Small, tall, and quick as hell

Audi first kicked off production of the Q3 luxury subcompact crossover in 2011 for the 2012 model year, following it up with a series of refreshes in 2014 and 2015. Also offered as a pair of tuned versions from Audi Sport GmbH under the SQ3 and RS Q3 nomenclature, it looks as though the Four Rings is gearing up to release a second generation for the go-faster Q3’s, as evidenced by this series of spy shots showing a black-and-white test mule out and about for some apex huntin’ at the Nurburgring.

Update 03/29/2019: The 2020 Audi RS Q3 was caught testing in the mountains, this time in near-production guides with less camo than ever. Check out the latest spy shots as well as some updated information in our “Spy Shots” section below.

Spy Shots

March 29, 2019 – Production Ready in the Mountains

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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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 SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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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 SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots
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2020 Audi SQ3 / 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.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Styling

  • Quad tips for the SQ3, oval tips for the RS Q3
  • Larger wheels than the standard model, up to 20 inches
  • Large Singleframe grille in front
  • Black mesh insert
  • Black trim details throughout
  • LED lighting as standard
  • Pumped-up wheel arches
  • Sharp new taillight housings
2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots Wallpaper quality
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Both the SQ3 and RS Q3 will come with larger wheels than the standard Q3 models, with the RS getting impressive 20-inchers.

First off, we should mention that we’re unsure whether the Q3 test mule pictured here is the SQ3 or RS Q3. While it might have quad exhaust tips in the rear like you’d expect from the SQ3 version (Audi’s RS models typically get an oval exhaust tip design), the big brakes have us thinking this is actually the RS instead. We’ll delve more into detail on the stoppers in an upcoming section, but for now, we’ll say that the enormous discs and calipers we see here are definitely way too big for anything less than the hottest-of-the-hot Q3, even if you include the possibility of some optional performance package for the SQ3.

Either way, both the SQ3 and RS Q3 will come with larger wheels than the standard Q3 models, with the S getting 19-inchers and the RS getting 20-inchers.

The second-gen should also bring with it a few new designs to choose from, while under the rollers, you’ll find the upgraded brake calipers get a slick painted finish (silver is the color of choice in the pictures seen here).

Up front, we expect the new go-fast Q to sport a wide Singleframe grille, complete with horizontal dividing lines and a black mesh insert. The bumpers will also get a restyle, while a prominent lower splitter blade will add some sportiness to the lower chin area. The intakes will be a bit larger as well, giving yet another nod to this model’s performance intentions.

Silver trim bits will be used to frame the intakes, while polished aluminum surrounds will be used for the windows and trim bits.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots Wallpaper quality
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Higher up, we expect to find angular, sharp headlight housings, which will be restyled for the new model year.

Higher up, we expect to find angular, sharp headlight housings, which will be restyled for the new model year. LED’s will come as standard, although laser headlights are also a possibility.

Further extended aero stuff will be added along the lower edges of the car, while the fenders will use plumped-up, wide arches as a nod to the glory days of the Audi Quattro rally car.

In back, there should be a prominent rear diffuser below the hatch. Sharp taillight housings will also add extra visual width to the package.

Speaking of which, buyers will have a variety of options at their disposal to make their SQ3 or RS Q3 even more aggressive, including stuff like dark trim, further carbon details, and similar upgrades.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Interior Design

  • Broad, flat dash
  • Layout moves the touchscreen lower on the center console
  • Will include some hard buttons and knobs
  • Fully digital gauge cluster
  • Aluminum, Alcantara, and leather throughout
  • Plenty of carbon details as well
  • Expanded rear legroom
  • Same cargo space as before
2015 Audi RS Q3 Interior
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Note: current Audi RS Q3 pictured here.

We expect the primary touchscreen to move from its spot high on the dash, instead finding a spot on the main center stack.

Although we didn’t get any interior angles with this recent batch of spy photos, we can discern what the next-gen model will bring based on what we’ve seen before.

