What’s it like?
Unsurprisingly similar to the Q3 Sportback on the road, albeit with a slightly better view through the rear windscreen. Its taller roofline and extra weight don’t make a significant difference to body roll or lean through the corners, at least at the speeds possible on our test route, and the confidence-inspiring grip levels we expect from Audi’s RS models is present and correct.
Meteoric point-to-point progress is the order of the day here, not driver engagement. There’s a slight disconnect between what the front tyres are doing and your inputs through the progressive steering rack, which speeds up the further it turns, and while the Quattro system can send as much as 85% of the available torque to the rear axle, it always remains composed when hustled out of corners.
The five-pot’s solitary turbocharger doesn’t deliver a singular punch of thrust, managing instead to meter out shove throughout the rev band and onto a 7000rpm redline. It can be violently fast off the line, the all-wheel drive system helping all 395bhp to find traction at a rate on par with the pricier Porsche Macan Turbo.
Access to all that power isn’t always instant, though; the automatic gearbox takes its time to drop cogs unless set to Sport mode. This can be troubling when attempting overtakes, so it’s better to use the wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a more direct response.
Happily the addition of two customisable RS driving modes (and a button on the steering wheel to swap between them) makes it easier to switch from regular driving to maximum performance, though the adaptive dampers are best left in their most comfortable setting. In Dynamic they become extra stiff and cause all but the smoothest of road surfaces to feel rutted and coarse. It’s more refined at city speeds, and fares much better than some harshly sprung rivals, but the focus is very much on assured handling over comfort.
Inside, front sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel set the RS apart from the recently facelifted Q3. It gets the same 10.1in infotainment screen and 12.3in virtual cockpit instrument cluster, with an additional RS-specific screen that puts rev count, speed and other performance metrics right in your eyeline. The technology is easily on par with other class-leaders, though rivals perhaps do a better job when it comes to materials; the standard Q3’s scratchier plastics are easily found here, which is a little unbecoming of a car costing upwards of £60,000.