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Audi RS Q3 & Cupra Formentor VZ 5 tested against Mercedes-AMG GLA

Audi RS Q3 and Cupra Formentor VZ 5 entice with Audi's five-cylinder turbo. Why the four-cylinder Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S still wins this test.

Above all, we think the Audi five-cylinder is heartwarming. Others regard it as earth-warming and wish it to be in the Museum of Technology. But we wanted it in the underground car park - in the RS Q3 and in the Cupra Formentor VZ5. In addition, there is the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S, which lacks a piston for the quintet, but its quartet does quite a bit.

We would like to say thank you for a moment. But to whom? Who smuggled this wonderful five-cylinder past CEO Markus Duesmann into the Q3 series? One hears that the Audi boss only advocates alternative drives. The 2.5-liter is a wonderful drive alternative - to the four and six-cylinder. At Cupra, Seat's hot-blooded sub-brand, they know this, which is why they wanted to fuel their Formentor with it. In the past, Audi would never have released the five-in-line. Already today, because you want to get rid of all these CO2 spinners.

Get rid? Fortunately, a secret protector interprets this differently and puts these outstanding heat engines like the 2.5-liter in understanding hands. This rescuer would have earned a technical cross of merit, because how much poorer would the sound of the street be without the samba of the five-in-line? Only here does the beat of the odd number of cylinders pulsate in its idiosyncratic syncopation. Incidentally, thanks to the optional sports exhaust, the piston quintet in the RS Q3 covers the original Quattro hit with amazing accuracy, adding rough racing car overtones to the timbre. Of course, that doesn't sound completely different in the Cupra, but the frequency pattern seems sampled: it lacks the original, stimulating refreshing element.

Plenty of effectiveness

You should never underestimate the emotional mixture surrounding the acoustics: How willingly an engine is perceived also depends on the sound coloration. The profound rumbling of the Audi, for example, suggests effectiveness - even if the fifth is still in the lower quarter of its theoretically available performance. They are also familiar with this situation at AMG and have filtered out the typical gene oil from their four-cylinder engine. Instead, he rages and growls, splutters and splutters. Whereby the GLA 45 intones the whole thing a little more subtly than earlier A 45s, which often bombarded some city centers even beyond New Year's Eve.

But the in-line four remains powerful, even in the GLA it loudly draws attention to itself as a drama queen - and performs adequately: Of course, without e-boost, the twin-scroll charger also hangs slightly offset on the gas. But he gets down to business when the five-cylinders are still taking a deep breath. And it gradually increases its output, gradually pushing it harder up to the limiter. In the RS Q3, the engine fire does not burn quite so brightly.As long as the obviously potent machine makes demands far beyond its maximum performance appear as a silly warm-up exercise, nothing stands out negatively. But if you preselect the gears by snapping your fingers, so to speak depriving the electronics of the opportunity to flee into high speeds, the impeller reacts sluggishly. In order to then catch up on what was missed with plenty of punching. Then, however, the best part of the curve has rolled through.

In the Formentor, the double coupler is overwhelmed: you want to give him a helping hand. He grinds endlessly when driving off, searches helplessly for the right gear ratio when downshifting and gets tangled up in activism when there is actually nothing to shift. Here it is better to intervene with the steering wheel paddle, although even then the delayed reaction is annoying.

On the other hand, there is joy when cornering, when the Cupra even spreads its rear slightly when turning in - from a driving dynamics point of view, to reduce the cornering radius. On the meta level as a claim to power, in the sense of: "The curves belong to me." Sounds arrogant, but can be backed up with the fastest times on the test track.

Speaking of off-road: The VZ5 has a drift mode in which it oversteers power. Then, at full throttle, the all-wheel drive sends most of the newton meters to the rear, where it distributes them via torque vectoring via the ring gear and multi-plate clutch to the drive shaft of the wheel on the outside of the curve. However, the Cupra does not go particularly transversely, which fits in that the steering is rather buttoned up. You don't necessarily want to drift at large angles with the Formentor because it seems fidgety in the limit area.