For starters, the layout will encompass a broad, flat set of surfaces, with high-mounted climate control vents and horizontally mounted inputs. We also expect the primary touchscreen to be moved down lower, migrating from high on the dash and instead finding a spot on the main center stack. Below this will be the climate control inputs, which will be composed of a set of hard buttons and knobs, rather than the two-tiered set-up we’ve seen on models like the A8 or Q8.

Customers will definitely be delighted by the fully digital instrument cluster, also known as the Audi Virtual Cockpit, which will arrive as a replacement for the standard analogue gauges and tiny driver’s information screen we see on the current model. It’s uncertain whether this will come as standard equipment or as an available option, but it would make sense to offer it as an available option on the SQ3 and standard equipment on the RS Q3.

Just ahead of the gauge cluster will be a newly restyled three-spoke steering wheel with thumb-length buttons to control the various infotainment features. A flat bottom and bolstered hand grips add extra performance flair.

As you probably expect, the materials used will be all high-end, with good stuff like aluminum, Alcantara, and leather used throughout. Carbon fiber will also play a major role in the SQ3 and RS Q3’s cabin, lining the central tunnel and door panels. In the foot wells, look for alloy pedals studded with rubber inserts.

Heading into the 2020 model year, the Q3 will get a slightly extended wheelbase with a bit more space inside, especially for those passengers sitting on the rear bench. At the same time, the Q3 is likely to receive roughly the same amount of cargo room, which is currently rated at 16.71 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 50.34 cubic feet with them down.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Drivetrain And Performance

  • SQ3 will get a turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • RS Q3 will get a turbo 2.5-liter five-cylinder
  • 340 horsepower for the SQ3
  • Upwards of 400 horsepower for the RS Q3
  • Quattro AWD as standard across the line
  • Seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox
  • Large brakes
  • Six-pot calipers, ceramic discs
  • MQB platform under the skin
2015 Audi RS Q3 Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Note: current Audi RS Q3 pictured here.

The RS Q3 should get the same 2.5-liter turbo inline five-cylinder as before, an engine configuration pulled from Audi’s rally past.

Given we’re not 100 percent sure which model we’re dealing with here, we’ll cover our powertrain expectations for both the SQ3 and the RS Q3 in this section.

Let’s kick it off with the SQ3, which comes equipped with the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant, the same engine Audi uses with the S3 sedan. In the standard four-door model, the 2.0-liter produces upwards of 310 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. However, in the SQ3, we could see Audi bump it up to as high as 340 horsepower. If that’s the case, the run from 0 to 60 mph would be completed in the high-four-second range, besting the current model’s time of 5 seconds flat.

Meanwhile, the RS Q3 should get the same 2.5-liter turbo inline five-cylinder as before, an engine configuration often seen as a nod to Audi’s rally Quattro past. For now, the RS Q3 produces as much as 340 horsepower (367 horsepower in the Performance model), and moving forward, the second-gen will likely top the 400-horse mark heading into the 2020 model year.

That’s a number we’ve seen before, specifically on the RS3 and TTRS, both of which get 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque from their respective five-cylinders. All told, it’s a substantial increase for the RS Q3, and should undercut the compact’s 0-to-60 mph time from 4.4 seconds to 4 seconds flat, perhaps even dipping into the high-3-second range.

As always, both the SQ3 and RS Q3 will come with quattro AWD as standard across the line. Making the connection between the engine and the drive system will be a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch transmission, also offered as standard across the range.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots Wallpaper quality
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Moving closer to the pavement, we find this tester comes equipped with a rather sizable brake package.

Moving closer to the pavement, we find this tester comes equipped with a rather sizable brake package, including large multi-piston calipers and drilled discs created from what appears to be a ceramic carbon compound. The brakes in front look to utilize six-piston units to clamp the large, lightweight discs.

