Performance versions of compact premium SUVs are all the rage right now, and Audi has responded by revealing the second generation of its bonkers RS Q3. Available in standard form and the new, low-slung Sportback body style, this latest version comes with even more stratospheric headline figures to prepare for battle against the forthcoming Mercedes-AMG GLA 45.

The beloved 2.5 litre turbocharged five-cylinder engine continues its service, but a comprehensive diet has seen it drop as much as 26 kg, with 18 kg shaved off by the new aluminium crankcase alone; the hollow-bored crankshaft saves another kilogram. Extensive measures to reduce friction include plasma-coated cylinder liners and smaller crankshaft main bearings, and the pistons feature integrated oil-cooling channels.

All this allows the RS Q3 to push out even more power – a stout 400 hp from 5,850 to 7,000 rpm and 480 Nm of torque between 1,950 to 5,850 rpm, to be exact. That’s 33 hp and 15 Nm more than even the previous range-topping performance model, but still a little bit short on the 421 hp and 500 Nm coming from AMG’s M139 2.0 litre turbo four – in full-fat S trim – that will find its way into the GLA.

Still, that’s enough to get the car from zero to 100 km/h in just 4.5 seconds, and with the raised speed limiter, it will be able to hit 280 km/h. Despite this, the RS Q3 is still capable of a combined fuel consumption figure of between 8.8 and 8.9 litres per 100 km, thanks in part to a switchable water pump that stops coolant from circulating through the cylinder head on cold starts, helping the engine warm up faster.

The engine is linked to a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, plus torque vectoring by braking. The standard passive RS sport suspension lowers the car by 10 mm, and you can also spec RS sport suspension plus with Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) dampers. You’ll also find RS-tuned “progressive” steering that quickens the ratio as the steering angle increases.

On the outside, the RS Q3 is set apart from the standard Q3 through an aggressive front fascia which, like the new RS6 and RS7, ditches the surround for the “singleframe” grille, allowing the honeycomb structure to be set deeper into the fascia. There are also larger air intakes, boomerang-shaped blades and flat slits above the grille that are fast becoming an Audi Sport signature.

The wheel arch box flares are 10 mm wider to house the larger alloy wheels, which measure 20 or 21 inches. Hiding behind them are steel brakes with six-piston callipers at the front, with carbon ceramic front discs and aluminium monoblock callipers optional. The rear end gets a longer tailgate spoiler, a larger rear diffuser and massive twin oval tailpipes leading from the dual-branch exhausts (an RS sport exhaust is optional).

Inside, you’ll find optional RS sport seats with integrated headrests and Nappa leather, plus a variety of RS design packages and decorative trim in either Aluminium Race, piano black or carbon fibre. The Audi virtual cockpit instrument cluster features an RS-specific design as standard, while the upgraded virtual cockpit plus adds special RS displays with information on power, torque, lap times, g-forces and acceleration times.

There’s also the Audi drive select that features two customisable RS modes – selectable on the flat-bottomed RS sport leather steering wheel – as well as new paddle shifters and Audi Sport projection puddle lights.

GALLERY: 2020 Audi RS Q3


GALLERY: 2020 Audi RS Q3 Sportback