North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

August 22, 2013

Audi S4 matches strong performance with luxury sedan

By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service

— While there is something to be said for the throaty sound of a Mustang Cobra throttling along in traffic lanes, there is a surprising similarity in performance with the new breed of Audi S4 sport sedans.

The German car company has been carving out its nameplate for decades and has earned its stripes as a luxury sedan that can handle performance with the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

At the turn of the Nineteenth Century, Audi founder August Horch -- who was later banned from his company in a shareholder dispute -- would have marveled at how his fledgling company back in the 1880s has evolved into one of the Big Three in German automotive manufacturing.

The first Audi automobile, a Type A Sport-Phaeton, was produced in 1910 followed by a series of setbacks. Present-day owner Volkswagen unveiled the 1965 DKW F102, which had a short lifespan and was replaced three years later with the hugely successful Audi 100, built in its present production facility in Ingolstadt.

And, here's an interesting history lesson: The familiar front grille, with its four interlinked rings, pays tribute to the original four companies that pledged their support back in the day.

The real fun of the S4 is in the driver's seat, where it really shines. "Point and shoot" best describes how the 333 horsepower supercharged V6 handles the pavement. With all-wheel-drive and a 40/60 torque split, the S4 delivers exhilaration with a manual six speed that seems to know no boundaries.

In sixth gear, the overdrive gear maintains a strong highway presence while achieving 26 miles per gallon of recommended premium fuel.

Downshift a few gears and the tame throttle turns the docile sedan into a racer capable of competing with the BMW 335i and closing in on Mercedes Benz C63 AMG. Off-the-line power is breathtaking as it propels the S4 to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds.

With the push of a dash mounted button, you can select ride and handling capabilities, adjusting the car's adaptive suspension, dynamic steering, transmission shift characteristics and engine response. Choose between Comfort, Dynamic, Individual or Automatic settings to match your mood.

In addition, an optional sports differential distributes varying power between the rear wheels, providing a greater degree of directional stability while steering through curves and turning.

A three-spoke, flat bottomed steering wheel gives the S4 driver a firm hold on the wheel and is especially helpful while maneuvering through twisting roadways and hairpin turns.

The S4 is offered in two trim levels, Premium Plus and Prestige, each available with manual shifter or 7-speed automatic with base pricing from the high $40s to mid $50s before adding options.

The exterior of the S4 closely resembles last year's model, while the interior receives further refinements including S Sport seating with contrast stitching and seat inserts in silver, red and brown.

I found the front seats comfortable but lacking in side bolster support during performance testing.

The multimedia interface includes streamlined navigation controls using live Google Earth maps to chart your journey from above. Audi connect also features real-time weather, fuel prices, news and travel information each displayed on a seven-inch monitor that seems small by comparison to other premium cars. A 40 GB hard drive is available for personalizing your music flair.

A console mounted dial controls phone, climate and audio preferences while Audi offers industry first wireless Internet and hot spot connectivity.

In its eighth generation, the Audi S offers serious car enthusiasts a two-seater racing experience in a sedan built for four.

Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at editor@ptd.net.