Small, tall, and quick as hell

LISTEN 17:34

The 2020 Audi RS Q3 is the high-performance, range-topping version of the second-generation Q3. Unveiled in 2019, the 2020 RS Q3 is now available in two versions, just like the regular Q3. There’s the standard compact SUV with the wagon-style roof and a new Sportback model with a sleeker, coupe-style roof and different design cues. While the RS Q3 continues to go against high-power version of the BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, the RS Q3 Sportback is aimed at the likes of the BMW X2. The 2020 RS Q3 continues to feature the old 2.5-liter inline-five engine, but it now generates more oomph at 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. Let’s find out more about it in the review below.

Exterior

  • Redesigned body
  • New Sportback version
  • Sportier look overall
  • Muscular fenders
  • New LED lights
  • Dual exhaust layout
  • Sporty rear diffuser
  • Black grille
left right

The new RS Q3 doesn’t stray too far off the previous design. It’s still a compact and boxy crossover with muscular fenders and some aggressive design features that are specific to RS models. Up front, we can notice two massive changes. The headlamps are no longer almost rectangular as on the old model, but become wider toward the sides. They also include a new LED pattern with three almost vertical bars at the bottom, with one extending toward the grille and one going up toward the upper, outer edge of the lamp.

The grille is the second big change, now increasingly wider in the center, which gives the crossover a far more aggressive look. The frame of the Singleframe grille is now completely body colored, while the mesh itself has been upgraded as well. There’s also a really thin vent between the engine hood and the upper grille and reshaped vents in the bumper. The hood itself features a couple more character lines for a muscular look, while the front fenders also feel sportier than before.

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
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Onto the sides, the new RS Q3 boasts similar proportions and arrangement of the doors and windows, but the SUV is a bit more athletic now thanks to the two-tier side skirts with grey inserts and the beefed-up rear haunches.

The rear of the RS Q3 isn’t a radical departure from the old model and it looks just about the same in the upper half. However, it features new taillights that are larger and feature Y-shaped LED patterns. There’s also a bigger scallop in the tailgate that goes into the fenders to meet the outer edges of the taillights. The diffuser integrated into the rear bumper is decidedly sportier than before and features a silver character line. More importantly, the RS Q3 now features two exhaust pipes instead of just one. The outlets are also much bigger than before.

The 2020 Audi RS Q3 Sportback looks notably different

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
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The Sportback model may share its front fascia with the regular RS Q3, but it stands out when seen from the sides and from the rear. The biggest change to the profile is the roof. Instead of a wagon-style roofline like a typical SUV, the Sportback looks more like a coupe. The roofline starts to descent slightly from the B-pillar, but the slope becomes more aggressive after the C-pillar, from where it descends more abruptly until it meets a short decklid. This design also changes the configuration of the side windows, as the the rear-door windows become flatter toward the back, while the quarter windows feature a smaller, triangular design.

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
- image 863568

The rear now features a short decklid between the lower edge of the rear window and the fascia. The fascia itself looks the same as the regular model, but the bumper includes vertical vents toward the sides and a black trim at the bottom. The diffuser remains identical, but all chrome trim is replaced with gloss-black elements.

Interior

  • Redesigned dashboard
  • New infotainment display in the center stack
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Flat-bottom steering wheel
  • Sporty seats
  • Leather and Alcantara
  • Available carbon-fiber
  • Contrast stitching
  • More luggage room than before
  • Sportback model a bit cramped in the back
2020 Audi RS Q3 Interior
- image 863549

While the exterior still bears some resemblance to the old model, the interior is a completely different story. As it should happen with every redesign, Audi created the interior on a clean sheet, so everything looks modern, more ergonomic, and in this case sportier too. The old layout with the infotainment display placed atop the dashboard is gone, replaced by a larger, better screen mounted in the center stack. The control unit below is much simpler now, as many functions have been moved into the touchscreen to unclutter the center stack. The instrument cluster is also fully digital now, so don’t look for analog gauges, unless you like them projected on a screen. The steering wheel retains the flat-bottom design, but the controls have been revised, while the lower RS spoke now comes in chrome.

2020 Audi RS Q3 Interior
- image 863479

As before, sports seats come standard and they’re wrapped in black leather and Alcantara with RS embossing. If these aren’t sporty or fancy enough, you can go with RS seats in fine Nappa leather, honeycomb pattern, and integrated head restraints. This is the first time when Audi is offering the RS seats on a Q3 model. All stitching is black as standard, but you can add some contrast by selecting red or blue stitching from the options list.

2020 Audi RS Q3 Interior
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Go with of the two RS Design packages in red or blue and highlights on the steering wheel rim, belt straps, floor mats, and gear lever are colored too. With the extended RS Design packages, the panels and door armrests are trimmed in red or blue Alcantara. Trim comes in aluminum and anthracite finishes, but you can opt for piano, black, or carbon-fiber. For the first time, Audi will allow you to combine options so that the interior can be finished entirely in black.

Is the 2020 Audi RS Q3 roomier than before?

