Audi's small and spunky SUV packs a real punch

Time certainly flies when you’re having fun.

So it’s no surprise the past decade has flashed by, particularly if you’ve been driving one of these.

It’s called the Audi RSQ3 Edition 10 years - a bit clumsy, but the car is anything but cumbersome when you get it on the road.

The stylish German marque has made a bit of a specialty of building these freakishly fun, high performance models, many of them SUVs or preposterously fast wagons.

The Edition 10 tested is one of only 555 special editions to be released worldwide to mark the special birthday of their smallest and spunkiest SUV.

As well as the its compact size and oversized performance, this is also probably the most memorable of Audi’s hotted-up SUVs, thanks mostly to its unforgettable 2.5 litre, five-cylinder, turbocharged engine - with an exhaust note that must echo around the Alps when the RSQ3 is out for a joy ride a little closer to home.

That crackling sound follows you around everywhere - a much more piercing, raw note than other members of the usually very refined Audi. It’s a bit like putting up with someone who was always angry - but in the best possible way.

In its very own understated way, Audi has tastefully tweaked the RSQ3 in creating the  Edition 10, apart from a couple of very welcome party tricks.

There are no overt badges, although the Edition 10 boasts handsome 21-inch alloy wheels which accentuate the car’s powerful stance and athletic road presence.

Even more of a treat are the flash driver’s and passenger’s seats which are phenomenal - a special order from respected racing safety outfit SABELT with a carbon frame and alcantera leather adornments. The suede-style leather also appears on the sweeping dash.

The downside of those body-hugging racing seats are the fact they can only be adjusted manually - an understandable by-product of a seat which hugs you like a big polar bear.

One other oversight is the lack of a head-up display (important on a car so quick). For the record the 100km/h spring is covered in 4.5 seconds of sound and fury.

And the video-style instrument binnacle gives a huge array of services, including tyre pressure and temperature, engine boost and lap timer.

Unlike the standard RSQ3, the Edition is offered only in Sportback style - meaning a swoopier rear c-pillar and window, as well as an 11mm lower profile than the standard wagon.

Otherwise the two RSQ3 variants are identical.

The 5-cylinder draws a very clear line between itself and the likes of the flagship RSQ8 SUV, or the RS6 barnstorming wagon and others from Audi’s performance arm (most cars use four, six or eight cylinders to keep things well balanced) explaining why the five-potter makes such a distinctive chugga-chugga arrival wherever it goes.

Perhaps that’s why the five-cylinder retort that is audible from miles away - producing 294kW and 480Nm with its five-cylinders and turbocharged 2.5-litres.

Interestingly, the five-cylinder configuration has been around for decades - initially breaking ground with Audi’s corporate cousin Volkswagen and, more recently, resurrected by the mad scientists from Audi’s engineering department.

The first 5-cylinder Audi was designed with racing in mind when it was released in 1976.

The commitment to all-wheel-drive soon saw Audi building all-wheel-drive race cars that dominated the German sports car series. There’s a great story about the Audi became so dominant of its compatriots that they swept the field in the German DTM racing class.  

So the following year, arch-rivals Mercedes and BMW both joined forces to change the rules, introducing a minimum weight penalty for the already chunky Audi because of its all-wheel drive systems. 

The first time these rules were applied, the Audi, with its all-wheel-drive and excess weight - stayed glued to a slippery, rainy track and won by an even greater margin. 

That same quattro all-wheel-drive technology remains a huge factor for the brand - helping put all of that punchy acceleration efficiently to the ground.

The four-wheel grip is enhanced by a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission that has been with the RSQ3 virtually since it was released a decade ago. It’s hard to imagine this car without its racy drivetrain and the sure-footed way it handles and brakes.

The RSQ3 was a bit of a pioneer when first released, although its German rivals have very much joined the performance SUV ranks as well over the past decade.

In this massively competitive environment, getting to the top is an achievement in itself.

But staying at the top of the tree for a decade (and counting) is miraculous. 

With the rapid-fire influx of electric variants, which bring comparable performance to this old internal combustion dinosaurs, this car may be heading for the scrap heap. 

But hopefully not for another 10 years.

AUDI RSQE Editon 10 years


It sits in the small luxury SUV slot, but provides a sturdy, well-rounded driveability. Even the Sportback has ample space for people and luggage.


Beware without that head-up display - this car will top the speed limit without you even realising. 100km/h arrives in 4.5 seconds.


Audi says it will sip 8,9L/100km. The 400km test gave no reason not to believe that.


Decent buying at $101,639 (plus on road fees).

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