As many of you who regularly (or not regularly) check this blog know, I am indeed an Audiphile (i have come to terms with my problem), however I have a great amount of respect and admiration for all marques of cars (besides Ferrari, of course). It is inevitable, however, that during my car search I obviously explored the current Audi line to find out what fit into my criteria of selecting a new car. The most obvious frontrunner for the task was the 2011 Audi S4. A little over a year ago, I helped my mother decide on a 2010 Audi A4, which she has really enjoyed owning and I have enjoyed driving during my visits to my parents’ house. Although I like the A4 quite a bit, I felt like i needed something a bit more active and less comfortable—with better handling and sharper characteristics. That being said, i think the A4 is a wonderful car overall, and would make a great choice for most people—however i’m not sure i qualify as sane like most people. The S4 squares directly against the BMW 335i I tested prior, and I was keen to find out whether it lived up to the hype I had created for it in my deranged, hyperactive brain.
I think this is easily one of the most handsome and well executed Audi designs on the road—-with classic and timeless sedan features, as well as trademark features of current Audi styling including LED lighting and single large frame grille. I do think the car is a little bit large from the outside, however the proportions sit well like a tall supermodel lying on a psychiatrist’s sofa. For me, the ultimate cosmetic package on any Audi is the current Titanium Sport pkg, which my test car had. Adding black single frame outline and darkened titanium and silver sport RS wheels really make the S4 stand out from its other siblings as well as from other cars on the road. I absolutely love the RS wheels on this car, and I think these may be the best looking OEM wheels i’ve seen on any car. I wasn’t a fan of the silver mirror housings (an S car feature) or the silver door sill treatment under the doors. Overall though, a very slick package which really has a lot of presence and attitude.
The interior of the S4 felt very much like the interior of the A4. This car didn’t have a built-in navigation device, which was disappointing as it is one of the things I would really like in my next car. The Silk Nappa seats were very comfortable and supportive; however I found the black/grey & white combination to really bling things up a bit too much. I love leather seats, but not white ones! I would have also preferred the leather/alcantara combination rather to the all-leather ones. As with most Audis, the materials used on the interior are first class, and I have yet to find another manufacturer which puts so much effort and detail into their interiors; it is part of the reason I am such an Audiphile. That being said, I think there may be a bit too much silver going on in the dash, which adds a shininess I am not particularly fond of. The dials had a very sporting touch though, and the ‘cockpit’ like surroundings really make the driver feel as if they are in control of what is going on. The car I drove this particular day at the dual-clutch S-Tronic/DSG gearbox, which came with paddle shifters present on the back of the steering wheel with metal finish. The steering wheel was leather wrapped and felt nice, if a bit light and not as heavy to hold as the older Audi steering wheels present on my car. Back seat room was plentifull, and the trunk was quite vast. All in all, a very nicely executed interior which earns its 4 rings.
For me, this was the most important part of the S4 experience, as I expected a lot. What I can tell you is that the S4 is fast—-as in hooker-being-chased-by-a-police-officer-through-a-seedy-motel-parking-lot fast. 0-60 felt instant (i’ve read between 4.4-4.9 seconds in various magazines), and the rate at which the supercharged 3.0L V6 gains speed at any speed really is remarkable. The DSG gearbox is simply wicked in every way, it burps during upshifts, and blips during downshifts—-entertaining sounds coming from a highly entertaining gearbox. The car felt sports car quick. The handling was also to spec of a high performance and special german saloon—-as quick turns felt accurate, responsive, and very well balanced. Huge amounts of grip, and vast amounts of confidence to the driver. In terms of ability to gain speed and momentum, the S4 definitely trumps the Evo and the 335i in most respects. Much of this comes down to the combination of the DSG and the supercharged V6. The braking was excellent, as most Audis are—however the biggest improvement was in the quicker steering response as compared to previous generation S4s. They have changed the torque distribution to 60% to the rear wheels, which may have greatly influenced this positive change. I think this felt overall like one of the better balanced Audi setups i’ve driven, and surely the data emerging that this 333hp S4 is as quick as the 414hp B7 RS4 in a track setting is evidence to that. My biggest complaint about the driving experience, is that the exhaust was far too quiet (almost silent), and that the car is too refined. It feels too well engineered, which made me feel slightly numb after driving it. When I drove the Evo 10, i got out of the car wanting to get drunk and scream about how good it was to drive—-when I got out of the S4, I felt like drinking a glass of milk and turning on the news. Overall though, it has the performance to match the good looks and the expectations.
I really like the S4—i think it is a handsome package with a slick engine and a nicely trimmed outline. The Titanium package makes it look very evil (in a good way) and the car has plenty of presence on the road. The price of the car I tested was $53k, and put the S4 out of my preferred price range. Do i think it is worth that money? Yes i do. Will I be paying that kind of money? No I won’t. The S4 did not excite me in a visceral way—-and to me this served as evidence that a fast 0-60 time, my favourite marque, and a pretty package are not enough to excite me about a car. There are intangible qualities which makes people love cars, and for me at this time—this is not the car which suits my state-of-mind.
In terms of comparing with the 335i and the Evo; the S4 easily trumps the 335i in pretty much every way I an think of, besides price—–however it doesn’t fare as well against the Evo 10. Why? The Evo 10 had a lot of passion in its engineering, passion one can feel—-and it went after a very simple goal: to create the best performance sedan possible on a budget. The S4 tries to blend upscale luxury with effortless performance—-and it does it quite successfully, but i’m not sure If i’m as appreciative of that combination. I am looking for a car which I can easily drive plenty of freeway miles in day after day and then arrive home to Brooklyn, drive around Manhattan on the weekends, expand our family with, and to take to the airport and back—-as that car, this feels like too imposing of a package….maybe even too “mature” of a package. So in summary: great car, but not for me.