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Audi RS Q3 concept: baby performance SUV revealed

The Audi RS Q3 concept will be one of the surprise stars of the 2012 Beijing motor show, suggesting that the German car maker will bring its renowned performance RS badge to its SUV range for the first time.

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While Audi says at this stage the RS Q3 is only a concept designed to “explore the potential of the Q3 model series”, we expect the German brand to confirm production of the hotted-up compact SUV in the not-to-distant future.

RS versions of Audi's Q-series range of 4WDs continue the brand's quest to play in market niches, though it would be following both BMW, which has M performance versions of its X5 and X6 SUVs, and Mercedes-Benz, which offers an AMG version of the ML-Class.

The RS Q3 concept is powered by a 2.5-litre direct-injection turbocharged five-cylinder engine with 265kW of power – suggesting it's the same motor used in the Audi TT RS Plus that was unveiled at last month’s Geneva motor show. The RS Q3 concept’s peak torque figure has not been revealed, but should mirror or come close to the 465Nm offered by the TT RS Plus.

A seven-speed 'S-tronic' dual-clutch transmission sends all that power through Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, helping the RS Q3 concept race from 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds and all the way to its 265km/h top speed.

Currently, the most powerful Q3 in Audi Australia’s line-up is 110kW adrift of the RS Q3 concept, and takes an extra 1.7 seconds to accelerate to triple figures.

Inside and out, the RS Q3 concept looks at home alongside the rest of Audi’s flagship RS sports models.

The suspension is lowered 25mm and the body sits on new high-gloss/sandblasted 20-inch alloy wheels. Tinted headlights and gaping lower intakes surround a brushed aluminium-framed black honeycomb grille. Beneath it is a sculpted lower grille with a silver ‘quattro’ signature.

The front spoiler, side skirts, side mirror housings, wheel arch borders and rear diffuser are constructed from carbonfibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) and finished in clear-coat blue and black paint. Two large elliptical tailpipes complete the traditional RS look.

A sunroof adds light to an otherwise shadowy cabin, with black used across the roofliner, floor mats and carpets, leather-upholstered dashboard and large areas of the seats. The darkness is contrasted by flashes of blue in the alcantara seat inserts, carbonfibre trim highlights and stitching on the dashboard, seats and steering wheel.

In a nod to its home crowd in Beijing, the tachometer sports Chinese characters rather than the conventional Arabic numerals.

Debuting at Beijing in near-production form, the Audi RS Q3 is expected to become the first SUV-based RS product from the German manufacturer. It will join the TT RS, RS3, RS5 and the upcoming RS6 in the line-up.

Click the gallery tab at the top to see all the pictures.

Click to read an Audi Q3 Review.