Slight rotation impulse

In the AMG, the front axle is the driving dynamics hotspot, because the all-wheel drive does not want to integrate the rear in a crucial way. One should spare the front too much load before the apex to avoid understeer. The pleasantly grippy steering already announces tendencies and the ESP does not see itself as a measurer like in the Audi. Rather, it gives the rear of the GLA a slight rotational impulse, and the load rotates around the vertical axis.

Ideally, you pack the 45 with the old racing tip "slow into the curve, fast out" with the honor. Then the turbocharger briefly sucks all the oxygen from the environment before the four-cylinder metabolizes it as a mixture cloud. Whereby that probably belongs to a storm front, because the compact SUV is already thundering with decent wind forces from the corner.

Sounds like a lot of fun? Yes indeed! And the comfort? Well, the AMG springs away only the bare essentials, passes on what it considers reasonable, and people in the Swabian town of Affalterbach probably think a lot is reasonable. In any case, more than in Martorell in Spain, and significantly more than in Ingolstadt in Bavaria.There they recognized that everyday life consists of more bumps than curves, and they work through both reliably.

Feels good in the hand

The Audi is fast, without drawing attention to it as specifically as the AMG, feels just as good in the hand, but doesn't nestle so tightly around the driver. In practical terms, it is more helpful: it offers more space for passengers and luggage, entry into the rear is smoother, the backrest of the rear seat can be folded down almost flat.

Nevertheless, the GLA pulls past in the body section because its instruments offer customers more performance data to browse through. Because its center display sits higher and is therefore easier to read from the corner of the eye. Because the infotainment system responds to commands more quickly and is much easier to operate. Because basic functions such as the low beam can be controlled by tactile switches instead of having to fiddle with them using touch surfaces.

In the Formentor, on the other hand, the obstinate auto zoom is annoying. In general, the search for the right scale for the road map is tiring without a rotary knob. And the small icons on the display can hardly be found on the first try while driving. In addition, the Cupra is confusing to the rear due to its small rear window, and the interior has the highest proportion of single-acting plastic. And unlike the RS Q3 and the GLA 45, the rear seat can neither be moved lengthways nor can the backrest be variably inclined.

Drives up in slow motion

This puts him out of the race for first place, although he brakes and turns particularly hard (and has a somewhat nervous directional stability as a disadvantage). Even the fact that it shines in the cost section with the lowest basic price and the best equipment cannot compensate for all the residues - especially not the infotainment system that starts up in slow motion and the slow-witted voice control. We deduct corresponding points from "Multimedia".

The Audi does all of this better, but it has to admit defeat in the internal duel, especially when it comes to driving dynamics - because it focuses on better everyday comfort. Although it is way ahead of the stiff-legged AMG in this respect, it is only enough for a draw in the corresponding chapter. Because the front seats of the Mercedes provide much more lateral support and because the multimedia sub-item has better voice input and usability.

If the comparison test were a race, then the RS Q3 would have a good chance of slowing down its competitor with the star in the last few meters. Because its stoppers ram the tires much more forcefully into the asphalt - interestingly, especially when the discs are hot. But the Mercedes wins in the curves. And thanks to telemetry, to stay in the picture of racing, because its instruments provide more detailed information.In addition, the whole car is more intuitive to use, which means that you can concentrate much better on driving.

In the end, not even the self-confidently high price endangers the victory of the four over the five cylinders.


1.Mercedes 638 points

Smooth feedback, powerful engine, low-distraction operation, rich multimedia buffet and various customizable displays - the ingredients for victory.

2. Audi 631 points

The most comfortable suspension, everyday functionality and the best deceleration values ​​from 130 km/h with a warm brake system are enough for second place.

3. Cupra 619 points

The makers of the Formentor rely on agility and forget to program a smoothly functioning infotainment system. Nevertheless, there is a lot of sport for the money.


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