SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 37,900 Price As Tested $ 41,895 Engine Type Bi-Turbo DOHC 30-valve 2.7 Liter V6 w/SFI* Engine Size 163 cid/2671 cc Horsepower 250 @ 5800 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 258 @ 1850 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 102.6"/72.8"/176.5" Transmission Six-speed manual Curb Weight 3627 pounds Fuel Capacity 16.4 gallons Tires (F/R) 225/45R17 high performance Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/all-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 17/24/21 0-60 MPH 6.0 seconds 1/4 (E.T.) 14.5 seconds @ 98.0 mph Top-speed (electronically limited) 143 mph * Sequential fuel injection
Many years ago, Audi delivered to us a Quattro coupe, a homely, bright red hatchback with black graphics taped to its sides. Underneath its hood was a turbocharged five-cylinder engine and Audi's first- generation Quattro all-wheel drive system that could be locked by the driver via a push-pull switch on the dash. It was very fast and offered road grip like no other car we had ever driven.
Since then, Audi has had its ups and downs, but now the company is up again and one reason is its new S4. It's a modern version of the same concept we liked so much back then - but much better looking.
OUTSIDE - The untrained eye will have a hard time differentiating an S4 from the multitude of A4's on the road today. Both versions look fresh and modern, even though the current A4 has been around a while. Audi introduced smooth contours and shapes on all its automobiles several years before many of its competitors, and just a step ahead of its corporate clone, the Volkswagen Jetta. The S4 rides about an inch lower than the A4, due in part to its low-profile Bridgestone Potenza tires. Its distinctive grille, bumpers and body trim are unique to the S4, while special 17-inch, six-spoke alloy wheels came directly from Audi's "Avus" show car. Small S4 badges front and rear will clue alert performance enthusiast to this car's potential.
INSIDE - The A4 is well-known for close quarters, so the S4 won't easily carry two oversized adults in the back seat. It's definitely a sports sedan and comes with an impressive amount of standard features, among them firm, supportive front bucket seats covered in leather upholstery. They are powered 10 ways, and well bolstered to keep those inside firmly buttressed in place. Other standard features include remote keyless entry, cruise control, an AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo system, one-touch power windows, power door locks and mirrors, and a 60/40 split locking rear seat. New this year are side curtain airbags that span the inside roof line for improved side-impact protection.
ON THE ROAD - The powertrain that comes with the S4 is completely unique from the A4. Where the A4 can be had with either a turbocharged 1.8 liter four cylinder (150 horsepower) or a normally-aspirated, 190-horse, 2.8 liter V6, the S4 uses a twin-cam, 2.7 liter V6 that gets extra power from a pair of intercooled turbochargers. This twin-cam, five valve per cylinder engine produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Its displacement needed to be just a bit smaller than the 2.8 liter V6 from which its derived because extra cylinder pressures prompted Audi engineers to thicken the cylinder walls for added strength. Power comes on in a rush and its flat torque curve (maximum torque comes at a low 1850 RPM) allows it to power from a corner in high gear without lag time. Mated to this is a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic with Tiptronic semi-manual operation.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - The S4 rides on a unit body platform that is very rigid. Suspension components include a four-link front setup and a double wishbone design in the rear. Much emphasis has been placed on weight reduction, so Audi has forged such pieces as the control arms, ball joints and front wheel carriers in alloy instead of steel. Also new are "digressive" twin-tube gas shocks that soak up road imperfections easier than before. And with Audi's Quattro full-time all-wheel-drive system as standard equipment, cornering power and grip are phenomenal. However, Audi was careful not to stiffen the suspension too much, dialing in just a bit of body roll so the ride isn't punishing to the average driver. Its quick-ratio rack-and-pinion steering system is precise and predictable, while new four-piston front disc brakes team with standard rear disc brakes and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) to pull it down quickly from speed.
SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side curtain airbags, side-impact door beams and ABS are standard.
OPTIONS - Cold Weather package (heated front seats, ski sack): $575; Convenience Package (sunroof, Homelink, auto-dim mirrors): $1200; Bose premium sound: $650; CD changer: $550; Hand-free phone: $495.