ROAD TEST: Audi RS R3
The rational side of my brain conspired against the Audi RS Q3 right from the word go. Walking towards it for the first time in our basement car park, it really stood out with its boisterous RS styling kit, lusty Sepang Blue paintjob and 20-inch five-spoke alloys, the latter a R39 890 option. Yet as enticing as it was to look at, the word 'pointless' kept trying to derail any positive train of thought.
After all, what on earth is the sense in buying a ferociously fast wagon like this when it'll never slice through corners like a low-slung performance car nor offer the rough-roading potential of a normal crossover or SUV? This RS is already 25mm lower to the ground than regular Q3s and with rims like those, I wouldn't dare plonking this onto a pavement - at least not on purpose.
But that's more than enough logic for one day. Truth is, this mad hatter of the SUV world is absolutely brilliant.
Turn the key and a menacingly vocal offbeat burble entertains your eardrums as Audi's 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine comes to life. Though it evokes memories of legendary five-cylinder Audis like the original Quattro and S2, this is Audi's completely modern 2.5-litre turbocharged lump of alloy. It's also fitted to the TT RS and previous RS 3, but "modified" for use in the RS Q3, Audi says. That basically means "detuned", although the RS Q3's version still packs a mighty punch to the tune of 228kW and 420Nm. Dial in the launch control and set the Audi drive select system in 'dynamic' mode (which also activates a louder exhaust note) and this little crossover will push you back in your seat.
With the V-box plugged in, our sister publication Star Motoring launched it from 0-100km/h in just 5.5 seconds at Gerotek in Gauteng - meaning many a sports car driver would be wise watch their back if this menace creeps up from behind.
The engine is mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch gearbox, which works well enough when left to its own devices, but there is also a pair of flappy paddles in place for when you want to play and using them to gear down early produces an enticing throttle blip.
CAN IT CORNER?
With its beefy rubber, Quattro all-wheel drive and lowered RS sports suspension system, the RS Q3 will slice its way through corners as well as any crossover possibly could, and its gravitational disadvantage is unlikely to be of much consequence to the average owner - unless he or she is a true track day connoisseur. On that note, the RS Q3 does at least have a lap timer, along with other useful gauges that tell you the boost pressure and oil temperature.
Despite its sporty nature, the RS Q3 is not a pain to slog thorough that otherwise mundane daily commute, although the more comfort-oriented drive select settings can lead to a slightly laggy engine response at times. The ride is not too bad either, for a sporty vehicle.
If we're to let any logical arguments infiltrate for a sec, I must say that this Q3 is not as practical as you might imagine with rear legroom being reasonable at best and a roofline that will make things a little claustrophobic for large teens or adults in the back. A smallish family should fit fine though.
This Q3's cabin has its fair share of snazzy RS touches, including sports seats clad in black Alcantara leather and a bespoke instrument cluster. Best of all, a proper infotainment set-up comes as standard, comprising MMI Navigation Plus and a 465 watt 14-speaker Bose surround-surround system. I must admit to not putting the latter to use very much though, as the engine's sound track was all the music I needed that week.
Whatever logic I had has failed me here and I have to confess to really liking the Audi RS Q3, pointless as it may seem. It might lack any of the usual SUV versatility and it's not a Lotus around corners, yet the smile factor is huge - as is the R713 000 price tag, sadly.
The RS Q3 is crazy, but loveable.
Audi RS Q3
Engine: 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed S tronic
Power: 228kW @ 5200-6700rpm
Torque: 420Nm @ 1500-5200rpm
0-100km/h (tested): 5.5 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 250km/h
Consumption (claimed): 8.8 litres per 100km
Price: R713 000
Maintenance plan: Five-year/100 000km
Merc's 265kW GLA 45 AMG comes close at R745 743, but if you're looking for a larger and less boisterous crossover with ample urge, you could have a 242kW Volvo XC60 T6 AWD for R660 000, stretch to a BMW X4 35i (225kW, R781 390) or treat yourself to the new Porsche Macan S, with 250kW, for R873 000.