At least 400 horsepower is expected from the U.S.-bound hot crossover.

Whether we like them or not, performance crossovers are a thing now and likely won’t be going away anytime soon. Some might say Audi is at the forefront of the trend by offering a multitude of tall and fast vehicles, among which we find the RS Q3. The next-generation was spotted this week flexing its Quattro muscles at the Nürburgring while carrying what looks to be the production body.

Aside from the typical oval exhaust tips you’ll find on all RS models, the prototype was exhibiting other traits disclosing its identity. From the big air intakes up front to the large rear spoiler at the back, it’s pretty obvious we’re dealing with the flagship Q3 model. The big wheels and stiffer sports suspension are also signs of a hot crossover, as are the beefier wheel arches suggesting the RS variant will have wider tracks.

The test vehicle even appeared to have a roll cage, but it goes without saying the production-ready RS Q3 won’t have that. Quattro is a given, and so is a turbocharged inline-five engine shared with the RS3 models and the TT RS. Since in those cars it hits the 400-horsepower mark, we’re expecting at least that from the speedy crossover, which will likely channel the oomph through a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The fact that Audi is already testing production-bodied RS Q3 prototype just three weeks after unveiling the regular model could be a hint the range-topping variant will arrive early in the life cycle. That being said, the first to see the light of production day will be the warm SQ3, which should be out at some point in 2019.

Audi’s RS Q3 could have an equivalent in the vast VAG empire as Volkswagen will reportedly launch a Tiguan R as early as this year, although we’re not so sure it will get the five-cylinder unit as it might stick to the 2.0 TSI from the Golf R.

Photos: CarPix, Automedia

Gallery: 2020 Audi RS Q3 spy photos