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245-kW Audi S4 driven

2009-08-14 13:09
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Audi
Model S6
Engine aluminum 3.0T FSI V6 with petrol direct injection, DOHC, twin intercoolers, demand-controlled high-pressure and low-pressure fuel system
Power 245 kW @ 5 500 - 7 000 r/min
Torque 440 Nm @ 2 900 - 5 300 r/min
Transmission six-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 5.1 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h (governed)
Fuel Tank 64 l
Fuel Consumption 9.7 l/100 km (combined)
Weight 1 650 kg
Steering rack-and-pinion steering with power assistance
ABS with EBD and ESP with brake assist
Tyres 245/40 R 18
Front Suspension five-link front suspension, upper and lower wishbones, tubular anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension independent-wheel, trapezoidal-link rear suspension with resiliently mounted subframe, anti-roll bar
Service Intervals per service indicator
Price from R580 500

Hailey Philander

Apart from the R8 maybe, Audi designs are generally simple and classic. Calling the new S4's appearance "menacing" would therefore be akin to calling Popeye's squinting glare "fearsome". It has bulges in all the right places (and a smoking pipe), but it still makes it clear that Audi is the ruler of understatement. (Also notice how Brutus never learns and always tries to make the moves on Popeye's girl?) Indeed.

The S4's beefed down appearance just makes the pleasure of mashing the accelerator into the floorboards and hearing that new 3.0T FSI inhaling deeply before unleashing its fury, all the more fun.

And yes, you did read that correctly. For its new S4, Audi has decommissioned the 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 and replaced it with the more frugal and more torquey supercharged 3.0-litre V6 (with direct injection and twin intercoolers) recently introduced for the A6 range range.

But where this powerplant makes 213 kW in the A6, it churns out an über-entertaining 245 kW in the S4. Nice. Even nicer, perhaps, is the huge amount of torque reserves this newcomer relies on. 440 Nm, of which 90% is available between 2 200- and 5 300 r/min, is extremely useful, especially for those hasty overtaking manoeuvres.

Power is down by 8 kW, but so too are fuel consumption figures (from 13.3- to 9.7 l/100 km), CO2 emissions (from 321 to 225 g/km) and 0-100 km/h sprint times (now 5.1 seconds from 5.6). The torque figure is up, though.

Alas, I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, the S4 builds on the launch of the new A4 range last year, and headlines the line-up before the next RS4 swings around.

Tread lightly

Audi bills it as an "everyday sports car", an assertion that was proven on the launch where the car proved equally happy pottering about in traffic as it was going sideways on a track.

Similarly, S4 strikes the balance on appearances too, even if it seems more A4 on steroids than out-and-out aggressor. Styling differences from the plain A4 are subtle but manage to add some visual drama. The biggest differentiator is, as on all S and RS models, the chromed side mirrors and oval tailpipes.

Furthermore, LED running lights add a shimmering eyeliner effect to the headlamps and beefed up bumpers add some gravity to the front end.

A special bumper with a diffuser is fitted at the rear too, while quad tailpipes, a boot spoiler cheekily integrated into the lid and full-on LED tail lights complete the look.

The cabin is a mix of timeless black leather and aluminium accents and, in case you missed it while strolling around or when getting into the car, the interior is splashed with S4 logos.

Settle into the black leather sport seats to realise that this is an interior one can easily get used to spending many hours in. It isn't special, really, but the layout is comprehensive, and ergonomics remain hard to fault. Seat adjustment is via electric controls and finding the perfect position in those snug seats is easy. Luckily, the seats also adjust really low, so the bum-scraping-tar racing experience is never too far away.

Family wheels, track toy

As for equipment on the new S4, perhaps the most notable feature, apart from the engine of course, is quattro all-wheel drive.  

Quattro is standard on the S4, but the ride quality through the sports suspension is superlative. Damper settings can be adjusted to suit the driver's preference, and options vary from comfort through sport. But no matter which setting is chosen, no unruly body roll is allowed to creep in and the ride, particularly for a sports sedan, remains supple.

The optional sports differential, through a torque-sensing centre differential, allows for greater traction and high-speed stability, while minimising the effects of under- or oversteer. It also allows for a lot more play before the ESP steps in to gently point a wayward driver in the right direction.

On the launch, we had a chance to drive the car on public roads to get a sense of its conduct in real-world conditions before being allowed to chuck it through a few bends at the historic (and hugely entertaining) Roy Hesketh circuit in Pietermaritzburg.

Of course, if you're paying close to R600 000 for a new family car, we don’t imagine you'd want to toss it into the weeds too often. But if you were to do so, the S4 would not be a bad option.

Beautiful balance, neutral steering and a very willing powerplant all conspire to create what was a brake-cooking, tyre-shredding experience amidst the heady sounds of the heavy-breathing V6. The 17-inch performance brakes took a pounding, but watching smoke waft from the S4's tyre wells proved just how hard those black-painted S4-emblazoned calipers had been working…

Fierce competition

The cars used on the track were all fitted with the optional dual clutch seven-speed S tronic transmission, which thankfully meant there were no cooking clutches to be added to the mix. On the track, as on the road, this system is a delight to use with its seamless shifts and it's extremely intuitive in either manual or automatic modes.

The standard six-speed manual is also a treasure with its relatively light clutch (by sports car standards) and short-throw gearbox. Despite the increasing popularity of dual-clutch gearboxes, we're not sure if this is worth the R20 000 difference in price between the two, though…

There are a host of functional and cosmetic options to spice things up, too.

All-in-all, the Audi fan club should have something to keep them occupied for a few months more. However, those that need to be convinced that the S4 is the mild sports sedan to be had may be the real factor. The new S4 has some very good direct rivals in BMW's 335i (R496 500) and the Mercedes-Benz C350 (R471 000), and if buyers consider mostly price, it may be an uphill battle.

S4 manual  -  R580 500
S4 S tronic  -  R597 500

All prices include Audi's five-year/100 000 km Freeway Plan


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