Are fast SUVs like the Audi RS Q3 going to kill off the hot hatch?
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The humble hatchback segment is already treading on thin ice somewhat given the shrinking level of interest that surrounds it, as SUVs steal probable customers with their greater levle of practicality.
Could the hot hatch game go the same way?
It's a question we pose as Audi unveils its latest fast SUV pairing; the RS Q3 and the RS Q3 Sportback.
The new models represent the new pinnacle for Audi's small Q3 crossover. And, there's one element that's sure to get even the most ardent SUV-hating enthusiast a little bit excited.
It's no surprise given the aggressive styling on both body-shapes that power is in abundance. Both manage to throw down 294kW of power and 480Nm of torque. A 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive mean minimal dramas with transferring that gulp of power to the road.
The 100km/h sprint comes is covered in just 4.5 seconds, with top speed limited to 250km/h. Some markets will remove the limiter as an optional extra, which boosts top speed to 280km/h.
But no, the numbers aren't necessarily what the enthusiast will get excited about. Nope, it's actually the format of the metallic heart that makes all that power. The engine underneath the bonnet isn't a mere turbocharged four-cylinder like most of the RS Q3's likely rivals. Instead, it's a screaming five cylinder.
To be precise it's a turbocharged 2.5-litre TFSI five-pot, similar in background to the engine that powers the RS Q3's RS3 hot hatch cousin. The power and torque output of the RS3 is identical to the RS Q3, making the pairing probably rivals in the showroom.
While neither model has been confirmed for New Zealand just yet, Audi Australia has said that the SUV double act will land during the second quarter of next year.
A meaty engine and meaty looks are backed up in the RS Q3 with a raft of other performance upgrades.
Sport-tuned suspension minimises body-roll and lowers overall ride-height by 10mm, steering has been given a tweak for improved immediacy, and the brakes have been beefed up. In standard form buyers get 6-piston calipers and vented and drilled steel discs all round; 375mm up front, 310mm rear.
Buyers can option for a ceramic system if they're not satisfied with that. They can also option RS Sport suspension with Dynamic Chassis Control.
The Audi RS Q3 is hardly the first quick SUV out there. BMW has the X2 M35i and X3 M40i, SEAT has the value-packed Cupra Ateca, Tesla has the ludicrously quick Model X of course, Alfa Romeo has the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Jeep has the Trackhawk ... the list goes on and on.
While the higher centre of gravity in these vehicles inherently makes them compromised to drive hard compared with a low-slung and sleep hot hatch, car-makers have realised that there are a great number of enthusiast buyers who want a fun car that can accommodate mature needs. Like having buckets of surplus space for the school run or a handy towing capacity.
The hatchback's greatest hopes for survival? Well, it may have to be the electric-car market and its thirst for light, aerodynamic shapes ...