Put your foot down and the standard dual-clutch 'box shuffles down a couple of gears and the engine emits a deliciously warbly soundtrack that instantly has you picturing Walter Röhrl hammering down a forest stage in his Group B Quattro. Switch to dynamic mode and you open a flap in the exhaust for the full special stage effect; it’ll even pop and bang on the overrun.
Sadly, Dynamic mode also brings additional weight to the steering that is anything but welcome; there’s an unpleasant artificial feel to the wheel with no additional feedback. Annoyingly, you can’t even configure an individual mode to have the much more natural feeling comfort steering and louder exhaust for the full Group B histrionics.
When - not if - the soundtrack eggs you into cornering harder, you’ll find your typical RS Audi balance. There’s plenty of traction, but you won’t be marvelling at the throttle adjustability in the dry, mainly because there isn’t any.
Push beyond the limit and you’ll find lots of safety-first understeer even with the ESP turned off. Our experience suggests it’s a little bit more interesting in the wet but not necessarily as predictable as you might expect with everything switched off.
But then the RS Q3 was never about thrill-a-minute handling. Where it excels is in combining addictively rapid performance with everyday usability. Even on non-adjustable dampers, it strikes a fine balance between body control and ride comfort and is as easy to drive and practical as any other Q3. Adaptive dampers are optional, but we’d probably save ourselves a few quid and stick to the standard set-up.
Inside, you get leather and Alcantara upholstery as standard, along with carbonfibre trim with a blue thread running through it. It may sound a little boy racer, but it actually looks pretty smart in conjunction with blue highlights on the seats. Quality for the most part is good, although the lower reaches of the dash consist of hard plastics.
Should I buy one?
Naturally, you’re not going to associate an RS Audi product with the word ‘bargain’. Should the idea of a supersonic small SUV appeal, you’ll need more than £49,000 to bag an RS Q3 Performance – just over £3000 more than the ‘cooking’ version. You do at least get plenty of equipment for your money, including leather seats, sat-nav plus bespoke wheels and trim.
True, it may not thrill like the best sports cars (or even SUVs) or be the keen driver's choice, but it’s hard not to be drawn in by that engine, its straight-line speed and the Q3's decent everyday practicality. If you're one of those people, given the relatively small financial jump to a Performance, and the subsequent reward of getting more of it, it's probably a box worth ticking.
2016 Audi RS Q3 Performance
Location Warwickshire; On sale Now; Price £49,185; Engine five cylinder, 2480cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 362bhp at 5500-6800rpm; Torque 343lb ft at 1625-5550rpm; Gearbox seven-speed dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1730kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.4sec; Economy 32.8mpg; CO2/tax band 203g/km, 37%