Sports sedans – I love them.
I grew up in an age where strong engines in a sedan body shell were all the rage, and I’ve never lost faith in the concept.
Well, as current trends are serving to prove, sedans are hard to sell in an age where sport utility vehicles command market share, but it’s good to know there are still a few high performance four-doors available to satisfy us die-hards.
I’ve been lucky in recent months, I’ve driven a lot of premium sedans – Lexus IS200t, BMW 5-series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The latest to come my way was also from Germany, an Audi S4, a car which definitely fits into the sports sedan category.
As its badge would suggest, it is a car based on the A4; essentially it is an A4 but for the elements which enhance performance and provide a sportier look. It must be remembered the S4 doesn’t have all the performance potential of its RS4 stablemate, that car is the bee’s knees in terms of outright performance, but the S4 sits snugly in the line-up and is more a gentle performance car, although one which delights in all aspects.
Under the bonnet sits a 3-litre V6 engine, it is turbocharged and is rated at 260kW with 500Nm of torque available all of the way from 1370rpm to 4500rpm.
The latter figures are responsible for a strong solid surge of boost all through the rev band. The S4 is quick under acceleration, feed some power in from standstill and it will lunge to 100km/h in 4.7sec. It is also capable of a 3.9sec overtaking time (80km/h to 120km/h) and will top end at 250km/h where laws allow.
The feel of power and urgency from the quad-camshaft, 32-valve engine is delightful, and can be manufactured to produce some amazing sound. In standard mode the engine is quiet and subdued, as you would expect from the modern V6, but if you select one of the dynamic/sport engine management protocols, the engine delivers a howl like no other, it’s not a thumping roar that you get from the V8 but instead it is a wail sounding much like a soprano on steroids. There is also a bark out of the exhausts on both up and downshifts.
Drive is channelled through an eight-speed automatic transmission which changes ratios quickly and smoothly, power is then channelled to a Quattro four-wheel-drive system. Grip is spectacular, not just the composure it gets in loose surface environments but on the seal, there is a strong feeling of solidity, it feels tied to the road and steers directly.
The S4 is not structured with suspension elements too firm for comfort. In fact, I was a little surprised that the ride is biased towards soft yet handling isn’t compromised greatly. There’s a little bit of body movement in a corner, but such is the quality of the fully independent suspension that it transitions through a corner with full balance and composure.
I took the test car west through to Terrace Downs, on those lovely long flowing corners it provides a true touring car feel, in the tight stuff it thrills with its steering feel and punch out of a corner, the power and handling are well matched.
During the four days with the S4 it constantly surprised, although not so much with its performance, I expected it to be thrilling, and I wasn’t disappointed. However, it also returned respectable fuel usage statistics, the trip computer was constantly listing a 9l/100km (31mpg) average along with a 7l/100km (40mpg) instantaneous figure on a 100km/h open road cruise, the engine turning over slowly at just 1600rpm.
These figures sit well with Audi’s combined cycle average claim of 7.4l/100km (38mpg).
At $116,400 the S4 doesn’t come at a budget price, but there’s a lot of kit in the car, along with the ingredients which make it angry or subdued, there’s a classy in-cabin environment with all of the gear you’d expect from a premium car. I especially like the display graphics with the sat nav map directly in the driver’s eye-line. There’s also head-up display.
Audi is the quiet achiever in the premium market, its product is based on traditional values yet the vehicles have kept pace with modern expectation, and the product line-up is extensive.
For a buyer who likes just that little bit of excitement in a purchase, the S4 satisfies with its honesty and perfection.
Price – Audi S4, $116,400
Dimensions – Length, 4726mm; width, 1842mm; height, 1427mm
Configuration – V6, four-wheel-drive, 2995cc, 260kW, 500Nm, eight-speed automatic.
Fuel usage – 7.4l/100km