2014 Audi S4 Quattro ManualPosted on December 3rd, 2014
Compact sport sedan raises the bar
By Nina Russin
Of all the car manufacturers in the current market, I would argue that Audi offers the most compelling integration of engineering and design. Perhaps it’s the dual influence of Porsche’s idealism and Volkswagen’s pragmatism that has enabled Audi to develop such a unique lexicon.
The automaker was one of the first to offer a proprietary all-wheel drive system while modeling suspension and engine technology after racecars. Audi’s distinctive grille has been emulated by direct competitors as has its daytime running lamps, converting a drab safety feature into dramatic design.
As a result, Audi’s product planning team can transform something as simple as a compact sedan into pure magic. The S4 sedan is just that: a practical car that is both elegant and powerful. It is a package that refuses to compromise.
Power comes from a 333-horsepower supercharged V-6 engine and six-speed manual gearbox. Quattro all-wheel drive gives the S4 four-season capability by transferring engine power to the wheels with the best traction. Eighteen-inch rims with summer performance tires give the S4 a big footprint for better stability at speed, while the Quattro system maintains a rear wheel bias for better steering response. An available sport differential with torque vectoring improves handling in the corners.
Base price is $48,100 excluding the $895 destination charge. The test car comes with an optional red pearl exterior, navigation and Audi connect, a trim package that adds 19-inch rims and glossy black exterior accents plus Quattro all-wheel drive. Final MSRP is $54,945.
This past week I drove the S4 in the Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona metropolitan areas. The arrival of the Thanksgiving brings an influx of tourists to the valley of the sun. With them comes an increased risk of traffic accidents.
On the first day I drove the car, a woman in the adjacent lane swerved into mine, trying to avoid a driver who had exited the freeway into her lane without looking. As she swerved I slammed on the brakes. The S4 stopped on a dime, preventing in what could have been a lethal accident.
The faster and more exotic a car becomes, the more this type of safety technology matters. Thirteen-inch ventilated disc brakes might not seem necessary to competitors by they are de rigueur for the Audi engineering team. In this case, they gave me the extra inch of stopping power that I needed to avoid an accident.
The three-liter supercharged engine is a joy to experience with 325 foot-pounds of peak torque available from 2900 rpm. The six-speed transmission has plenty of room in the gears for stop-and-go traffic, with crisp shifts and a short throw shifter. Audi estimates zero-to-sixty acceleration at 4.9 seconds.
The fully independent suspension consists of a five-link setup in front and trapezoidal link rear axle. Engineers use aluminum whenever possible in the suspension and wheels to minimize unsprung weight.
An electromechanical steering system produces exceptional on-center response at speed with plenty of assist at the low end for maneuvering around crowded parking lots.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. An optional rearview camera on the test car makes it easier to monitor cross traffic in parking lots. In areas such as Phoenix where at least half the vehicles on the road are trucks and sport-utility vehicles, it’s a necessity.
Audi connect turns the S4 into a mobile hotspot: a handy feature for buyers who use their vehicles as mobile offices. The feature is expensive coming with the $3050 navigation option package, but most likely will be worth it for those who spend the lion’s share of their working hours on the road.
Although the interior layout is simple, it is by no means Spartan. Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Audi’s MMI interface operates in similar fashion to a computer mouse, making its use intuitive for anyone familiar with personal computers.
The sport seats are firm but I found them to be comfortable for drives over an hour in duration. There is plenty of lower lumbar support. Infotainment controls are easy to reach from either front seating position. Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to change audio channels with minimal distraction.
The trunk is reasonably large, easily holding luggage, the weekly groceries, golf bags and smaller camping equipment. The rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items such as skis and snowboards. Cyclists will need to add a hitch rack or opt for one of Audi’s crossover vehicles.
The Audi S4 comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, all-wheel drive, stability control, traction control, xenon headlamps, daytime running lamps and tire pressure monitoring.
The factory warranty includes 12 months of complimentary maintenance, up to 5,000 miles and four years of roadside assistance.
The S4 sedan is on display at Audi dealerships nationwide.
Like: An elegantly designed sport sedan with exceptional performance and a high level of standard safety features.
Dislike: Rearview camera is not standard equipment.
Model: S4 Quattro Manual
Base price: $48,100
As tested: $54,945
Horsepower: 333 Hp @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 325 lbs.-ft. @ 2900 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 4.9 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 17/26 mpg city/highway
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