Audi has added the first in what company insiders suggest will eventually be an extended range of SUVs to its high performance RS line-up with the unveiling of the 306bhp turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder powered RS Q3.
The new RS Q3 crowns the popular Q3 line-up with performance that puts it at the sharp end of the compact SUV ranks, ahead of competition such as the 242bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder BMW X1 for outright straight line pace.
But with more athletic competition in the form of Mercedes-Benz’s upcoming GLA45 AMG, which is set to receive the same 354bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine as the recently revealed A45 AMG, looming, the powered up Q3 won’t be starved for direct rivals.
Previewed in concept car form at last year’s Beijing motor show, the RS Q3 is distinguished from lesser Q3 models by a series of traditional RS design elements. Included is a high-gloss black honeycomb grille insert, matt aluminum grille frame, deeper front bumper with sizeable air ducts for the engine bay and front brakes, coloured keyed wheel arch flares, deeper sills underneath the doors, matt aluminium look exterior mirror housings, more prominent spoiler atop the tailgate, deeper rear bumper with integral diffuser unit and larger chrome tailpipe.
The new front and rear bumpers add one inch to the length over the standard Q3, extending it to 173.6 inches, or 4.41m.
At the heart of the new go-fast SUV is Audi’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol engine, as used in the TT RS and recently discontinued RS3. In the RS Q3, the transversely mounted unit kicks out 306bhp at 5200rpm along with a sturdy 310lb ft of torque on a band of revs between 1500 and 5200rpm.
Up until now the most powerful Q3 model has been the 2.0 TFSI. Its turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine delivers 208bhp at 5000rpm and 221lb ft torque from between 1800rpm and 4900rpm.The heady reserves are channelled through a standard seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch gearbox offering three drive modes: D (drive), S (sport) and M (manual). Also included is a launch control function designed to provide optimal traction under hard standing-start acceleration.Drive is permanently transferred through an electro-hydraulic operated multi-plate Haldex style clutch four-wheel drive system to each wheel with the distribution between the front and rear varying depending on the amount of available grip.
Audi claims the 1655kg RS Q3 sprints from 0 to 62mph in 5.5sec and hits a top speed limited to 155mph. With the adoption of automatic stop/start – a first for Audi’s turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine – Ingolstadt’s latest performance model is also claimed to return 32.1mpg on the combined European test cycle, giving it an average CO2 emission rating of 206g/km.By comparison the Q3 2.0 TFSI boasts figures of 6.9sec, 143mph, 36.7mpg and 179g/km.
The increase in performance has seen myriad changes to the suspension, which has been lowered by 25mm over other Q3 models and is fitted with stiffer springs and dampers and larger diameter anti-roll bars for added body control. The RS Q3 rides on 19-inch wheels as standard, with a selection of three different 20 inch rims available as an option. The brakes have also been upgraded with 365mm steel discs featuring a distinctive wave design that is claimed to reduce weight and eight piston calipers sited up front.
Inside, the new Audi receives grey faced instruments, leather trimmed sport seats with RS Q3 logos embossed into the seat back, a leather bound flat bottom three spoke multi-function steering wheel with contrasting stitching, matching gear lever trim, black piano finish trims, aluminium pedals and foot support and a black headlining. A driver information system provides information on turbocharger boost pressure, oil temperature and lap timer.
The RS Q3 is the fourth new RS model to be confirmed for introduction in 2013, following on from the RS5 cabriolet, RS6 Avant and RS7, in the process boosting Audi’s line-up of high performance models to eight – more than ever.
Audi has confirmed the new RS model will reach showrooms during the third quarter of 2013. UK pricing is yet to be officially announced but it's expected to be in the region of £42,000 – some £11,000 more than the Q3 2.0 TFSI S-line.
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