Audi‘s first RS-badged SUV in its “Q” line-up has arrived in South Africa - the RS Q3. Wheels24’s SERGIO DAVIDS finds out whether the new performance SUV can run four rings around its smaller rivals...S3 sportback, S Q5, S1... Audi is launching a host of S-badged vehicles in South Africa. Not to miss out on its share of the limelight, the first of a new generation of RS models have landed on our shores.Audi‘s first RS-badged SUV in its “Q” line-up to arrive in SA - the RS Q3. The latest unit from Audi’s performance specialists combines typical RS driving prowess with the practicality of an SUV. Despite its attractive RS underpinnings and impeccable road manners, this is one performance SUV that you’ll be truly puzzled by... IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Audi RS Q3It's 4.4m long, 1.8m wide and 1.5m tall with a wheelbase of 2.6m and its suspension lowers the SUV by 25mm from the standard Q3. It weighs 1730kg.The Audi RS Q3 retails for *R696 500 and is sold with a five-year or 100 000km Audi Freeway Plan. FIVE-CYLINDER POWERPowering the new model is a five-cylinder 2.5-litre TFSI turbocharged petrol (borrowed from the TT RS and RS 3 Sportback) capable of 228kW/420Nm, mated to a seven-speed S-tronic auto and Quattro all-wheel drive. The transmission offers three modes, auto, comfort and dynamic, with latter altering the engine to be more responsive and the sound that much more audible.The 2.5 TFSI accelerates from 0- 100km/h in 5.2 seconds on to an electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h. Fuel consumption is rated at 8.8-litres/100km with emissions of 206g/km.DRIVING THE RS Q3The new RS Q3 is a car that will surprise particularly in its handling and ride. As to be expected from Audi’s performance division and its Quattro drive, the RS Q3 has superb road holding and balance that belies its size. It’s a shame though that the steering is a huge let down for an otherwise great performance vehicle.Even in dynamic mode, the steering is far too light and disconnected. This results in drivers overcompensating during cornering.Around city centres, it builds on the vanilla Q3’s comfortable ride but there’s the ever present RS power reminding you of its potential. During rapid direction changes, it responds with minimal bodyroll giving you the confidence to perform spirited manoeuvres usually reserved for its RS sedan/hatchback/coupe kin.Putting your foot down and you’re rewarded with the roar, whoops and warumphs associated with an RS model but since you’re much further from the road the acceleration doesn't feel as quick as its smaller siblings and the steering disconnects you from an otherwise great ride. It handles impeccably despite its 1730kg mass and due to its ride height, poor road surfaces are conquered with ease. At the time of publishing, the RS Q3 has no rivals though there’s a German three-pointed star-badged SUV on the horizon, but more on that later...DESIGN TWEAKSCompared to the vanilla Q3 the RS-badged variant benefits from a number of styling tweaks. It has a black honeycomb grille, RS bumpers, body accents, aluminium roof rails, door sill plates and trim strips, quattro emblem on the front air intake and 19” alloys. The rear sports a large roof spoiler, diffuser insert, elliptical exhaust and an RS Q3 logo. The RS Q3 is offered with an aluminium styling package which comprises of enhancements to the flaps in the side air intakes, diffuser trim and spoiler. The interior is enhanced by leather sport seats, black headlining, grey gauges with white scales and red pointers, aluminium pedals and black inlays. Drivers can access vehicle information (boost pressure, oil temperature and lap timer) via the RS menu. Audi’s MMI Navigation plus is standard along with a 14-speaker Bose sound system. Boot space is rated at a claimed 356 litres, which is increased to 1261 litres by folding rear seats. NO RIVALSTo date the RS Q3 has no rivals in its class though its reign could be short-lived with the local introduction of the Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG. The new SUV is powered by a 265kW/450Nm turbocharged 2.0 petrol mated to a seven-speed auto and AMG 4Matic all-wheel drive.OVERALLThe RS Q3 is the automaker’s first compact performance SUV and, bar the temperamental steering, it ticks all the right boxes. I’m still baffled as to the type of customer it will attract though Audi hope to sell 150 units in SA with a claimed 100 on order. Lacklustre steering aside, the RS Q3 is a fantastic combination of high performance and practicality, it begs the question, “Why did Audi need to build it?” Well, it’s more practical than some hot hatches and can run four-rings around many of them.If you're in the market for a super-fast compact SUV for fun after completing a school run and need more space than an S3 hatch can offer, then the Q3 could be the RS model for you. MORE FROM AUDIAudi South Africa will boost its local range later in 2014 with the introduction of its smallest S-badged hatchback yet – the 170kW S1. Powering the latest entrant to the S Quattro series is the Volkswagen Group’s new 2.0-litre TFSI capable of 170kW/370Nm, mated to a short-shift six-speed manual. Audi said it’s considering its RS 6 Avant for introduction in 2015 due to “the popular demand of this model”.The second quarter of 2014 will see the launch of the 200kW Audi TTS Special Edition, new S8 and S3 Cabriolet.Earlier in 2014, Wheels24 reported that Audi’s first S-badged Q5, the S Q5, and third-generation S3 Sportback arrived in SA.*The original figure has been changed following Audi SA releasing incorrect prices at the time of publication.