2020 Audi RS Q3 Interior
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As far as passenger room goes, the RS Q3 remains pretty much similar to the outgoing model since it’s only marginally bigger. However, the Sportback model isn’t as generous when it comes to rear passenger space due to its coupe-style roof. When it comes to luggage space, the RS Q3 swallows up to 18.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats, a two-cubic-foot increase over the old model. With the second-row folded flat, the capacity increases to 53.9 cubic feet, which is 10.3 cubic feet more than the outgoing Q3. The Sportback model isn’t as roomy at 49.4 cubic feet, but it’s still an extra 2.8 cubic feet compared to the old crossover.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Drivetrain And Performance

  • Upgraded 2.5-liter five-cylinder
  • 400 horsepower
  • 354 pound-feet of torque
  • More powerful than old model
  • 0 to 62 in 4.5 seconds
  • Top speed at 174 mph
  • Quattro AWD standard
  • Seven-speed automatic
  • Sports suspension
  • Optional ceramic brakes
2020 Audi RS Q3 Drivetrain
- image 863459

While most automakers now opt for downsizing, including when it comes to high-performance models, Audi opted to keep the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine from the old model. But the mill had many of its internals updated and it now comes in at 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, which is more than the old model.

Is the 2020 Audi RS Q3 more powerful than its predecessor?

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
- image 863540

The new RS Q3 is actually a lot more powerful than the old model. The previous crossover came with 340 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque, so the redesigned hauler benefits from an extra 60 horses and 22 pound-feet. The 2020 model also packs more punch the previous RS Q3 Performance, rated at 367 horses and 343 pound-feet. With an extra 33 horsepower and 11 pound-feet at its disposal, the 2020 RS Q3 is the most powerful Q3 ever built!

Is the 2020 Audi RS Q3 faster than its predecessor?

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
- image 863535

The 2020 model needs only 4.5 seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start, which makes it three tenths quicker than its predecessor. It’s also two tenths quicker than the old Performance version.

Nothing changed in the top speed department, but that’s hardly an issue. The RS Q3 is limited to 155 mph as standard, but you can optionally lift the limit to 174 mph, just like on the outgoing model.

The same figures apply to the Sportback version.

The 2.5-liter engine mates to a revised seven-speed S Tronic transmission that’s capable to handle the extra power. Oomph flows to all four wheels through Audi’s familiar Quattro all-wheel-drive system.

2020 Audi RS Q3 Drivetrain
- image 863509

The RS Q3 is also fitted with an Audi Drive Select feature that alters the way the steering, suspension, transmission, engine, and AWD systems work depending on the driving mode you select. You can choose between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency, and Individual or you can replace the latter with the new RS modes called RS1 and RS2. These modes can be adjusted through the MMI system and activated by the new RS Mode button on the steering wheel.

The RS Q3 also rides on a sportier suspension system. Lowered by 0.4 inches compared to the standard model it features a MacPherson design with lower wishbones in the front and a four-link setup to the rear. But you can update to the optional RS Sport suspension, which adds Dynamic Chassis Control system with an electrically actuated proportional valve that regulates the flow of oil into the damper pistons. The RS-tuned dampers are then adjusted accordingly to the road surface conditions and driving situation.

2020 Audi RS Q3 Drivetrain
- image 863502

Stopping power comes from all-new six-piston RS brakes measuring 14.8 inches in the front and 12.2 inches in the rear. The optional RS ceramic brakes include 15-inch discs in the front and 12.2-inch discs in the rear, as well as aluminum calipers.

How much does the 2020 Audi RS Q3 cost?

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
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The second-generation RS Q3 isn’t available in the United States, but it starts from €62,386 in Europe. The Sportback version is a bit more expensive at €63,848 before options. For reference, the regular Q3 and Q3 Sportback models come in at €34,020 and €35,579, respectively.

Is the 2020 Audi RS Q3 better than the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45?

2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA High Resolution Exterior
- image 700303

The AMG GLA 45 is the RS Q3’s main rival since BMW doesn’t offer a beefed-up version of the X1. The GLA 45 doesn’t look quite as sporty as the RS, but it matches the Audi in terms of premium features and technology, because it’s also relatively new, having been launched in 2019. Output-wise, the GLA 45 comes with 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet on tap, which means that it falls behind the Audi by 18 horses. However, Mercedes offers the GLA 45 S, which comes with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to 416 horses and 369 pound-feet. That’s an extra 16 horsepower and 15 pound-feet compared to the RS Q3. As a result, the Merc is two tenths quicker to 62 mph at 4.3 seconds. The AMG GLA 45 is notably more affordable at €52,838, but the GLA 45 S is on par with the Audi at €61,190.

Read our full story on the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

Is the 2020 Audi RS Q3 better than the Volkswagen T-Roc R?

