 also receives some visual upgrades to distinguish the sporty model from the plebian ones. The changes include the black-out mesh grille insert we’ve seen on cars like the RS5, a “Quattro” print lower grille aperture like on the RS7, and a racy rear diffuser with dual oval tailpipes. The car sits about one inch (25 mm) lower thanks to an RS-spec sport suspension, and wears aggressive 20-inch wheels with low-profile tires. The RS Q3 Concept’s matte blue paint job (dubbed Ordos Blue) is an optional extra.
On the inside, it’s as you’d expect from an RS-spec Audi: lots of black quilted leather with white contrast stitching, plenty of brushed metal (including on the aluminum pedals), and the MMI infotainment system that can display things like boost pressure and a lap timer on the multi-function display between the gauges. The steering wheel—as you’d expect—has a flat bottom and perforated leather trim.
The beefed-up cute-ute debuts at next month’s Geneva Motor Show, and British Audi fans can start filling out their order sheets this summer. As for the availability in the American market, it’s anybody’s guess. Audi has already signaled its intention to sell the Q3 in the states starting in 2014, but there’s no confirmation for the hot RS version. Hot hatch/fast CUV fans, cross your fingers.