Handling is definitely one of the S4′s strongest suites. With sports suspension and ESP, the S4 handled confidently and cornered very well. Weight distribution has also been improved with this generation of the S4, Audi having moved the front axle forward to get a longer wheelbase. The engine is still mostly forward of the front axle, however, but the weight is partially balanced out by the quattro system. The tester’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive system with rear torque bias made me more daring bold on freeway interchanges and the windy off ramps of Central Expressway here on the Peninsula. Let’s just say I wouldn’t go 50 on these interchanges in a Passat. In the rain. Audi also repositioned the steering rack lower to provide more direct steering control and driver feedback, but the steering feel on the S4 is still on the lighter side. It left me yearning for more direct feel of the road and more usage of my muscles. Even though it is speed sensitive, at highway speeds the steering felt too light and gave too much wiggle room.
Overall the exterior design is not a giant departure from the last A4/S4. I’ve always liked the Teutonic character of Audi design, with its disciplined lines and curves that begin and end well. The corporate shield-like treatment of the grille is growing on me and works well on the S4. The new LED daytime running lights and metal highlights inside the headlamp assemblies are simply extremely cool and like no other on the market today. Ditto with the tail lights. The biggest win on this S4 is that the front axle has been pushed forward, resulting in a shorter front overhang that gives the S4 a much more aggressive stance than the previous generation. It no longer resembles a Buick in profile, which is a lot to celebrate.
What I don’t appreciate about the S4′s profile, however, is how the beltline crease droops down a bit after the rear door, which makes the car look less aggressive. I also find the rear fascia intriguing. It looks like somebody scooped out the bottom half of the trunk lid underneath the Auto Union rings where the license plate is. This is a new corporate look and is also seen on the Q5 and the A5, which is a little concerning to me.
At nearly $50k, the Audi S4 does not seem like such a bargain. But it’s similarly priced and packaged when compared to the BMW 335i xDrive and the Infiniti G37x sedan (with all the option packages added in). The Audi won’t get you driving dynamics of the Bimmer, but it has plenty of power and a refined quattro system, plus a much more sophisticated interior and better-looking exterior. It’s not as big as the Infiniti G or as good looking (IMHO), but the S4 definitely has a better interior and more cache. Therefore, the Audi S4 is actually a decent balance and you won’t blend in with the millions of Bimmers in Beverly Hills.
Who should buy it?
As I mentioned in the previous section, the Audi S4 is for you if you’re looking for a powerful sports sedan that has German engineering, European styling and brand cache without driving yet another BMW 3-series sedan.
The Audi S4 is a much better looking car than its predecessor, and the driving dynamics are worthy of the S badge. It is powerful and the handling is world class. Interior design and appointments are probably the best you can get for fifty grand. The six-speed manual is silky smooth and accurate, and is perfectly mated to the supercharged V6. If you’re looking for a solid performer with subtle European style and flair, the Audi S4 is definitely worth a test drive.
|The official Audi of America website – www.audiusa.com|
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