Audi RS Q3: Audi’s smallest crossover gets some attitude

Audi RS Q3 conceptAudi has a special name for its most hardcore models: RS. These souped-up cars have more horsepower, more technology, and more performance than regular Audis. Think of the V8-powered RS4 as Audi’s answer to the BMW M3. Now, Audi is giving the RS treatment to an unlikely vehicle: a compact crossover. The RS Q3 will debut as a concept car at the upcoming Beijing Motor Show.

The Q3 debuted in 2011 as a 2012 model, going on sale in Europe and other markets. Audi is thinking about bringing it to the U.S. The compact Audi is based on the Volkswagen Tiguan, and is the entry level model in the company’s family of SUVs. Crossovers may be consider “sport-utility vehicles,” but they don’t make their drivers feel like Mario Andretti. To give the Q3 performance worthy of the RS badge, Audi installed the 2.5-liter, direct-injected, five-cylinder engine from the TT RS, along with a seven-speed S Tronic transmission. The engine makes 360 horsepower and 343 pound-feet of torque. Audi says the RS Q3 will do 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, and reach a top speed of 165 mph.

To get all that power to the road, the RS Q3 has bigger wheels and tires: 20-inch rims wrapped in 255/30R20 rubber. The car was also lowered 1.0 inch to bring its center of gravity closer to the ground. Like all performance Audis, the RS Q3 also has quattro all-wheel drive.

The RS Q3 also got some exterior modifications so people would take it seriously; the track day set does not do “cute.” At the front is a bigger grille, with less jewelry and more intake ducts than a regular Q3’s. That definitely makes the RS Q3 look like Audi’s other RS models. The car also has a front spoiler and rear diffuser made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic.Audi RS Q3 concept interior

Matte paint is all the rage these days, so Audi made sure every surface wore a matte finish. There’s matte blue paint, matte aluminum trim around the windows, and matte black carbon fiber pieces. Only the wheels are glossy.

The interior doesn’t stray too far from the stock Q3 design, but a few things were added to make it sportier. Blue stitching and trim contrasts nicely with the rest of the black fixtures, and there are aluminum pedals. Most importantly, the RS Q3 gets the flat-bottomed steering wheel from Audi’s other RS models.

Audi is not the first German luxury brand to make a high-performance crossover. Mercedes-Benz has the ML63 AMG, and BMW has the ludicrous X5 M and X6 M. However, by starting small, Audi has taken a different approach. Weight is the enemy of performance, so starting with a compact, not a full-size, crossover was a smart idea. If Audi decides to build the RS Q3, that could give it a major advantage.