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Audi RSQ3 Edition 10 Years review


It’s the tenth anniversary of Audi bequeathing a five-cylinder engine and an RS badge to its Q3 small SUV – and there’s a special edition Sportback to celebrate it

Good points

  • Just 555 cars will be built
  • Iconic five-cylinder engine
  • Loud, offbeat exhaust
  • Well-finished cabin
  • Supportive bucket seats
  • Remarkably practical

Needs work

  • Treacly throttle response
  • Doughy dual-clutch take-up
  • Tough to launch fast
  • More isolating than RS3
  • Expensive service plan
  • High fuel consumption

The Audi RSQ3 is a thinking person’s small performance SUV: it’s quite fast, satisfying to drive, well-made, and remarkably practical. About the only thing it can’t do is be as fun as Audi’s own RS3 hatchback or sedan, which ride lower and give the driver higher limits to play with.

If that’s not a dealbreaker, read on – because the most desirable version of the RSQ3 ever has now launched in Australia. Just 555 examples of the RSQ3 Edition 10 Years will be sold globally, and Audi’s local arm has managed to nab a decent – but undisclosed – number of units for Aussie buyers.

Here in Australia, the Edition 10 Years ($102,900 before on-road costs) will only be available in Sportback form, which is the more popular of two available body styles for the regular $99,100 RSQ3 – which is also available in a more practical, cheaper, and traditional upright SUV format ($96,100).

Exclusivity is probably the main drawcard for the Edition 10 Years, with its not-insignificant $6800 premium over the standard fare. The other would be Audi’s decision to equip the anniversary model with a pair of serious bucket seats up front. Manual adjustment makes them lighter and lower.

But don’t go thinking the Edition 10 Years is a stripped-back track special. It’s still lavishly appointed: the buckets are heated and finished in nappa leather!

Further afield, superb build quality is evident in the tank-like cabin construction, and Audi’s trademark classy materials cover nearly all surfaces, including textural dinamica on the dash.

The Edition 10 Years also picks up bronze stitching inside, while an extended black pack and really attractive, unique 21-inch wheels in Continental ContiSportContact 6 tyres also add exclusivity.

Both the exterior and interior styling of the RSQ3 remain refreshingly elegant and subtle compared to the Mercedes-AMG GLA45, which goes much further than the Audi in terms of ambient lighting and extroverted cabin design. Some will, naturally, prefer the Benz.

Technology-wise, the RSQ3 remains best in segment with an extensively customisable Virtual Cockpit display and a snappy 10.0-inch touchscreen that features networked Google Maps integration, plus wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Premium audio remains but is now an ultra-clear system courtesy of Sonos rather than Bang & Olufsen.

Stepping into row two reveals that despite the RSQ3 Sportback’s flattened roofline, headroom (and legroom) have been well preserved, making this a rare small SUV in that it is actually usable, and noticeably practical.

Behind a power tailgate is a 530 litre boot with a cargo net. Spare wheel? No. It’s an inflation kit.

Heading back to the driver’s bucket to start up the RSQ3 Edition 10 Years reveals a blessing and a curse of this sports SUV.

Despite tightening emissions nets, Audi is clinging to its venerated 2.5-litre turbocharged inline five-cylinder petrol engine, but the tweaks required to secure eco-compliance are killing the powertrain’s appeal.

How so? Well, when you are pedalling the 294kW/480Nm five-cylinder hard, in dynamic mode, it’s still a sparkling, warbling engine worthy of its heritage. But it’s the opposite at low speeds, where many buyers will spend the majority of their time, given this car’s strong potential as a daily-driver.

Securing this car’s staggeringly low 8.9L/100km fuel economy number has come at a huge driveability cost for Audi, who have decimated the throttle response to chase low CO2 outputs.

Simply put, the combination of five-cylinder/seven-speed dual-clutch is not a pleasant one driven moderately. It’s a blend of doughy throttle response and treacly shifts.

The experience is worst when taking off from a cold start, with our passenger wincing at the sound of the transmission’s clutch slip. Things improve moderately as the car warms.

