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New Car/Review


Audi S4 Avant Wagon (2001)

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 40,500
     Price As Tested                                    $ 43,750
     Engine Type     DOHC 30-valve 2.7 Liter Bi-turbo V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 163 cid/2671 cc
     Horsepower                                   250 @ 5800 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               258 @ 1850 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   102.6/72.7"/176.7"
     Transmission                               Six-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3879 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                          225/45R17 performance
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                  1 percent
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            17/24/20
     0-60 MPH                                        6.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          14.0 seconds @ 99.5 mph
     Top-speed                  (Electronically limited) 143 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(Bob Hagin says small station wagons like the Audi S4 Avant are practical for a small family. Son Matt says with 250 horses, he could get his kids to school in a hurry.)

BOB: Looking over the current automotive offerings of the various manufacturers, it looks like small and mid-sized station wagons like our Audi S4 are growing in popularity. They're coming from Europe Japan and the U.S. and their capabilities are blurring the line between passenger cars and small SUVs. Wagons kind of fell from favor in the '70s and '80s, but now it looks like a new generation of young families is rediscovering this traditional American-style conveyance.

MATT: And a wagon like the Audi S4 Avant is all the more appealing to an upscale young family when it has almost all the bells-and-whistles available on the car market. The S4 wagon isn't really small, and neither is it terribly big. It fits into the station wagon category by virtue of its cargo area and hatchback behind the rear seat, but it's a very different breed of grocery-getter. The engine is a 2.7-liter narrow-angle V6 that's a slightly "sleeved" and reinforced version of the 2.8-liter unit that powers its more prosaic stablemate, the A4. The extra strength that's built into the S4 powerplant is necessitated by the use of a pair of turbochargers, one for each bank of cylinders. By using two small turbos rather than a single larger unit, the power in the S4 comes on more quickly and delivers its maximum torque of 258 pound/feet at only 1800 RPM. This means that our S4 Avant is an acceleration tiger from a stop light.

BOB: There's lots of other innovations in the S4 engine, too. It utilizes five valves per cylinder, three intake for maximum cylinder loading and a pair of sodium-filled exhaust valves for long life. The intake cams of the twin-cam heads have variable duration, so the power range is very wide and useful. In the case of our loan car, its 250 horses is pushed through a five-speed stick-shift to a Torsen power-splitter middle differential. From there it goes to both the front and rear wheels on an on-demand basis so that the wheels that have the most grip during spirited driving get the most power. The system works so fast, the driver doesn't even feel it switch into action.

MATT: And just to make sure that the driver doesn't get too carried away in twisting roads, the traction control system on this Audi is coupled to itS anti-lock braking system to slow down the Avant when it's going into a turn too hot or it's losing traction on icy roads. The undercarriage of the S4 is also very sophisticated in that almost all the suspension parts are made of aluminum. The front brake calipers are also made of a light alloy. They use four brake pads per side, which is a feature usually reserved for high-profile sports cars. The 17-inch wheels mount P225 performance tires and the spare is full-sized and mounted to an aluminum wheel like the other four. With a top speed of 143 MPH and a 0-to-60 time of just over six seconds, the S4 Avant wagon might well be labeled an Audi TT Coupe for the family.

BOB: This S4 doesn't come up short in driver and passenger comfort. The front seats are 10-way adjustable, the steering column is adjustable for rake and it telescopes, too. The optional navigational system is handy in out-of-town driving to keep from getting lost, but the electronic information display really gave me more information than I needed to know. The headlights are high-intensity units and are self-leveling to keep from blinding oncoming traffic. The headlights are also equipped with retractable washer-wipers and the windshield wiper washer system is pre-heated. It has fog lamps up front and for whatever reason, the A4 Avant has a pair of them in back too.

MATT: Another couple of unusual standard equipment items are the built-in first aid kit inside and a rudimentary tool kit. Our test car was metallic blue but the one I like best is the bright yellow that I've seen on some of the Audi sedans.

BOB: If we had gotten one with that outlandish color scheme, Matt, I think I'd have driven it with my hat pulled down low over my eyes.