|2010 Audi S4
|2010 Audi S4 quattro
By Danny Chang
- Smooth shifting manual transmission
- Quick acceleration
- Sticky roadgrip
- Class-leading interior design
- Light steering feel
- Tame exterior styling
- Faux buttons on the door handles
- Inexpensive-feeling interior panels
When I first heard that the S4 was to be my next tester, the 4.2-liter V8 in a small package came to mind. For 2010 Audi has altered their S4 strategy and went with a supercharged direct-injection 3.0-liter V6 instead. The new car has 7 fewer horses than the previous generation, but the new engine is all aluminum and the new car has improved weight distribution to balance out the lost horses. It takes a trained eye to pick the S4 out of a crowd of A4s because Audi has chosen to go with fairly subtle styling hints, like the quad exhaust and silver side view mirrors, to exemplify that this is no ordinary A4 sedan.
The S4 is quick. Sure, the 3.0-liter TFSI supercharged V6 with dual intercoolers produces 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, and it’s mated to Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, so it should be fast. But I mean the S4 FEELS fast. The S4 feels very light on its feet. The smooth and accurate-shifting six speed manual transmissions reminded me of how great it was to more involved with driving. Audis have always suffered from a long front overhang and bad front axle-to-dash ratio. The 2010 S4 benefits from a repositioned clutch and torque-converter, allowing for a more forward placement of the front axle and a shorter front overhang, resulting in a longer wheelbase and a more balanced load distribution and aggressive stance. The asymmetric rear-biased torque split quattro puts 60% of the torque in the back under normal conditions, and it feels much like a very grippy rear-wheel drive sports sedan. Steering felt light, however, for a sports sedan.
The S4 feels really solid, with great panel fit and detail touches that are befit of a $50k European sports sedan. The doors close with a good thump, and the quality of most fixtures feels expensive. One remarkable thing to notice, however, is the trunk hinges. Gone are the articulated hinges with gas struts that you find on even VW Passats. They are replaced by cheaper U-shaped hinges you find on economy cars, although these ones on the S4 are padded and look nicer. I guess Audi is under pressure to cut costs as well.
The details on the headlamps and tail lamps are class-beating. The LED daytime running lights add a very classy and distinctive touch and I love the metal accents inside the light units. There are plenty of shiny silver or chrome accents throughout the car, from the side view mirror units to the center diffusers under the front and rear bumpers. They really give the S4 a high class touch and tell the world you’ve spent a pretty penny on this ride.
Interior Comfort and Ergonomics
Audi has always excelled in sophisticated and stylish interiors, and the 2010 S4 is no exception. Let’s start with the instrument cluster. The design is very clean with two dials – the tachometer on the left and the speedometer on the right. There is one pretty sophisticated LCD display in between the two dials that displays multiple programs including navigation and phonebook integration. You can cycle through them using controls on the steering wheel.
In addition to controlling your Bluetooth phone, the steering wheel-mounted controls also let you operate cruise control, the Bang & Olufsen 505 Watt 14-speaker stereo and the rest of the Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system. The Audi MMI system can also be operated with an array of buttons and a dial/joystick located just aft of the gear shift. These controls initially seem daunting but prove quite well placed right below your right hand and become intuitive after a while.
The center display for the MMI is very big and bright and works well even in bright sunlight. The rear view backup camera is a great feature and stays on the screen for a few seconds even after you shift out of Reverse. The electronic parking brake controls are small, well-placed and well-integrated into the center console as well.
The S4 dashboard differs slightly from that of the A4 with a one-piece canopy over the top of the center display for the MMI that extends to the instrument cluster. There’s also a faux aluminum front fascia around the display and the instrument cluster but it looks and feels a little cheap on this caliber of car. The S4 also features other brushed aluminum interior trim and carbon fiber inlays around the cabin. I found the sports seats in the S4 to be very good but could use a little more lateral support. They’re highly adjustable and are visually distinct from the regular seats on the A4. Overall the S4 interior feels rich and well appointed, with an air of sophistication and attention to detail that one has come to expect from Audi. The controls are well placed and easy to reach while driving.
The Audi S4 feels fast. I mean, it IS fast, with 333 horses and 325 lb.-ft. of torque that can get you up to 60 in 4.9 seconds. I’ve driven the G37s and the 335is of the world, which have similar levels of power and torque, but somehow the S4 felt lighter and faster. The smoothness of the 6-speed definitely helps, and I’m sure the Quattro putting down twice the traction couldn’t hurt either. All this power comes with a respectable 18/27 MPG, or a combined 21 MPG, but I didn’t really track the fuel economy numbers too closely, I was having too much fun experiencing the euphoria that comes with driving a well-engineered German driving machine. Highway passing was a breeze even in 5th gear. According to Audi, the optional 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission shifts even faster than the manual and gets slightly better highway mileage despite the added weight. The S4 was awesome on the inclines of San Francisco where I’m always a little weary when driving a stick shift. Even though the tires on the tester were a little bald, the S4 never slipped and delivered smile after smile, stop light after stop light on the hilly streets of San Francisco. Braking power was fine on the S4, which enjoys specifically upgraded brakes. I scared a few passengers while testing them out but the brakes worked great.
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