Drive Thru: Audi S4

Audi S4 - V6 Supercharged

While the ‘new’ Audi S4 has been on sale in Australia for almost one year now it does represent something of a new world order for Audi and manufacturers around the planet, who are now desperate to play the green card by lowering CO2 emissions and fuel consumption figures. On that basis, gone is Audi’s familiar and silky smooth 4.2 litre V8 and in comes a new 3.0 litre supercharged V6 unit.

Crucially, power has only dropped slightly, down 15kW to 245kW. The addition of the charger keeps torque the same at a very tidy 440Nm. Official figures say the new 3 litre lump sips fuel at the moderate rate of 9.4 litres per 100km, while the CO2 figure is 219g/km, which is only 10% more than the four cylinder turbocharged S3.

So the theory is the new engine gives the same kick, while dropping the share price of Messers BP and Shell. But does it really? Well, yes, it does.

At least, it certainly gives you a jolly good kick when you plant your right foot. Audi claim the S4 can reach 100km/h in just 5.3 seconds. My back of the envelope calculations while the car was seamlessly working through its 7-speed S tronic transmission found this claim to be pretty accurate. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the S4 saloon could better the official figure.

In a word the new engine is awesome. It really is deceptively and wickedly quick. Sure, you miss the lovely V8 burble AUSmotive brought you in our S5 review, but the S4 did feel quicker than the V8 coupe. Sure, this is not exactly comparing apples with apples here, but it is an observation worth noting.

Audi S4 - V6 Supercharged

Audi S4 - V6 Supercharged

The test car was fitted with optional 19” alloys ($2,900), and along with the adjustable dampers and steering courtesy of the Drive Select system ($6,700) the ride was very commendable on the variety of roads sampled.

With Drive Select set to Comfort the S4 can feel a bit lethargic. If that bothers you, simply put the car into Dynamic mode and instantly the car sharpens its steering, firms up the ride and gives even more precise gear changes. If you felt the need to have those sharpened qualities at your disposal all the time you could leave the car set to Dynamic for all but the worst road surfaces. The only drawback in doing so would be due to the S tronic now being so eager to aid rapid progress that at lower speeds the change can be a bit cumbersome.

Drive Select does offer two worthwhile distinct and worthwhile personalities, though. Extra options are also available through the Auto and user defined settings. I was unable to explore the possibilities there, but I’d already seen enough to know, despite the hefty asking price, the Drive Select option box is one worth ticking.

This car was fitted with over $20K in options, and in addition to those already mentioned there was Audi Parking System (with rear camera, $1112), Bang & Olufsen sound system ($1588), sunroof ($2,330), ‘S’ sports seats ($4,000) and a couple of other stocking fillers.

Around town the engine is hardly building up a sweat and as such it handles such duties with a minimum of fuss. As does the rest of the car, it must be said. However, the rear camera and parking guidance available on the navigation screen works really well. Some might think these cameras are a bit of a gimmick, and that’s true, but they actually do their job very well.

Taking the S4 out of town and into the twisty stuff reveals that the seats are not as supportive as you might expect. They should hug you more tightly. A fact highlighted further when you sense the car not hiding its weight well when moving through quick changes of direction.

Audi S4 - V6 Supercharged

Audi S4 - V6 Supercharged

With the Drive Select set to Dynamic the S4 punches out the gear changes with impressive gusto, at moments like this the enhanced throttle response and S tronic are at their best. Flicking the S tronic to Manual shows, as good as transmission technology is getting these days, there’s nothing quite like a proper manual box. Sadly this is not an option with the S4 and as such you’re probably best leaving the car in S mode. This way any unwanted gear changes can be put down to compromises you expect when letting the car do the shifting for you.

When pushing on and needing to pull things up the brakes can be over-assisted. The brakes are very good at slowing the car down, don’t get me wrong, but you often get more retardation than your foot is asking.

Steering is generally very good, but if you push too hard you quickly find out that turn in is compromised. Some cars you can jump in and find a rhythm almost immediately. The S4 is not one of those cars. You will need some time to learn and adjust to the car’s characteristics.

In many respects this is an eight-tenths car. That is, if you leave a bit in reserve when tackling mountain passes you will find the S4 more rewarding. Pushing that bit more reveals the car’s drawbacks.

While the lovely noise of the V8 has been lost, the V6 does sound good, although it is no V8. Good thing that is its only drawback, then. In every other sense this engine is a real peach.

The test car also showed just how quickly the options list can get out of hand. Okay, in Euro dealerships, especially, this is no revelation, but the full on road asking price for this car was just shy of $149,500. As capable and as good as the S4 is, I’m yet to be convinced it is worth every one of those dollars.

Audi S4 - V6 Supercharged

Thanks to Audi Centre Canberra for their assistance. Note: images used are generic press images and not the car driven in this review.