Audi started in the right place when it chose to plonk the five-cylinder turbo from the RS3 and TT RS in its new-breed fast 4x4.

The engine is docile and smooth one moment, and then it just gives and gives the moment you flatten the accelerator pedal, almost irrespective of the chosen gear or operating crank speed.

Nic Cackett

Nic Cackett

Road tester
The seven-speed gearbox could shift more intuitively

There is 331lb ft of torque available from just 1500rpm up to 5200rpm, at which point exactly the 335bhp of peak power chimes in and stays present until 6700rpm, while the RS Q3 Performance has peak figures of 362bhp and 343lb ft.

That makes for quite incredible flexibility of performance – not to mention the kind of power and torque graph that you could eat your dinner off – and explains how this relatively small and cheap option can easily outsprint more expensive and powerful mega-4x4s such as the Porsche Cayenne GTS and BMW X5 M50d. However the standard car is slightly slower than the GLA 45, but the slightly less powerful Performance model is capable of the same 0-62mph time as the Mercedes-AMG.

It could even level-peg a Range Rover Sport Supercharged – a car twice the Audi’s price – up to illegal speeds.

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When munching its way through the intermediate gears, the RS Q3 feels quicker than even our 5.0sec 0-60mph clocking would suggest. Audi’s just-discontinued full-fat RS3 is only three-tenths quicker from 30-70mph. An X5 M50d is fully seven-tenths slower. Keep your foot in it and the RS Q3 will eventually pin itself against an electronic 155mph limiter.

Throttle response is just soft enough at very low revs to remind you that you’re driving something turbocharged, but it is very good indeed the rest of the time, allowing you to be unerringly precise with the accelerator and mete out exactly as much tractive force as you need. The five-cylinder soundtrack is every bit as rousing as it is in the TT RS and was in the RS3, and has very little whooshing turbo interference.

The dual-clutch gearbox is the only part of the puzzle that doesn’t merit unequivocal praise. It’s excellent at full-bore shifts and launch control starts. It’s quite smooth and unobtrusive when you’re in ‘D’ and in no particular hurry.

But it loses its way somewhere between those two positions of strength, delaying manual ratio changes occasionally, kicking down quite reluctantly at times and generally lacking the polish of ZF’s excellent eight-speed auto ’box and AMG’s seven-speed semi-auto.

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