Saturday, 22 February 2020

Audi RS Q3 Sportback review: oh dear, oh dear, oh dear

Coincidentally, it arrived at the Top Gear office to overlap with the new coupé version of the RS Q3. The £ 51,805 RS Q3 Sportback is also fast and full of grip, but the good news stops dead there.
What's wrong with it?
Let's start the ride. The (£ 58k as tested) RS Q3 Sportback Audi included was an interesting, relevant spec. The classic British buyer habits all ticked. Posher paint, 21-inch wheels and a little interior technology. It was crucial that the money was spent to make the RS Q3 more photogenic (ish) and to show off better with your friends. Not to make it better to drive.
This is a long car with a short wheelbase that tries to be sporty, driving on 21-inch wheels. That comes down to driving quality that is unacceptably jiggly and hard. It doesn't matter if you are in town, you are driving over a speed bump, on an open road, dogfighting with pits or just running along the outer lane of the M4, braced for the expansion gaps on the bridges. The shocking, horribly tight ride of the RS Q3 is a conversation stop. A singalong song interrupter. At least very effective to reduce your speed.
You are no stranger to endure a brisk ride if the ministry is a giggle ...
Good point. Cars such as the Ford Fiesta ST and Mercedes-AMG E63 have been great favorites for Top Gear and have even won our best of the year - despite driving like skateboards on stairs. But that is because what they give away in squidge, they give back in balance, agility and balance. They are rock hard and yet you can see when you ask for problems. The RS Q3 is the worst of all worlds. The suspension is made of petrified Jurassic wood, and yet it feels numb and lead in the corners. The controls are frigid and distant, regardless of the modes.
There are modes?
Yes, but they do not save the RS Q3 Sportback. Without £ 900 in adaptive suspension to facilitate the smooth ride, the only thing they do is with the dashboard graphics (admittedly, the retro Quachro-style tacho is cool), pour maple syrup in the handlebars and espresso martini on the driveline circuit boards.
Isn't the engine a masterpiece?
Who on earth demanded 400 horsepower at a crossover? It's so ... ugly. Very fast of course, but to unlock this pace, you have to drive through the gaping gaps in the processing power of the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The whole point of a DSG is imperceptible warp shifts when you are cracking, but the RS Q3 slurps its changes and the kickdown refuses to acknowledge that there is 354lb of torque to call.
The only solution is to take matters into your own hands with the cheap plastic paddles. Mind you, a large part of the cab lining is a minefield of "how much money can we get away to save here?" Except for the spicy touchscreen. It is probably the best there is. The non-supporting seats on the other hand, erm, bum, have no place in a £ 50k super SUV.
But the noise ...
Active exhausts are now on the legislative naughty step, so Audi has done a Golf R and amplified the engine sound with a boombox in it. That makes sense in a Golf R or Cupra Leon, because the standard four-cylinder engines sound flat. But putting inflated socks in the pants of a 2.5-liter five-cylinder is horrible. Fortunately, you can switch off the amplified soundtrack on the touchscreen.
What is this car good at?
Other than making other road users feel sorry for you / hate / aggressive to make your day miserable? Depressed, I'm scared. It is fine on the highway, but there are plenty of other front runners who do better everywhere for £ 50k. How about an Evoque? Or an M2 competition?
There's a hint of half-arsedness here: that the engineers were so offended by having to sign the RS Q3 Sportback, they didn't really do their best. In contrast to, for example, a Porsche Macan or Alfa Stelvio, where the die-hards may not have liked their new project, but still have their socks edited to make the result a success.
It is like eating a settee that you know was prepared in an industrial warehouse by someone who despises the consumer. It is the technical equivalent of doing a wet fart on the boss's office chair after they have told you to do paperwork late.
Ouch. Are you ready?
I am not alone. TG's Teflon-coated "I love the cars you love" correspondent Rowan Horncastle spent a weekend in the RS Q3 and returned with opinions that cannot be published on a family website. Here's what I could get through with it:
“It is the ultimate buzzword car from the 2020 market: a fast, picked up, unnecessary microcoupé. It is enough for people who know nothing about cars (fast in a straight line, fake warble, XXL exhausts, large wheels, expensive) that make them think that

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