Business Maverick


Objects of envy — the Audi RS 4 Avant and Q3 Sportback Black Edition

Objects of envy — the Audi RS 4 Avant and Q3 Sportback Black Edition
The Audi RS 4 Avant. (Photo: Audi SA)

Driving a new set of wheels weekly can entice glances of admiration, but it can also attract the ‘evil eye’.

One of the obvious benefits of being a car journo is the constant stream of new cars I’ve had the pleasure of test-driving over the past 15 years, never mind the exotic places I’ve been privileged to visit courtesy of swanky launches. The downside of the job is that rocking up in a brand new set of wheels on a weekly basis can attract the “evil eye”. 

The evil eye is an age-old curse particularly popular in Greek culture. It’s believed that when someone is jealous of you, a green-eyed detractor can curse you with an “evil glare” and send bad luck your way. 

A decade ago, when I lived in Orange Grove in Joburg, an envious neighbour often spied on me through her grimy curtains. She decided that with the constant turnover of new cars outside my property, I must be part of a hijacking syndicate.

As a result, I had to endure a late-night visit from the Norwood police who demanded to see the papers of the brand new 3-Series and Range Rover Evoque that were parked in my humble driveway. I had to use my gift of the gab to get out of that one. The cops only left me alone after I showed them some of my car reviews that had been published online. 

Then there was my infamous Ferrari accident. After having an almighty crash in my “on-loan-for-the-day” R3.2-million set of wheels, T-boned by a massive seven-seat Pajero, I became obsessed with the idea that the accident had been willed by jealous detractors who envied what looked like my high-flying lifestyle. 

(In reality, I was far from “livin’ la vida loca”: as a single mom, I was struggling to pay my bond, grocery bills and my sons’ school fees.) When it came to the accident, I’d committed a human error and misjudged an intersection, but in my accident-addled mind, thoughts of the evil eye persisted.

The RS 4 Avant has generous boot space. (Photo: Audi SA)

Audi RS 4 Avant

Recently, I was somewhat relieved when I got the almighty Audi RS 4 Avant a week before I was due to travel to the Franschhoek Literary Festival. While the idea of popping and growling around the demure streets of book-loving Franschhoek did appeal to my darker side, with it being a R1.5-million sporty racer, I worried about attracting evil eye attention from fellow “struggling-to-pay-the-bills” authors.

Let’s face it: most writers are battling to make ends meet, never mind being able to afford an “in your face” performance beast. So I not-so-calmly drove it around Cape Town.

The RS 4 has an illustrious heritage. It debuted in 1999 as the B5 Audi RS 4 Avant quattro. In 2012, it was reintroduced as the straight RS 4 based on the Audi A4, but in avant (station wagon) guise. Brandishing the high-performance RS badge (which stands for RennSport [racing sport] in German), it incorporated Audi’s trademark quattro permanent four-wheel drive system.

The current fourth-generation RS 4 was introduced in 2017, and so the wheels I had for the week were not exactly new. I was soon to discover that it’s one of those vehicles that has lost none of its oomph or charm, despite being seven years old. This iteration will probably be the last pure petrol RS 4 as the fifth generation, scheduled to be released in 2026 as the RS 5, will employ hybrid power. 

The RS 4 Avant is good for 0-100kms in just 4.1 seconds. (Photo: Audi SA)

I had a memorable time racing around in my RS 4, with its hugely charismatic 2.9-litre twin-turbo petrol V6 engine which offers 331kW of power and a mind-boggling 600Nm of torque. While it looks like a well-behaved station wagon, it behaves nothing like one, hurtling from 0-100km in just over four seconds.

If, like me, you are attracted to aural racing heaven, you can employ the RS Sports Exhaust System Plus which gets the RS 4 to make adrenaline-inducing pops, growls and crackles. 

Inside, it’s classic Audi subtle luxury with solid quality throughout. I found it especially pleasurable to place my posterior on the electrically adjustable heated sport seats which are trimmed in black leather and Dinamica microfibre (a suede-like material). Even the seatbelts are red-edged for a sporty feel. 

Despite its age, there’s nothing dated about the tech, which is intelligent and intuitive. Because it’s a station wagon, the bonus is the generous boot space of just under 500 litres. When the rear seats are down, there are 1,495 litres on hand. The only downside to this “family racer” is that it loves to slug on juice. While Audi claims a consumption figure of 9.2L/100 km, I got much closer to 13.5L/100 km, but I wasn’t exactly behaving.  

The Audi Q3 Sportback Black Edition. (Photo: Audi SA)

Audi Q3 Sportback Black Edition

The following week I was somewhat relieved to have a more demure but subtly classy luxury crossover, the Audi Q3 Sportback Black Edition, as my test-drive wheels for the Franschhoek literary fest. It’s far less in your face than the RS 4, so I reckoned I’d blend in well among the tribe of scribes. 

The Q3 has been around for a while. It was initially designed as a concept car by Julian Hoenig, Audi’s design wunderkind. (He also created a futuristic Audi RSQ for the 2004 movie I, Robot and went on to become the senior designer at Lamborghini.) 

Hoenig’s Q3 concept, which had a fabric folding roof, an electrically controlled boot and a 4-cylinder 2.0 TDI engine, was unveiled at the Shanghai motor show in 2007. When it went into production in 2011, it soon became one of Audi’s most successful volume sellers. The second-generation Q3 was unveiled in 2018 but only landed in South Africa in 2020. 

Heated sports seats come as standard. (Photo: Audi SA)

The second-gen Q3 I drove to Franschhoek, the 35 TFSI Sportback, now comes in a “Black Edition”, a special variant recently introduced by Audi to sweeten the appeal of its core models like the Q3, the Q2 and A3 by including some add-ons as standard. 

Looks-wise, the most noticeable difference in my Black Edition Q3 was some strategically placed gloss-black exterior detailing to complement its coupe-like lines. Inside, the first things I noticed were the new as-standard electrically adjustable sports seats which also come heated. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, which is one of the most pleasurable ones I’ve gripped all year, is also part of the Black Edition offering, as is the panoramic sunroof. 

While “Black Edition” may sound like there is a sporty element to it, there’s been no change to its 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, good for 110kW/250 Nm. It’s clearly not a racer like its RS 4 stablemate, coasting from 0-100km in an unhurried 9.3 seconds.

When I arrived in Franschhoek to attend the lit fest as both an author and a publisher, I blended in well in my yummy mummy Audi. With it being one of the wealthiest towns in South Africa, I spotted far more expensive wheels lining the street. Phew. I felt safe from the glare of the evil eye. 

But as I alighted from my Q3 to grab a sidewalk coffee, I heard the dreaded voice of a particularly bitter author. “Oooh, you’re doing well, Melinda,” she hissed. “New wheels, I see. It must be good to be making money off your authors.” 

The evil eye was alive and kicking. 

I promptly headed for the nearby stationer and bought a large piece of cardboard, Prestik and a black marker. As I sipped my cappuccino, I hastily scrawled an announcement: “This isn’t my car, I’m just test-driving it.”

For good measure, I also added the “evil eye symbol” (🧿) depicted as four concentric circles in the shape of an eye. I’d read somewhere that it’s used to ward off evil intentions. I promptly stuck it on the inside of the Q3’s slanted rear window. I then turned to my detractor and asked her if she needed a lift. DM 


Audi RS 4 Avant: R1,547,100

Audi Q3 Sportback 35 TFSI Black Edition: R893,650  


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