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Want to Look Like a Hero? Drive a 2013 Audi S4

All-wheel drive means anyone can look like a hotshot behind the wheel.

by on Jun.27, 2012

Audi's S4 is the sports sedan that will make anyone look like a race car driver.

A friend on Facebook suggested that we ban the automobile and make this a bicycle-only country.

If he were to drive this Audi S4, he would never utter such blasphemy again.

That’s because the S4 may very well be the perfect performance car. With 333 horsepower, it’s extremely fast, it corners as if its tires are coated in Stickum and it rides smoothly enough that grandmama wouldn’t complain. Its back seat is habitable by real adults and it has enough trunk space – 12.4 cubic feet – to handle a long weekend’s worth of bags for a pair of couples. With Quattro all-wheel drive, you can even slap a set of winter tires on it and ditch your winter car.

Powering Through Anything!

OK, in a day when fuel economy is becoming so much more important, the S4 does enjoy swilling more than its share of high-test petrol, but one time planting your foot to the floor at a light and you’ll momentarily forget that the next stop will involve refueling.

If Audi follows through with plans not to build an RS version of the A4 sedan, the S4 will stand as the highest-performance version of the car. On the horsepower count, that leaves the S4 looking up at its Mercedes and BMW competition. But all-wheel drive is the great equalizer in acceleration sprints, meaning the S4 should keep up with the Mercedes C63 AMG and BMW M3 in stoplight showdowns.

Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, along with stability control and traction control, makes the S4 easy to drive fast.

For this latest version of the S4, Audi replaced the 4.2-liter, 340-horsepower V-8 with a 333-horsepower version of the supercharged V-6 also found in the A6. Audi says the supercharged engine improves freeway fuel economy by 27 percent. Now rated at 18 city and 27 highway for the manual (equipped with the automatic, the freeway number goes up to 28), we saw 21 mpg, often with our right foot planted to the floor.

The S4 is seriously fast by just about anyone’s standards. Audi claims a 0-60 time of 4.9 seconds.

But what’s remarkable is the accessibility of this performance. There’s nothing complicated about driving the S4. No matter how hard you push it, the car always seems to be saying “No sweat, I’ve got your back.”

Audi replaced the old S4's 4.2-liter V-8 with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6.

For example, waiting for the light to turn green, there was a car in the next lane with ours ending shortly ahead. This was in Detroit on one of the many streets where pavement is a bit of an oxymoron. No problem. The clutch engagement has so much tactile feel, it’s easy to feel the precise moment of engagement. Pound the throttle and there isn’t even a hint of wheelspin, even on Detroit’s broken pavement. Before the car next to you has even started to move, you’re well ahead of him.

It corners with a similar lack of drama. No matter how hard you chuck it into a corner, the S4 handles it and makes you look like a champ. Still, if you want more control, Audi Drive Select offers four suspension settings – Comfort, Dynamic, Individual and Automatic.

Typical of Audis, the S4 has fine details at every corner.

Even with all of this athletic ability, the S4 coddles its occupants with appropriate luxury. Audi’s award-winning Multi Media Interface, gives easy access to the entertainment and navigation systems. The instrument panel is simple and extremely legible. All of the secondary controls work with that smooth German precision.

The S4’s sport seats are bit of a problem, at least for those with more generous dimensions. The seats are deeply bolstered and grippy Alcantara inserts in the middle mean there will be no sliding around. But entering the vehicle, especially for someone who likes the steering wheel adjusted low, can be difficult. A flat-bottom steering wheel would make getting in a little easier.

The S4 may be a compact, but there’s still unexpected room in the back seat. Three people back there wouldn’t be a good idea, but two have sufficient head and legroom. Rear-seat passengers also have an armrest with cupholders, a power outlet and climate control vents.

One surprise is relatively low crash ratings for the front seats. While rear seat side crash and rollover are rated at five stars by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, frontal crash ratings for the driver and passenger are only rated at three and four stars, respectively. Also, the S4 is rated at four stars in the front-seat side crash.

The only other criticism is the car’s weight. Audi is one of the leaders in the use of aluminum and high-strength steel, yet still, this S4 weighs 3,874 pounds. Yes, it does have all-wheel drive, which means there is some extra hardware underneath, but that’s a lot of pounds for a compact car.

S4 prices open at $48,175, including destination, for car with the six-speed manual transmission. The seven-speed Tiptronic automatic adds $1,400. This car came with a special blue that is listed as an “Audi Exclusive Color” and adds $2,500 to the bottom line. Audi MMI with navigation adds $2,000 and the sports differential another $1,100. Keyless start – which has both a start button and a slot to put the key fob which also starts the car – adds $550 and Carbon Atlas inlays add $500 for an as-tested price of $54,825. We say, lose the spiffy paint and keep the carbon fiber-style inlays to save three grand, but when you’re spending this kind of money, maybe that’s not a big deal.

Side and crash-test ratings don’t matter a lick when you mash the throttle to the floor and the supercharged engine sings that wonderful song. Do away with roads and travel around only on bicycles? Not as long as there are cars like the S4 on the road.


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