Audi Quattro vs RS Q3: how quick 4x4s have changed

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Photography: Jonny Fleetwood

Is this unequivocally what 40 years of swell looks like? It’d seem so. When Audi launched a Quattro in 1980, it had a tough time convincing people that a four-wheel-drive sports automobile gimlet no propinquity to a jumped-up off-roader. Now, a worrying suit of a discerning cars it sells are proudly 4×4-shaped.

This doesn’t usually illustrate how Audi’s business have changed, yet how a notice of what a serviceable opening automobile is. Back in a Eighties, it meant a five-cylinder coupe with seating for 5 (ish) and a arrange of excellence that shrinks continents to a distance of a supermarket automobile park. Now, it equates to shoehorning a identical engine into a sodding SUV before stiffening a cessation to high ruin and moulding a quilted leather seats into something bucket-shaped.

But before this becomes too most of a gloomy diatribe about a pointlessness of a discerning crossover, afterwards we need to confront an ungainly truth. There’s some-more in common between a aged Quattro and new RS models like this Q3 than we may think.

See, a RS badge doesn’t have a extraction of M Division or AMG, no matter how convincing a RS6, R8 and some versions of a RS4 have been. Its products have always felt a small soothing and detached beside their arch, home-nation rivals, creation them all a easier to live with on a crappy roads and in a crappy continue genuine life tends to consist of.

Five mins in a classic, ’81 selected Quattro proves that’s always been a quick Audi way. Despite a cable-operated diff thatch and convene interloper styling, this is no scary, thespian homologation special. Attempt to channel your middle Mikkola or Mouton on dry tarmac and you’ll be left a diminutive bit letdown.

It usually grips, grips, grips, this thing. There’s no shambolic understeer – notwithstanding a 2.1-litre engine being flung right out over a front spindle – and nor are there any pulse-quickening shakes of a hips if we get awkward with your inputs. It contingency have felt definitely transformative 40 years ago to expostulate a automobile so trustworthy.  There’s no obligatory need to provide it any some-more smoothly than a stream RS. The approach a dynamics have resisted age is astonishing.

Especially when we remove yourself from a plush, form like seats and mount adult into a distant chintzier RS Q3. It too uses a 5cyl turbo, and notwithstanding a engine being a small 336cc incomparable in size, it’s able of twice a power, a 394bhp rise trouncing this early 10v Quattro’s 197bhp.

Acceleration takes an fundamentally sizeable burst too, with a SUV’s 4.5sec 0-62mph time around 3 seconds down on the sportier looking coupe it domineers. You can put a satisfactory bit of that down to a transmission, though. Where a Quattro’s five-speed primer is looooong geared and prepared to retaliate indolence – with bugger all torque next 2,500rpm – a Q3’s paddleshift automobile couldn’t make life any easier, notwithstanding a engine exhibiting a identical miss of punch during low revs.

You can review section and hymn on how bustling a cessation feels elsewhere on TopGear.com yet with a imagination active dampers propitious to this grey automobile it is tolerable, and as such there’s an effortless, cruel strut to a opening on offer. And an irritating volume of additional usability from a aloft float tallness on a typically hedge-lined behind roads of Britain. It’s deeply uncool to enrich quick SUVs yet there’s no doubt a bit of additional prophesy countenances some-more speed on a wily square of tarmac.

The combined complexity over a Quattro is maybe a biggest impression step change, with dual configurable ‘RS’ modes combined to a unchanging Q3’s Comfort/Auto/Dynamic options. There’s also an astonishing perceptiveness to rev compared to a comparison car, as good as some-more heard 5cyl sound for a occupants interjection to protracted sound. Blasphemous that might be, yet a Quattro can usually seem pale alongside it.

Make no mistake, this Q3 possesses a fanciful engine. It’s roughly rapist Audi no longer puts this in something scrupulously sporty; somehow, a TT RS has never struck idol status. There might be common DNA between a approach these dual undramatically means speed opposite formidable roads, yet one blat in a RS Q3 kinda creates we shrug your shoulders, admire a abilities, and resume a calmer pace. Potentially for a rest of your lease deal.

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In a Quattro, we merely interpretation you’ve not scratched divided adequate during a surface. There’s implicit talent to be uncorked simply by digging into your possess joining reserves, and abounding rewards for gripping a gears low, revs high and a engine bubbling. And my word, can we usually start to suppose what a demonstration this contingency be on looser surfaces.

You’d never tell from these pictures, yet sleet fell in a initial hour of a photoshoot of these two. I’ve never wished for it to feature and douse a highway aspect more. Drive an RS Q3 fast and we feel like a prime predicament primogenitor with a indicate to prove. Drive a 40-year-old forerunner with identical effect and you’ll have prolonged given descended into a Special Stage day dream, hypothetical crowds in Eighties clothes dispersing as we propel by the scenery.

Audi Quattro (1980)

Engine: 2144cc 5cyl turbo, 197bhp, 210lb ft
Transmission: five-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph in 7.5secs (est), 137mph tip speed
Weight: 1290kg
Price now: £30,000 (plus!)

Audi RS Q3 Sportback (2020)

Engine: 2480cc 5cyl turbo, 394bhp, 354lb ft
Transmission: seven-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.5secs, 155mph tip speed
Weight: 1700kg
Price: £53,600

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