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A Bold RS-Q Attempt

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The five-cylinder engine has been an essential component of Audi’s brand DNA since it was introduced 45 years ago. Still relevant today, its characteristic firing order and unique sound promise a highly emotional driving experience, even when powering a high riding SUV with a downward sloping coupé-like roofline.

Audi’s multiple award-winning five-cylinder engine has achieved cult status following its success on the track and in rallies. In 2009, the engine, now with direct fuel injection and 2.5-litre displacement, made a transversely mounted comeback in the Audi TT RS. Development continued, and the reworked 2.5 TFSI, with more power, lower weight, reduced consumption, and fewer emissions, made its debut in the new generation TT RS in 2016.

Now, after a complete overhaul, the engine – as used in the facelifted RS Q3 Sportback – is 26 kg lighter than its predecessor. With power up by 17% to 294 kW and maximum torque of 480 Nm available over a broad rev range, all fed to the quattro drive system via a seven-speed S tronic transmission, our Nardo Grey Sportback (with R175,480 worth of optional extras, including Matrix LED lights and Glossy Black and Black Appearance package Plus), proved deceptively quick.

Using Launch Control, the SUV coupé crossover with its gloss black Singleframe honeycomb grille under flat RS slits, large side air inlets and boomerang-shaped blades in the bumper, zipped from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds. It also relentlessly pushed towards its electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.

With its downward-sloping roofline lowering the optical centre of gravity and its pronounced flared wheel arches, the Sportback appears even more muscular than its standard RS Q3 sibling. A low rear window line, RS-specific roof spoiler and dual-branch exhausts with large oval tailpipes underscore its performance aspirations. 

Ah, That Sound…

Still, the five-cylinder’s sonorous sound has not changed. This adds to the allure of the latest RS Q model; however, as we negotiated a few twisty mountain sections on route to the Cape Town Waterfront, it became evident that its crossover attributes slightly constrained the SUV coupe’s ultra-sporty credentials.

Even with a suspension lowered by 10 mm, when compared to the standard Q3 Sportback, it still rides higher than a RS 3 and is also heavier, marginally compromising its stability at the limit. Shod with 21” performance rubber and equipped with Dynamic Chassis Control, it corners flat and fast. Yet, while direct and precise, its steering is somewhat artificial, alluding to a feeling of being slightly removed from the action.

Even so, it has class-leading handling – with a slight tendency towards understeer – and offers prodigious grip, offset by a pretty hard ride quality (we suggest selecting comfort or auto mode on the MMI for everyday driving). Its red-painted ventilated and perforated RS brakes are also super-efficient.

Rescue 3

By now, we were at Station 3 of the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) at the V&A Waterfront. Established in 1967 with one vessel and a handful of crew, the NSRI – as with Audi, which was founded around the same time – has grown exponentially over six decades and currently boasts 44 rescue bases countrywide, 21 lifeguard beaches and 100 rescue craft.

Station 3, one of the first NSRI stations to be established, was initially located in Three Anchor Bay before it merged with Station 1, moved to Granger Bay, then to East Pier at the Waterfront, before settling in its current location – the Bob Deacon Base.

The busy and large Sea Rescue base, currently home to 36 qualified crew and 16 trainees, will inevitably bustle over the holiday season. With its trusty Class 1 rescue vessel, emblazoned Rescue 3, embarking on a training mission, the NSRI graciously permitted us to use this imposing vessel in a photoshoot with the equally imposing Audi RS Q3. 

Unlike the sparsely purpose-fitted Rescue 3 vessel, the five-seater RS Q3 is sumptuously equipped with snug-fitting Nappa-leather sport seats, now with honeycomb pattern and contrasting stitching (available for the first time in the Q3 family) and Alcantara-inlays and RS-logos everywhere.

The MMI touch display with high-gloss black glass-look surround slots in seamlessly, and the Audi virtual cockpit plus has special RS displays providing extra performance information. The rear seats can be shifted by 130 mm, and the luggage compartment holds 530 litres.

With a base price of R1,150,000, the bold new RS Q3 Sportback – defined by an exceptional engine – still offers better value than competitors such as the BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic. However, it may be the last iteration of this RS model in its current form, as it is unlikely that the legendary five-cylinder turbo engine will be rescued again.

Report by Ferdi de Vos | Images © Ryan Abbott

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