Rivals have smaller engines, but while AMG’s 2.0-litre four-pot in the GLA45 and BMW’s B48 two-litre in the X2 M35i can’t claim five-cylinder cred or sound, there is no avoiding that they offer superior throttle response.

Our battle to get the RSQ3 to accelerate crisply is reflected in unimpressive acceleration testing numbers.

Our 0-100km/h sprint of 4.86 seconds isn’t exactly laggardly, but we can usually match an Audi performance claim – which for this car is 4.5sec. The brakes, though, are exceptional. The Edition 10 Years stopped in a short 34.08m from 100-0km/h.

Frustratingly, the changes made to the five-cylinder over the years might have made the RSQ3 efficient on some European economy testing loop, but they haven’t worked in reality.

Our mixed test yielded unimpressive consumption of 13L/100km on a diet of 98-octane premium petrol. Maintenance is exxy at $3580 for a five year/75,000km plan.

Still, you’d have to consider the Audi if only because the inside line suggests that this might be one of the very last years the five-cylinder can remain viable.

Soon, the European Union will increase emissions regulation severity again. That could destroy the 2.5 TFSI’s viability unless it can be packaged with a plug-in hybrid.

The RSQ3’s case improves markedly when you move onto the ride, which is excellent. It’s very firm and quite stiff, but you can tell this is an expensively-made suspension, because compliance is retained.

Road imperfections are noticed but they don’t crash into the cabin. There’s no doubt that the Audi rides better than a GLA45 or X2 M35i

Handling, too, is seriously impressive. The RSQ3’s adaptive suspension also delivers superb body control with flat cornering, while the 255-wide ContiSport6 rubber provides excellent grip.

Keen drivers can reach deep into wells of talent, with the RSQ3 happily devouring broken back-roads. The steering is mid-weighted and intuitive.

But the RSQ3 always keeps you at a distance in a way that recent sporty Audis haven’t. A high level of mechanical grip combines with a stricter stability control safety net than an RS3 hatchback to keep things straight and narrow. The tune here is arguably appropriate for the car type, being a higher-set and heavier SUV.

We don’t really think secure handling will be a demerit for most people that are interested in an RSQ3. If anything, it’s a selling point. But if you want a malleable chassis that gives skilled drivers a higher plateau of enjoyment to reach for, go for an RS3, or a Golf R (from $68,990).

You could try VW’s T-Roc R (from $54,300), a surprisingly thrilling SUV at half the Audi’s price.

Our advice to opt for Audi’s newer and more playful RS3 is academic, anyway – Audi isn’t building the five-cylinder hatch/sedan range at the moment and we wonder if production will ever start up again. Hopefully it will. Thankfully the four-cylinder S3 (from $71,800) is also pleasant.

As an aside, the Audi Q3 range doesn’t include an ‘S’ grade sports model. It jumps straight from the slightly quick, 140kW 40 TFSI Quattro model (from $58,400) to the 294kW RSQ3.

There’s a 200kW-sized hole there that the smaller SQ2 ($68,200) doesn’t fill because it’s less liveable in the space and ride quality realms.

What might fill the gap – also from within the Volkswagen Group – is the 228kW Cupra Formentor VZx. It’s a four-cylinder, it’s a Q3-sized SUV… but underneath, it essentially uses lower-riding Golf hardware, and it’s probably more fun than the RSQ3 to drive.

But it doesn’t have the four rings, or a five-cylinder (in Australia at least). And that’s the point of this Audi. The Edition 10 Years is an exclusive, low-volume run of a super-solid sports SUV.

The five-cylinder may feel a little hobbled now, but exceptional build quality, premium finishes and an expertly-tuned suspension still make this Audi highly desirable.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Overall rating
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

2480 cc
294kW at 5850rpm
480Nm at 1950rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
0 litres
8.9L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
0km (claimed)
All Wheel Drive
4507 mm
1851 mm
1557 mm
Unoccupied weight
1775 kg

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