It’s as thrilling as it is comfortable and practical. Ameya Dandekar on the high-performance SUV from Audi — the RSQ3

Having an RS badged car is very exciting, not just because the car gets sporty kit and a more powerful engine, but also because the RS version is a lot more thrilling than the standard car, although retaining comfort and practical usability. I've gotten my hands on the Audi RS Q3, the first SUV from the carmaker to get the RS treatment and I'm traversing the Swiss Alps to see how this luxury SUV drives.

The key to the RS is its turbocharged 2.5-litre, 20-valve in-line five – an engine configuration first seen on the original Quattro rally car in 1980. It puts out its hefty 42.8kgm of peak torque from as low as 1500rpm and the torque curve remains flat all the way to 5200rpm. The all-wheel-drive traction, perfectly matched gear ratios and a smooth-revving engine all combine to produce jet engine-like thrust in every gear well and at all engine speeds.

Just to give you an example of how potent the performance is, let’s take a look at the figures. Claimed time to 100kph for this near-1.8 tonne car is a phenomenal 5.5 seconds, and it’ll hit its limited top speed of 250kph without you noticing. These figures might not sound staggering on a performance car, but remember, we’re talking about an SUV here.

Anyone who has driven, or even heard, the old Audi five-pot turbo working hard in the original Quattro might expect a similar aural experience here. And on one level, they won’t be disappointed; the distinctive thrum of that in-line five is successfully recreated. But the raw beat of the Quattro has been replaced largely by a more refined snarl.

Dynamics? The normal Q3 is decent around corners; the RS builds on this and simply takes it to another level. The sports suspension lowers the body by 25mm, the battery is located in the luggage compartment for better weight distribution, and it gets wide 255 section tyres. These help the RS hang on with admirable aplomb around corners and it’s only the high driving position which reminds you that this is an SUV. The steering too is direct and helps you place the car precisely. But it has an artificial weighting that leaves the RS Q3’s driver distinctly feel-free.

Coming to styling, how can your neighbours tell this isn’t the regular Q3 that you’re driving? Well, it’ll be obvious when they spot the flared wheel arches and those beautifully designed massive 20-inch wheels. In addition, you get an RS front bumper and the Quattro emblem on the front air intake, as well as a large roof spoiler, integrated faux diffuser and a large tailpipe with an aluminium tip.

But unlike the exteriors, the changes to the cabin are more subtle. You get an RS badge on the steering wheel and the standard inlays are in aluminium finish. Then there’s aluminium inserts on the foot pedals and sports seats embossed with the RS badge. The seats offer excellent support and keep you comfortable even when the car is driven hard. The standard MMI system comes with an RS menu which shows the turbo boost pressure, oil temperature and a lap timer for when you take your car on a race track.

The RS Q3 is not expected in India anytime soon, so those zipping-down-the-Buddh-International-Circuit dreams can wait. But if and when it does come, this car will definitely strike a chord with our SUV-crazy country. It’s got a stonking engine, it drives very well and is a car worthy of the RS badge. Expected to be priced around Rs. 58 lakh, the RS Q3 is for people looking for a high-performance SUV.

Keywords: audiaudi RSQ3SUVs