Test Drive Report: Audi S4 quattro

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These days all we can do is dream about owning and running a car of
this nature. At almost €80,000 + extras, the latest incarnation of the S4, the
supercar version of the A4, really does stand out from the crowd with
its teethy grille and its ready to pounce lower stance. But looks are one thing,
but how does it perform? For your return in investment Audi has poured
in innovation and technology that insures your driving pleasure is the
ultimate.

The German premium brand has brought together a sequence of
engineering and design advances for the first time in the new S4 to
transform the car’s approach to handling. The longer wheelbase of the
latest A4 range and its forward mounted axle are the first and second
elements, and help to establish the well-balanced basis of the chassis
layout. Thirdly, a more advanced 40:60(front/rear) power distribution
via quattro contributes to handling poise.

For the fourth stage Audi then adds its unique and advanced drive
select system enabling the driver to select comfort-oriented or more
dynamic settings influencing throttle, steering and suspension response
to suit widely varying individual preferences.  The most notable
advance within drive select is the ability to increase effective
steering rack speed.

The market leading 7-speed double clutch S tronic gearbox configured
especially for longitudinal or ‘north – south’ application is the fifth
key ingredient. This rapid acting, highly-efficient transmission is
equipped with shift paddles and reacts responsively in its close
interaction with the engine. Downshifts for example generate an
automatic ‘blip’ of the throttle.

Finally, the sixth advance is the integration of the sport rear axle
for the quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system. Taken to extremes
normally reserved for the race circuit it readily allows the driver to
create over steer in a controlled way, but its influence over agility
and adjustability can be felt throughout the speed range, with the help
of the car’s ESP stability control system which has been reconfigured
to intervene later to allow maximum exploitation.

With the new sport differential influencing drive to the rear wheels,
the S4 exhibits exceptional traction and stability. Close to the car’s
handling limits, it acts like ESP, but with the principle reversed:
corrective movements are not initiated solely by altering the engine
settings or applying the brakes, but also by controlled redistribution
of tractive force. As a result the car’s progress is distinctly
smoother and more free-flowing, since ESP comes into action much less
frequently.

Buttons on the centre console enable drivers to vary the operating
parameters of the sport differential as part of the Audi drive select
adaptive dynamics system in three stages. In the ‘comfort’ mode,
driving safety and the car’s stability have absolute priority, with
optimal damping of load reversals. In the ‘auto’ mode the program
calculates the best possible balance between all the functions.
Finally, the ‘dynamic’ mode emphasises the functions contributing to
maximum agility, so that the action of the sport differential is most
easily felt. In this case, response to load reversals is both agile and
easily controllable.

The perfect complement to this advanced chassis technology is a brand
new 3.0-litre, V6 power unit producing 333PS in the S4 thanks to a
supercharger generating a seamless flow of power from 440Nm of torque.
This new unit replaces the V8 engine of the previous S4 and thus
delivers a 26 per cent cut in fuel consumption and CO2 without any
penalty in terms of performance. The 0-60mph sprint is accomplished in
5.1 seconds.

The advanced fuelling system uses the proven FSI direct injection
already established across the Audi petrol engine range combined with
Audi valve lift technology to create one of the most efficient high
performance engines of its kind.

In its most recent form applied to high performance cars, the
legendary quattro four-wheel-drive system with torque-sensing centre
differential delivers 40 per cent of the tractive force from the engine
to the front axle and 60 per cent to the rear. Since the Audi RS 4 was
introduced in 2005, this degree of rearward bias has become commonplace
for Audi models featuring longitudinal engine installations; the torque-
sensing differential instantly redistributes engine output when road
surface conditions change.