If Quattro GmbH had resolved, by fair means or foul, to give the RS Q3 the lateral grip, steering response and roll control of an RS3 hatchback – and in a car with a relatively compact footprint, it must have been tempting – there would have been a big price to pay.

Thankfully, the outfit recognised the importance of finding the sweet middle ground with this car – of adding sporting purpose without adversely affecting the everyday usability that characterises all good SUVs. And we’ve driven plenty of fast SUVs lately that missed that mark.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
The 4x4 system needs to be more predictable in low-grip conditions, or just lockable 50/50

The RS Q3, like so many Audi RS models, is an easy car to drive quickly. The various Audi Drive Select modes – Auto, Comfort and Dynamic – don’t affect the basic suspension tune.

After all, there are no adaptive dampers here. But the passive ones make for a dynamic compromise that suits most journeys, not allowing excessive or sudden body movements, yet not so stiff that the ride quality suffers out of all proportion.

Audi's RS Q3 is fairly firm, but it isn’t so firm that it fails to settle on the motorway or is without the required compliance to soak up a badly surfaced back road. It produces some road roar – particularly on the optional 20-inch alloy wheels – but not an intrusive amount.

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Unfortunately for Audi, that leaves the car teetering on the edge of the nondescript when you come to characterise its handling. Nothing that happens, either when you tip the car into a corner or squirt it out again and over a crest, lingers for long in your memory or enlivens your senses.

The steering is neither communicative nor incisive – even on its weightiest setting. The chassis isn’t unwilling to change tack, but it doesn’t feel particularly grippy, interactive or entertaining, either..

Several of the entries in our all-time top 10 wet lap times at MIRA belong to Audis from Quattro GmbH. But the RS Q3 didn’t add to that glorious haul. In the wet, this car is actually no quicker than a well sorted family hatchback.

Fitted with optional 20-inch wheels, the RS Q3 just didn’t have much lateral grip in the wet. Nor does it have the sophisticated drivetrain hardware to drive securely and precisely through corners just beyond the limit of grip, such as you find in the likes of the RS4 Avant and the RS5.

Probe beyond the fringes of its comfort zone with the ESP switched out and, first, it’ll understeer before rolling into quite sudden oversteer. And once it is sliding, the Haldex 4x4 system never quite makes it clear what you should do to wrestle back control. Sometimes power straightens things out, but sometimes it just makes things worse.

Stability is more assured in the dry, but it comes at the expense of more than a hint of old-school Audi power-on understeer.

In the process of applying sporting dynamics to a 4x4, it seems that Audi has sanitised them a little here. Which isn’t the most surprising news to report from a go-faster department that doesn’t always produce the most exciting performance cars

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