Audi’s S4 is one of the best-rounded cars I’ve driven lately. This sentiment was expressed by a few other people (all in the know where cars are concerned) that were given brief but eye-opening opportunities to take the car for a spin.
I’d been looking forward to my week with the S4 for a long time, eight years to be exact. The last “S4” car I drove was a B7 2007 RS 4 in the winter of 2006, and in a few words: it blew my mind and hoisted itself to the very top of my WANT list. To be fair, this list is reserved for 4-door sedans over $75k... I’ve got others for wagons, coupes, convertibles, CUVs, and so on and so forth.
In all seriousness, I put over 1,600km on the S4 in a week’s time, and they were some of the most varied, interesting, and revealing I’ve ever driven. On a whim, the girlfriend and I packed a bag and headed to the White Mountains in New Hampshire in search of some “stuff” (not drugs) and Portland, Maine, for some lobster and a GoPro.
Even if the price of a litre of fuel currently hovers around the $1.30 mark (for regular!), who can possibly resist the call of the open road, dingy hotel rooms, questionable fatty meals, and rapidly varying weather conditions especially in early November?
We all have road trip stories, and the younger we were when we embarked on these adventures, the fewer creature comforts and gear we needed. Now that I’m well into my 30s (shut it, Lightstone), I find that I want to not only put as many amenities on my side, but 20km one-way trips will no longer be accomplished with a carbureted 84-horsepower 20-year-old sub-compact car. Also, AWD is now a must, as is satellite radio, big brakes, and seriously good seats.
I’ve become more discerning in my steed selection for the open road nowadays, and I suspect y’all will agree with me that an Audi S4 -- complete with a #savethemanuals gearbox -- is bordering on absolute perfection.
The makings of an S4
Audi car names are simple to make out. The 1st letter is about Audi. The following number situates the car in the line-up. When the “A” is replaced with an “S”, things get serious. The letters “RS” are really serious where performance is concerned.
An S4 is therefore a serious performance-oriented version of Audi’s bread-and-butter compact sedan. As always, what lies under the bonnet is instrumental in giving the car street cred. The S4 thus features the supercharged 3.0L TFSI V6 which generates 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. That’s a big 10-4 on power.
Every S4 gets quattro all-wheel drive with self-locking centre differential and, with my $63,940 tester, the optional sport differential. All-weather traction? You betcha.
Big ventilated discs brakes are all around, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and Magma red-black fine Nappa leather S sport seats, and Mexico really doesn’t seem that far away anymore. When the girlfriend belted out, “Road trip!” I was already strapping myself in behind that sexy flat-bottomed steering wheel.
Hitting the road
Once the bag was thrown into the capacious trunk, we headed south towards the boarder. Road conditions were decent at the time, but I was never worried about grip levels so long as we were only a few metres above sea level.
As we began climbing into the White Mountains National Forest and night fell and temperatures dropped, I did consider slowing my pace, but so true did the S4 track around the bends that I barely lifted.
Through Drive Select, drive characteristics can be adjusted to modify various car settings, namely dynamic steering, the suspension and throttle. Early on in the week, I’d set everything to Dynamic save for the suspension which is simply too harsh for city streets. By the time I began tackling mountain passes and clipping apexes, I found Dynamic steering to be too quick and not at all progressive. I promptly modified my programmable Individual setting to Comfort steering and suspension and Dynamic throttle. In my opinion, the perfect balance.
The 3.0 TFSI’s power is subtly delivered and although all torques are in from 2,900 to 5,300 pm after which all hp chime in at 5,500 rpm, the S4 feels like it could be so much quicker. Then again, this is a little of what the car is.
Although quick and strong, the Audi S4 is not as nervous or excitable as the BMW 335i or an Infiniti Q50 S. There’s something extremely serene about everything pertaining to the S4. Engine revs rise, but make no fuss about it other than a clam grumble accompanied by the faintest amount of charger whine.
The S4’s ride quality is excellent, slightly more isolated and perhaps not as sporty; however, never lacking in ability. Comfort mode is the ideal setting. At one point, we followed a C5 A6 wagon onto a mapped road that was more akin to a campground trail than a regular paved road yet the S4 managed the rough road surprisingly well.
Grown up, cool, and a great all-round choice
There’s just something about the S4 that makes me moan every time I see one. The Q50 S and 335i are great cars, as are the IS350 and S60 T6, but the sophisticated “I don’t give a crap” Audi demeanour calls out to me all the time.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the right set of Rotiform or BBS wheels with a nice drop and an ECU upgrade from Unitronic can transform this car into da bomb… I love it.