2008 Paris Auto Show: 2010 Audi S4
Should anyone doubt the continued development of internal combustion, take a look at the newest Audi S4, whose engine is smaller than before but also more powerful and economical, too. Sounds like magic, but by fitting a supercharger to the 3.0-liter six found in the latest Audi A6, the engine produces 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, which is good enough to trim almost a full second off the previous 4.2-liter V-8's sprint from 0 to 60 mph yet average almost 8 mpg less than the unblown powerplant. Somewhat of a Q-ship, the Audi S4's bodywork doesn't scream performance but hints at it in well-trimmed fashion. Underneath, engine power reaches the wheels through a six-speed manual or newly developed seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while a new Quattro system provides even higher levels of grip.
2010 Audi S4 front" src="http://img.autobytel.com/car-reviews/autobytel/digital-assets/AutoShows/2008ParisAutoShow/2009_Audi_S4_01.jpg" alt="2010 Audi S4 front" />
Why it Matters
While the bigger, brawnier and much more powerful Audi RS6 may get more headlines, the 2010 Audi S4 offers up two distinct advantages. First, it's significantly less expensive, costing roughly half as much as the RS6. Second, you'll be able to purchase one in this country starting in the fall of 2009. As high performance sedans go, the S4 is more of a bread and butter car for Audi, competing with the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. However, even though it boasts all-wheel drive, its supercharged V-6 is no match for the V-8 engines in those competitors.
What it Looks Like
Audi has already wowed us with the A4's styling, and the Audi S4 is a subtle upgrade of that. The air intakes below the headlights are larger, the grille is more aggressive, and the fenders sport subtle flares. Out back, the taillights get a unique LED treatment, the trunk sprouts an integrated spoiler, and the exhaust and rear fascia are redesigned to be more entertaining to look at as the S4 pulls away from you.
What's Under the Skin
Replacing the V-8 with a supercharged V-6 sounds like a gamble, especially in the hyper-sedan market where power is king. Yet even in markets like that, fuel economy can be a concern, as well as emissions, so Audi may be positioning itself as a sensible alternative. Still, with 333 horsepower from its supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, a seven-speed dual-clutch paddle-shifted automatic routing power to all four wheels, and 0-60 mph times in the low-5-second range, there's little to whine about here.
The S4 is constructed of high-strength steel for extra rigidity and reduced weight, while the suspension is, of course, enhanced for greater handling and agility. The quattro all-wheel drive system is also upgraded with a rearward-bias on torque for a more rear-drive feel. This combines with the available quattro Sport rear differential, which dynamically apportions torque between the rear wheels, to promise truly excellent handling from the S4.
Inside there's an all-black headliner, special sport seats and attractive aluminum trim with your choice of wood, carbon fiber or stainless steel accents. Of course, there will be S4 badges festooning everything, such as the steering wheel and the seats. Audi's MMI in-car communications interface, keyless entry and most of the options you'd want are all standard.
What We Think
Having just turned in the keys to a new A4, we're looking forward to driving the S4. And by driving, we mean getting behind the wheel and keeping the throttle mashed to the carpet as much as we can. This promises to be a fun car. We loved the A4, and our only problems with it seem to be rectified with this car. Too bad we have to wait until next year to sample it.
By Keith Buglewicz and Greg Brown
Photo credit: Greg Brown