The New Volkswagen T-Roc R Is More Than Just a Sporty Variant Of The T-Roc
- image 827873

BMW might not have a potent X1 right now, but Volkswagen recently introduced an R version of the T-Roc. But this SUV is worth looking into if you want a more affordable alternative to the RS. The T-Roc R may look attractive on the outside, but it’s not as well equipped as the Audi. It’s engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, isn’t as powerful either at 296 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Still, it’s not awfully slower since it can hit 62 mph in 4.9 seconds, four tenths behind the RS. The T-Roc R starts from €44,231, making it a whopping €18,000 more affordable than the RS Q3. Add all the good options and the T-Roc R won’t set you back more than €55,000.

Read our full review of the Volkswagen T-Roc R

Is the 2020 Audi RS Q3 Sportback better than the BMW X2?

2018 BMW X2 - Updated
- image 740706
Modern looks

Unlike the X1, the X2 is available with an M-badged model. But it’s not a full-fledged X2 M. Instead, BMW is offering hte M35i, a trim powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four that generates 302 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. That’s a solid 98 horsepower and 22 pound-feet less than the RS Q3, but the Bimmer is only two tenths slower from 0 to 62 mph. The good news is that the X2 is well equipped in this trim, so you’ll get similar features and technology. The X2 M35i is also notably more affordable than the RS Q3 at €54,490, leaving room for around €9,000 worth of options.

Read our full story on the BMW X2

Conclusion

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior
- image 863568

With only Mercedes-Benz offering a high-performance vehicle in this segment in recent years, it’s good to see the RS Q3 making a comeback with more power than before. Now also with better tech, a roomier trunk, and a more appealing exterior, the Audi RS Q3 has what it takes to divert some customers from Mercedes-AMG dealerships. The Sportback model is by far the most interesting one, not only because it looks sleeker, but because it offers the market a new performance alternative it can’t get anywhere else.

  • Leave it
    • Very expensive
    • If you want a fast Audi, why not get a sedan?
    • Not coming to the U.S.

Update History

Update 01/10/2019: The Audi RS Q3 was caught on camera playing in the snow only this time, it’s taken more of a production-ready appearance that pushes us to believe Audi looks to compete with the new AMG A45. Check out our spy shots section below to see the images and learn about the latest developments.

Update 5-17-2018: The Audi SQ3 \ RS Q3 was just spotted playing around on the Nurburgring and little has changed but our photographers have reported some new information. Check out our update section below for all the details.

Spy Shots

March 29, 2019 – Production Ready in the Mountains

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
- image 833289

Our spy photographers actually caught two different prototypes of the 2020 Audi RS Q3, and that’s a good thing because we’ve learned twice as much this time around. Now, at a glance, there isn’t much that’s changed, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that the blue model is actually wearing a production front fascia. Yeah, it resembles the models we saw back in January, but a closer look reveals even larger air intakes and a more toned central grille. Furthermore, the air dam it more chiseled as well. Around back, the official production exhaust outlets are in place, albeit, without the chrome plating. The side profile, however, yields some interesting developments, the most obvious of which is the new, unique wheel design. Behind those wheels sit cross-drilled rotors and BLUE brake calipers. Those blue calipers are actually symbolic of something special – Audi could be planning to include blue brake calipers with every set of ceramic brakes – similar to what Porsche does by paining its calipers yellow on models with ceramic brakes. As of now, there’s no word on when the RS Q3 will actually make its debut but, given the condition of these two prototypes, we can probably plan on seeing the official debut by the end of summer 2019.

January 10, 2019 – The Audi RS Q3 Breathes Deeper as it Plays In Snow

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
- image 813542
2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
- image 813549

First off, the images you see here confirm that Audi is, indeed, bringing those massive drilled rotors and six-piston calipers to the production model. This time around, however, it looks like Audi has made some pretty serious adjustments that point toward the fact that it’s looking to match or beat the Mercedes-AMG A45. The Spoiler in the rear has actually gotten larger over the last six months, and the rear fascia is now more detailed and features a tuned diffuser for better aerodynamics. This prototype has wider side sills as well, but what really matters is the front fascia that now features much larger are intakes. Now, it’s questionable as to whether or not this is just for aesthetic purposes – Lord knows automakers have gone overboard with fake vents these days – or if it’s actually evidence that Audi needed more air as it pushes the RS Q3 beyond the 400-horsepower mark to better compete with Mercedes. We’re hoping for the latter but, then again, the Civic Type R has similar vents that are fake but as noticeable as a bad combover.

May 27, 2018 – Audi RS Q3 on the Nurburgring

2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
- image 780742
2020 Audi RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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This time around, very little has changed physically. Camo has been dropped from the roof, but that’s not of any real importance. The rear exhaust outlets are also lifted higher into place like they’re ready for production tips. But that’s not really important either. What’s important are the reports that we got with these photos and that is that the RS3 passed by right before the RS Q3, and when it did it let out that same beautiful exhaust note. That means that we’re looking at rather potent inline-five. It should deliver some 400 horsepower which should be more than enough power. It also has larger brakes with drilled, ceramic discs and six-piston calipers. That means that this prototype is, indeed, the RS Q3 and not the lesser SQ3. Expect a debut sometime in the next nine months or sooner, considering the fact that this thing looks damn near production ready.

Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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