The Audi RS Q3 has always been a difficult car to pigeon-hole.
It’s a small SUV for starters – a contentiously rational, if extremely popular, market segment – bestowed with hot hatch levels of performance courtesy of Audi’s excellent 2.5-litre turbo five.
Its recent update has made its performance more potent than ever, outputs from the now-Euro 6 compliant engine lifting from 228kW/420Nm to 250kW/450Nm, which has cut the claimed 0-100km/h to just 4.8sec.
It feels every bit that quick, with the traction control cutting in – albeit probably unnecessarily – in the first two gears under full acceleration.
With power delivered more-or-less in a linear fashion from 1600-6700rpm there’s always plenty of grunt on tap and it’s accompanied by that fabulous signature five-pot warble. The seven-speed dual-clutch ’box is a sharp unit, too, though it can take a while to get going from a standstill.
Thanks to monster eight-piston front calipers clamping 365mm discs, stopping power is also plentiful, the rate of retardation made all the more dramatic by your elevated seating position.
This is, of course, the primary reason these baby SUVs are enjoying such a huge surge in popularity, however from a keen driver’s perspective it does create a disconnect from what’s happening below you.
The chassis is actually one of Audi’s more playful. Push too hard and it’ll understeer, but a well-timed lift of the throttle or brush of the brake will have the rear swinging around nicely.
It’s odd behaviour in an Audi, but also enjoyable, though care has to be taken when re-applying power as it will drag the nose wide once more.
The major argument against buying an RS Q3, however, is the existence of the RS3. It usurps its high-riding twin’s place as the cheapest RS model in Australia, yet is also significantly faster and, ultimately, more enjoyable to drive thanks to its sharper setup and lower centre of gravity.
Unless you really need the extra 70-odd litres of luggage space, most enthusiasts are going to be far better served by the more conventional hatchback, and that’s before you throw in the RS3’s better looks and far more impressive interior.
None of this is to say the RS Q3 is a bad car, we just can’t figure out what it’s for. If you want a small, fast Audi, buy an S1 or RS3; if you want an Audi SUV, buy an SQ5 or a Q7.
Engine: 2480cc inline-5, DOHC, 20v, turbo
Power: 250kW @ 5300-6700rpm
Torque: 450Nm @1600-5300rpm
0-100km/h: 4.8sec (claimed)