Audi RS Q3 a jack of all trades

Audi's RS Q3 is an impressive package, if you need a mid-sized 310hp 4x4
Audi's RS Q3 is an impressive package, if you need a mid-sized 310hp 4x4
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All work and no play is no good. As we know from the proverb, it makes Jack a dull boy. So it’s important to have some time off to relax, perhaps with some adventures off the beaten track in the open countryside. There’s certainly plenty of choice when it comes to what to use for that trot around the Trossachs. You’ll want something comfortable but capable, with straightforward four-wheel drive to keep you safe and out of trouble if things get a little sticky.

What you don’t need is a flying machine – 310 horses and breathtaking acceleration which will power you from a standing start to 62 mph in barely six seconds and up to a limited top speed of 155mph. The new Audi RS Q3, which will appear on our roads early in the New Year, is another Jack – but far from being dull, he’s one of all-trades and while not master of none, I feel he’s trying to do too much in one package.

I’m not entirely sure what the thinking is behind the car which is the first ever SUV to carry the iconic RS badge but I’m concerned it’s got too much on its hands. I can only assume that it’s aimed at a youthful and pretty well-heeled buyer who likes the practicality of an SUV for weekend activities and family demands but lusts after the performance which comes with an RS badge-bearer.

The problem with that is you’re getting one car to do everything when the simplest solution would be to have a specific car for a specific job. Want to carry big loads? Get a Transit. Want high performance? Get a beefy sports car. Want to go off-road? Get a 4x4.

Having said all that, the RS Q3 is quite a machine – if you like that sort of thing. It’s not the biggest inside. Rear legroom is fairly restricted, about the same as the A3 hatchback, although headroom is better because of the higher roofline. The boot space is helpfully square and deep without any restrictive loading lip but it is smaller than the standard model and less than rivals BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque. It isn’t that different on the inside from the standard Q3 apart from the RS “accents” such as grey gauges with white scales and red needles which also show performance-related information such as boost pressure, oil temperature and lap timer modes.

The heated Nappa leather sports seats are embossed with the RS logo, which is repeated on the flat-bottomed multi-function sports steering wheel. Around the cockpit there are sporty aluminium inlays and the pedals are also shiny bright aluminium.

Outside, there are lots of RS clues such as the 20-inch alloys, distinctive body styling with black honeycomb front grilles and RS bumpers, and a subtle quattro emblem built into the air intake. It also has a lower ride height, so there’s no mistaking this beast for its tame twin. But while that looks good on the open road, it makes it even less practical away from the tarmac.

Realistically, this car isn’t going to do any serious mucky work apart from a wee sprint over the grass at the gymkhana but with power going through all four wheels it does feel very secure and stable when hitting the right foot and extracting the full gallop from those hundreds of horses. There is an unavoidable bit of body roll because of its tall stance but calling on the 2.5 litre, five-cylinder power and latest version quattro traction soon overcomes any doubts about its stability. Add to that the raspy roar from the exhaust and the fun factor shoots off the scale.

I could have done with more feedback through the steering and overall it seemed as though the engineers had made the car so exciting, they then had to introduce measures to calm it down a bit as if they themselves had got a fright at the monster they’d created.

Audi is happy to describe its brand as “premium” and it has certainly done a great job in carving out its market to challenge their German upper-end rivals. But I’m still not clear who’s going to buy these things. With full year sales of no more than 500, they won’t be in the hands of any Tom, Dick or Harry… or Jack.

CAR Audi RS Q3 2.5 TFSI quattro

PRICE £41,735 (£49,965 as tested)

PERFORMANCE Max speed 155 mph (limited); 0-62 mph 5.2 secs

MPG combined 32

CO2 EMISSIONS 206g/km