ORDER books are now open for RS Q3 deliveries starting in January 2014, and only 350 are scheduled to be available annually to UK customers.
Not only is the £43,000 RS Q3 the fastest compact SUV on the market it is also Audi's first RS Q model.
The Q3 SUV range has been a significant element of Audi's overall sales growth in this country with sales doubling in 2012 and 2013 and now will achieve around 12,000 registrations this year. The new high-performance RS Q3 costs £10,000 more than the current top of the range Q3 range due to its higher performance and added specification.
According to Audi the new RS Q3 quattro 310PS S-tronic will compete against the BMW X1 xDrive 20i M Sport 184PS automatic and the Range Rover Evoque 2.0 Si4 Dynamic 240PS automatic. The Audi model is considerably more expensive to buy than both competitors but again it is the most powerful and consequently the fastest, but at the cost of poorer CO2 emissions and fuel economy.
But for affluent owners it will be the performance that matters most. The top speed is restricted to 155mph and the zero to 62mph acceleration time is just 5.2 seconds. Bear in mind this is a compact SUV we are talking about, but for family transport with a performance edge.
At the core of the RS Q3 is Audi's award winning 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbocharged TFSI petrol engine with 310PS of power and a massive 420Nm of torque from just 1,500rpm.
Talking about torque remember this is a petrol unit, not a turbodiesel engine always renowned for more 'grunt' than petrol. Drive is through a seven-speed S-tronic auto gearbox to the quattro all wheel drive system which shuffles electronically-controlled driving torque to each axle and each wheel as the driving conditions dictate.
Officially this model will return 32.1mpg in the Combined Cycle but actually 27.4mpg on test which was reasonable.
So what else does the RS spec offer for the Q8? To cope with all that power you get high performance eight-piston front brakes with drilled ventilated discs, sports suspension lowered by 25mm and 20-inch alloy wheels. The ride comfort is firm but the ride under fast cornering conditions is generally controlled and lacking in uncomfortable body-roll. Yes, it's classed as an SUV, but it will be no off-roader as such with its lowered suspension.
Other standard RS spec goodies are xenon plus headlights with automatic range control, LED daytime running lights, rear lights, brake lights and rear indicators. The new model gets bespoke RS front bumper, deep honeycomb grille with RS badging and quattro graphics splashed across the air inlet under the grille. There are styling tweaks all round including vast air intake vents, side sill and wheel arch extensions, front and rear underbody guards and the single RS large oval tailpipe.
Inside it remains the usual Q8 layout; neat front, cosy rear seat leg space with a 356-litre boot which extends with the rear seats folded up to 1,261-litres. There is the usual high quality Audi feel for all surfaces and the RS touches include black Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel with multi-function controls, steering wheel mounted aluminium gearshift paddlers, 6.5-inch display screen, concert sound system with 10 speakers, dual zone climate control, RS bespoke instruments, Audi drive select which influences the steering assistance, exhaust noise control and accelerator response, front and rear park assist and RS Q3 sill trims.
You can actually see, touch, feel and experience what the extra £10,000 adds over the previous top of the range Q3. Whether you actually need all that performance, which is almost faultless, is another issue? As the saying goes, "if you can afford it flaunt it" and the RS Q8 clearly has plenty to flaunt to justify its price.