2010 Audi S4 Quattro MT6 Road Test Review

John Birchard - CAP staff
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Last year, Audi outsold all other luxury brands in Europe.  In the US, the company posted the biggest market share gain of any luxury car brand, and likewise has done extremely well in Canada.  The President of Audi of America, Johan de Nysschen, has promised that his company will increase sales to a point where they are in line with Audi's market penetration worldwide. 

The Audi A4 and S4 constitute the cornerstone of the German automaker's lineup.  In February, the latest month for which figures are available, the A4/S4 pair generated a sales increase of 20.8% over the same month in 2009.  It's not hard to figure out why.

I test drove an S4 recently and was reluctant to give it up at the end of my allotted week.  The S4 is a midsize luxury sports sedan that combines strong performance with everyday drivability in a sleek package.  It is meant to compete with BMW's 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, amongst others. 

The new S4 drops the previous generation V8 in favour of a 3.0-litre V6 direct injection supercharged engine with 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque.  The new car, if equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, charges from 0 to 100km/h in just over 5 seconds (about a half-second quicker than the V8) and is more frugal with fuel.  EPA equivalent fuel economy estimates are 13.1L/100km in city driving and 8.7 on the highway.

My US-spec tester was finished in a dazzling Imola Yellow, not available in Canada, with black interior.  No wallflower this Audi.  The company boasts that the new S4 "features more technology than ever."  They're not kidding.  The manual for the navigation, sound and HVAC systems runs 122 pages.  C'mon, Audi, just because you can install the technology doesn't mean you should.  Have you ever heard the terms "intuitive" or "user friendly?" 

Apart from that, the interior is up to the usual Audi standard, which is to say excellent.  From the standard S4-embossed heated front seats to the stainless steel and carbon fibre trim, the cabin is a very pleasant place to pass the time.  There's an array of communications possibilities – from iPod to Bluetooth to HomeLink and satellite radio. 

Chances are you will want to know the price tag for such sporty luxury.  The base S4 quattro sedan with manual transmission goes for $52,500.  My test car was the "Premium" model, which adds another $4,700 and includes 19" alloy wheels, and a few other items.  A package called "Audi Drive Select" costs $4,000 and brings you adaptive suspension damping, dynamic steering, and drive select controls which provide you with the means of instantly altering throttle and steering response, shock stiffness and transmission shift points.  You can choose among Comfort, Dynamic and Automatic modes, giving you a sports-oriented machine one moment and a comfortable sedan for the daily commute the next. Audi's sports rear differential can be had separately from the Drive Select package for $1,500. 

Add another thousand dollars for genuine Silk Nappa seats; $500 for Carbon Atlas interior trim; $1,100 for the 14-speaker, 505-watt, Bang & Olufsen surround sound premium audio system; $3,200 for the nav system with voice control, DVD player, and Audi side assist that includes a backup camera and rear sensors; $500 for rear side-thorax airbags, $1,600 for the S tronic sequential shifting "automatic" transmission (or stick with the 6-speed manual), plus $750 for metallic paint and you could potentially pay up to $69,850. 

Safety has not been neglected by the Ingolstadt engineers.  The US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the S4 at five stars for frontal crash, side crash and rollover protection.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) lists it as a "Top Safety Pick."  Audi provides the usual array of airbags, along with anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, plus traction and stability control. 

The Audi S4 is the sort of car that finds the driver making any excuse to get on the road.  We need toothpaste?  Well, I'm off to the drugstore in the next county to get it.  Pick up the dry cleaning?  You betcha.  Any excuse is a good one to slide behind the leather-covered, multi-function steering wheel, insert the key fob and switch on the supercharged V6.  Clutch action is smooth and progressive and the gearshift lever is easily operated.  Once underway, the engine pulls seamlessly from around 1,500 rpm.  The engine note is well muffled.  In fact, I would have enjoyed a little more volume in that department.  After all, it is the sports version. 

Handling is precise.  "Servotronic" power steering input is crisp.  The ride is firm but comfortable.  Brakes are powerful, but not overly sensitive.  Everything about the S4 speaks of strong performance.  The quattro all-wheel drive is biased 40/60 toward the rear wheels to help eliminate understeer. 

A word about the previously mentioned Audi Side Assist: Via LED lights in the outside rear view mirrors, the system can alert the driver to vehicles in the blind spot, as well as fast-approaching traffic (think entry to a freeway).  The system activates at speeds of more than 30 km/h and can be very helpful in highway situations. 

From the rows of LED daytime running lights up front, inherited from its more exotic brother, the R8, to the quadruple exhaust pipes in the rear, the Audi S4 is a subtly executed, slick example of the modern sports sedan.  It's not perfect, but it's awfully close.  So, if you have some loose cash you don't know what to do with, you could always buy me one of these.  I would be extraordinarily grateful.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Audi, S4, $50,000 - $74,999,

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