In the U.S., the Audi Q3 is strictly the brand’s entry-level SUV. Smaller than a BMW X3, it’s essentially a Q8 shrunk by half, and Audi offers it only with a 2.0-liter four that makes 184 or 228 horsepower. As far as high-performance compact SUVs go, Mercedes-AMG is the sole player with the GLA45.
In Europe, it’s different, and Audi’s baby SUV can be had in racy RS Q3 form. Audi is now celebrating the RS Q3 with a special version, the Audi RS Q3 Edition 10 Years, which marks a decade of the wonderfully tight, well-equipped, and altogether delightful compact SUV. We’ve spent some time behind the wheel of this special edition, getting reacquainted with a great performer and its quirks.
At the heart of the RS Q3 is a turbocharged inline-five. It’s the same engine that powers the RS3 and the TT RS, and of course it’s a nod to Audi’s history with five-cylinder engines. But it’s also a standout in its own right. It sounds delightful, with a very aggressive edge—certainly more interesting than a four-cylinder like the one Mercedes-AMG uses.
This engine doesn’t just sound sporty. Rated at 394 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, it hurls the RS Q3 to 60 mph in an estimated 4.1 seconds. Top speed is governed up to a lofty 174 mph. This powertrain lets you blast up hills, charge through corners, and overtake pretty much every other vehicle with effortless ease. Somewhat surprisingly, turbo lag is not a real issue in this single-turbo car. The only available transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which sends power to all four wheels. This is the ultimate SUV based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB modular-transverse platform, and you can’t help but marvel at the level of refinement.
The RS Q3’s compliance with the driver’s wishes is impeccable. We like Audi’s approach to steering, which isn’t overly heavy. Despite the all-wheel-drive drivetrain, you can easily adjust the tail’s attitude. We do recommend keeping the stability control in its Sport setting unless you’re a pro—or on a track.
As in the Q3, the seating position is noticeably higher than in the GLA, giving even this smallest SUV the vaunted “command position” that so many buyers seek. It’s a less happy story in the rear, which is a bit cramped for tall passengers. The dashboard looks still fresh, with a modern touchscreen, and the interior materials are high quality.
Whereas the U.S. Q3 is available only in the standard SUV body style, the RS Q3 and this special edition also can be had as a Sportback with a sloping rear. Our preference is for the standard version, but it’s entirely a matter of taste; the difference in luggage space is negligible.
As for the Edition 10 Years, it’s offered at a relatively modest up-charge of 5990 euros ($6300 at current exchange rates) over the $69,000 starting price, and it packs several goodies that can’t be had in a regular RS Q3. That starts with the color: Chronos Gray is exclusive to this model; alternatively, one can choose matte silver. The 21-inch wheels shod with 255/35 rubber are only available here as well. The LED headlights present themselves in a dark housing, and all badging is executed in high-gloss black.
The most impressive parts are the front bucket seats, clad with microfiber and sporting matte-carbon seatbacks. They give fantastic support and are not available on any other Q3 or RS Q3. The trim on the dashboard and door panels is executed in matte carbon as well, a very welcome change from the high-gloss carbon finish in many cars with sporting pretensions. Copper-colored stitching provides contrast.
One thing that’s missing is a special plaque like limited-editions Audis have had in the past. Instead, the central display can show “1 of 555,” which seems a bit lazy given that it couldn’t have been too difficult to provide the actual number of the vehicle in the build sequence.
With its characterful five-cylinder engine and well-sorted chassis, the RS Q3—particularly in this special edition—represents the zenith of what a high-performance compact SUV can be. We’d love to see it stateside.
2023 Audi RS Q3 Edition 10 Years
Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base: $75,300 (Germany)
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 20-valve inline-5, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 151 in3, 2480 cm3
Power: 394 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 354 lb-ft @ 2250 rpm
7-speed dual-clutch automatic
Wheelbase: 105.6 in
Length: 177.4 in
Width: 72.9 in
Height: 61.3–63.1 in
Passenger Volume: 94 ft3
Cargo Volume: 24 ft3
Curb Weight (C/D est): 3800 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 4.1 sec
100 mph: 9.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 12.5 sec
Top Speed: 155–174 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 18/15/23 mpg
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