What do you get when you cross an Audi TT RS coupe with an Audi Q3 SUV? The 2020 Audi RS Q3 Sportback, that’s what. With a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that makes 394 hp and a top speed of 174 mph, the RS Q3 Sportback is the fastest, sportiest compact Audi SUV yet. The bad news? Audi currently has no plan to bring it to America.
The RS Q3 Sportback is one of six high-performance RS Audis models being launched this year (the new RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback have already been revealed) and makes its debut with alongside the mechanically identical 2020 RS Q3 (sadly also not coming to America). What makes the Sportback the more interesting of the two hot Q3s is its sportier styling.
Purists might rage, but coupe-like four-door SUVs are a thing these days, and in the metal the little RS Q3 Sportback—shaped under the direction of Audi design chief Marc Lichte—certainly looks the part. In the vibrant Kyalami Green launch color especially, Lichte’s sharply chiseled fender arches and aggressive RS-style front and rear fascias give it a Hulkish muscular swagger.
The RS Q3 Sportback shares only its hood, front fenders and fascias with the RS Q3. A new roof is 1.8 inches lower, thanks to more steeply raked A-pillars and a shallower windshield. New bodyside stampings are responsible for the swoopy D-pillars at the rear, and the new front and rear doors have frameless side windows. As with the RS Q3, the fenders have been pumped out 0.4 inches each side over standard 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires.
Under the hood is the turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that’s seen stalwart service in several high-performance small Audis over the past nine years. In its latest iteration the charismatically throbby engine makes 394 horsepower between 5,850 rpm and 7,000 rpm, and 354 lb-ft of torque from 1,950 rpm all the way through to 5,850 rpm. Power is transmitted to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Variable ratio steering and torque vectoring by brake helps the RS Q3 Sportback dive into corners, and an electronically controlled multi-plate center differential that sends more torque to the rear axle in the sportier drive modes helps punch it out. The standard RS sport suspension drops the ride height by 0.4 inches. The optional Dynamic Chassis Control system adds variable damping to the mix to improve ride quality over rough roads and increase support through fast corners.
Audi says the RS Q3 Sportback will zip from 0 to 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds. Top speed is 155 mph, unless you order the optional Dynamic Plus package, which lifts V-max to 174 mph. Big speed means big brakes: The RS Q3’s standard setup comprises 14.8-inch steel rotors up front, and 12.2-inch items at the rear, but 15.0-inch carbon-ceramic front rotors are available as an option. Also optional are 21-inch wheels.
The RS Q3 Sportback comes standard with Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, an upgraded version of which is available as an option. This offers a shift light display to help drivers make optimal gearshifts, plus special RS displays showing information on tire pressure, torque, power output, lap times, g-forces, and acceleration. Other interior upgrades include RS sport seats in Nappa leather with RS-specific honeycomb pattern and integrated head restraints. Contrasting stitching in red or blue is available as an option.
Despite its racier sheetmetal, the RS Q3 Sportback is only marginally less practical than the RS Q3. The rear seats can be moved fore-aft 5.1 inches (versus 5.9 inches in the RS Q3) and with the seatbacks folded flat the Sportback’s luggage space is only eight percent less than that of its standard roof sibling. With the rear seat backs upright, the Sportback’s 18.7 cu ft of load space is identical.
If you want a small high-performance Audi in the U.S. you can of course order the terrific little RS 3 sedan, which has exactly the same powertrain as the RS Q3 Sportback and sub-4.0 second 0-60 mph performance. But given America’s enduring love affair with SUVs, you can’t help but wonder whether Audi of America might be missing a trick by not adding the stylish, fast RS Q3 Sportback to its lineup.
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