2013 Audi S4
In order to know what makes the 2013 Audi S4 so special, you have to know what makes the A4 special.
I was on the launch of the original A4 back in 1994. What impressed all the journalists at the time was the dynamic handling that had previously been missing from Audi four-wheel drive sedans – Audi 80/90 and the 4000 before it. The A4 felt lighter and, therefore, quicker, even with all that Quattro hardware weighing it down.
The S4 came along a couple years later (though the original S4 was actually based on the Audi 200 in 1991 and essentially became the S6 when Audi revamped its naming strategy) and reached North America just before the turn of the millennium. Its twin-turbo 2.7-litre V6 made 261 hp and 295 lb.-ft. of torque.
Today’s S4 uses a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 making 333 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. As is the case with many manufacturers these days, Audi has taken the forced induction/smaller engine route, moving away from the more powerful V8 of the previous S4.
The new engine is more torque happy, which allows it to easily propel the car to an estimated zero to 100 km/h time of just over five seconds, and to a theoretical top speed of 250 km/h. We’re happy with just getting away from a stop light quickly, passing other cars in a highway blink, and quickly putting some distance between us and an obviously misinformed pickup driver on a winding country road.
Acceleration in this car is quick, especially with our tester’s optional seven-speed automatic (DSG, or Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe or direct shift gearbox) – a dual clutch unit that is easily manipulated by steering wheel paddles when the urge strikes you, or left to its own devices when traffic slows to a rush-hour conga.
But the real beauty of the S4 is driver control – you can control pretty much everything to do with the car, though figuring it out may take a week or so and you may often have to go back to the owner’s manual for less-often-worked controls. I’m not a big fan of the multi-information centre, with its knob/joystick surrounded by corner selection buttons. It seems to me in this day of touch-screen technology, it’s counter-intuitive to have to work controls with your right hand at your side while looking at a screen. Chrysler does a great job with the latest UConnect, so I’d expect more from a company that bills itself as “advancement through technology” or competitive edge.
Maybe that saying is more literal, as in getting the edge in competition, and to that extent you not only get control over all the usual cockpit functions, but an extended control centre that allows you to play with the car’s dynamics, changing things such as suspension damping, steering responsiveness and the new sport differential (allowing it to direct more torque to the wheel that can best use it).
Needless to say, its efficiency is more evident on the race track, but for those like me who get fed up with the twitchiness of a sport sedan on a pock-marked city street and get equally annoyed with the lack of precision on switchbacks, it’s nice to have the ability to do something about it rather than just complain.
There’s nothing to complain about the S4 interior, though, with nicely cushioned and bolstered seats front and rear (well, the two outboard seats in the rear) keeping occupants comfortable and quiet on just about any length of journey (except those where the driver doesn’t stop often enough due to the car’s fuel range).
The trunk will swallow up anything occupants want to bring along and if you don’t have enough people to fill the rear quarters, you can bring along longer or more items.
My experience tells me, though, that you’ll never have a lack of bring-along friends when you tell them you’re going out for a drive in your S4.
2013 Audi S4
Trim level: Premium
Price as tested (before taxes): $66,745
Options on test vehicle: Audi drive select with quattro sport diff ($4,000); automatic transmission ($1,600); premium paint ($750); carbon atlas trim ($650)
Configuration: front engine/ all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.0L supercharged 6-cyl./ 7-spd automatic with sequential shift
Power/torque: 333 hp/ 325 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Premium (61L)
Fuel economy ratings: 12.1 L/100km city; 7.9 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 9.7 L/100km over 438 km
Warranties: 4 years/ 80,000 km (comprehensive)
Competitors: BMW M3; Lexus IS F; Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
Strengths: sure-footedness; acceleration; good looks
Weaknesses: information centre controls; a tad pricey