All these cues lend themselves to our thinking that this is indeed an RS Q3 rather than the SQ3. The fact it was caught testing with a production RS3 and TT RS lends further credence to that idea.

A lowered suspension is obviously part of the equation as well, possibly with some adaptive dampers and similar components to boot. Look for multiple drive modes to offer a blend of sportiness and comfort. Even more speed can be had by upgrading to the top-dog performance model, which will add in extra power, beefier suspension pieces, and further aesthetic treatments.

As we mentioned before, the Q3 looks as though it’ll get a longer wheelbase than before, which will translate over as greater straight-line stability behind the wheel, but less willingness to turn in the corners. Combined with a tall ride, front-biased weight distribution, and AWD layout, the Q3 will have quite a few setbacks to overcome in the handling department. However, Audi is well-versed in making these sorts of platform carve the curves, so look for the marque’s superlative tech to take up the slack.

Under the skin will be Volkswagen’s new MQB platform. These latest-and-greatest bones boast improved rigidity, which is great for putting those adaptive suspension components to work. It’ll also get a lower weight, cutting as much as 110 pounds when compared to the outgoing model’s underpinnings.

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Prices

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots Wallpaper quality
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With the standard Q3 lining up for a reveal later in 2018, we expect the SQ3 and RS Q3 to hit the market for the 2020 model year. First out the gate will be the SQ3, which will see a debut about a year after the standard model’s big sheet pull.

Buyers will have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to outfitting theirs to taste, such as upgraded automatic safety features (lane guidance, active cruise control, etc.), upgraded navigation equipment, and an upgraded Bose stereo, not to mention tons of trim bits for both the interior and exterior styling. Finally, the diehard speed lovers out there will want to go for the Performance package.

As for pricing, we think a small increase over the current MSRP makes sense, perhaps as much as 3,000 pounds compared to the current model. For now, the RS Q3 starts at 44,785 pounds ($60,661 at current exchange rates).

2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Competition

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

2015 Mercedes GLA45 AMG High Resolution Exterior
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Like its Audi competition, the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 brings the small crossover segment directly into the high-performance arena. Under the hood, the Merc is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, which was tuned by AMG’s engineers to produce upwards of 375 horsepower. Properly applied, it’s enough to catapult the GLA to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Outside, you’ll find bold styling with a large central intake and plenty of silver trim, while the interior comes complete with Alcantara and leather upholstery, carbon fiber details, and a flat-bottom sport steering wheel.

Read our full review of the 2015 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45.


2017 BMW X1 M Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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As goes Audi and Mercedes, so goes BMW. With that in mind, the Bavarians are definitely cooking up an M’d version of their compact crossover, the X1. Outside, we’re expecting the usual kidney grille and large lower intake treatment for the front fascia, plus a lower ride height and larger split-spoke wheels. Inside the cabin, Bimmer will outfit the X1 M with leather upholstery and a wide horizontal dash. Most importantly, the pumped-up crossover will rock upwards of 350 horsepower from a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine.

Read our full speculative review of the 2019 BMW X1 M.


2020 Audi SQ3 / RS Q3 Exterior Spyshots Wallpaper quality
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Audi is going big on the fast and luxurious models lately, offering up a variety of hot-to-trot iterations like the RS 3 RS 4, RS 6 Avant, and TT RS, while also bolstering its SUV lineup with the likes of the upcoming RS Q8.

That’s quite a few reinforcements to take on Mercedes-AMG and other like-minded vehicles, and enthusiasts are all the better for it. All told, the segment is looking mighty impressive these days, and we’re excited to see how the new go-faster Q3 fits the niche at the compact side of the spectrum.

With more power, sharper handling, updated styling, and the latest interior gear, it should make for a tempting proposition indeed.

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


2017 - 2018 Audi Q3
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Read our full review on the 2018 Audi Q3.

2015 Audi RS Q3 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2015 Audi RS Q3.

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Read more Audi news.

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.

Jonathan Lopez
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