Strong silent types

They look in­nocu­ous but this pair of Audis has enough grunt to see off more overtly sporty of­fer­ings

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF

AUDI’S S4 sedan and wagon don’t rely on vis­ual ef­fects to make an im­pres­sion. They are very much stealth fight­ers, se­duc­ing buy­ers with per­for­mance rather than looks.

Key to that ap­peal is a tur­bocharged V6, an eight­speed auto (reg­u­lar A4s have a seven-speed du­al­clutch trans­mis­sion), beefier brakes, low­ered adap­tive sus­pen­sion and a rear­biased all-wheel-drive setup.

It may be hard to spot but it’s im­pos­si­ble not to no­tice once you’re un­der­way. What will re­ally at­tract at­ten­tion is the claimed $19,000 worth of ex­tra value in the new model.

Prices are down by more than $6000 com­pared to the out­go­ing model and Audi says it has also added $12,000 of equip­ment to the S4.

The sedan starts at $99,900; the wagon is $3000 more.

The stand­out fea­ture is a suite of driver as­sis­tance sys­tems un­ri­valled this side of the com­pany’s SQ7 SUV. The ex­haus­tive list runs from adap­tive cruise con­trol that can ease the car to a stop and ac­cel­er­ate to cruis­ing speed to rear crosstraf­fic alert and sen­sors to pre­vent driv­ers “door­ing” pass­ing cy­clists or cross­ing into the path of on­com­ing traf­fic.

Beyond that the S4 uses Audi’s yet-to-be-beaten “vir­tual cock­pit” dig­i­tal driver’s dis­play, which can be re­con­fig­ured to suit the driver’s taste. There are also adap­tive LED head­lamps, an 8.3-inch in­fo­tain­ment screen with An­droid Auto/ Ap­ple CarPlay, sat­nav, dig­i­tal ra­dio and am­bi­ent in­te­rior light­ing.

Audi prod­uct plan­ner Peter Strud­wicke says the S4 is a car for un­pre­ten­tiou s pres­tige per­for­mance fans.

“The phi­los­o­phy be­hind our S mod­els is to have a car a bit more sporty than our reg­u­lar mod­els with­out shout­ing about it,” he says.

A rear sports dif­fer­en­tial costs $2950 and there are a pair of op­tion packs for those will­ing to spend more.

The Tech­nik bun­dle adds ma­trix LED head­lamps, LED day­time run­ning lights, a head-up dis­play and a Bang and Olufsen 3D sound sys­tem for $5600. The $5900 S Per­for­mance pack wraps the dash in fake leather, adds car­bon in­lays, puts red paint on the brake cal­lipers and in­cludes nappa leather sports front seats with a mas­sage func­tion.


Com­mit­ted driv­ers may find oc­ca­sion to use the dy­namic set­ting for the S4’s adap­tive dampers; most will find the auto set­ting has more than enough scope to han­dle city cruis­ing and cor­ner carv­ing on Aus­tralia’s bat­tle-scarred roads.

It is that de­gree of com­pli­ance that will dif­fer­en­ti­ate the S4 from the yet-to-ar­rive RS4. The for­mer is a mid-sized pres­tige ve­hi­cle with a per­for­mance bent; the lat­ter is an all-out sports car than can be di­alled down to han­dle civic du­ties.

The S4’s au­to­matic trans­mis­sion shifts pretty seam­lessly in nor­mal mode, though there can be a mo­men­tary lag be­fore down­shift­ing if the car is at 80km/h and the driver prods for an in­stant surge to 100km/h. Pull the gear se­lec­tor to­wards you to en­gage sport and there’s far less de­lay but a no­tice­able nudge up and down the gears. En­gage the pad­dle shifters and the changes are fun, fast and ac­com­pa­nied by a sub­dued by steadily more stren­u­ous snarl as the tachome­ter heads for the 6500rpm red­line. There’s a hint of body roll through the turns but the sheer power of the en­gine and the grip from the 19inch Hankook tyres make this a quick car on back roads. Audi claims a 4.7sec­ond sprint to 100km/h and that level of ac­cel­er­a­tion is ev­i­dent at just about any speed. Ease into town and the S4 elic­its barely more at­ten­tion than a con­ven­tional A4 does — un­less, that is, you have left the trans­mis­sion in sport, in which case the Audi will hold se­cond gear and high revs in most sit­u­a­tions.


The Audi S4 isn’t a real sports car in­so­far as it does not stim­u­late all the senses — espe­cially the eyes and ears. The car sim­ply does the busi­ness in a pro­fes­sional and prac­tised man­ner and ri­val halo cars can eas­ily be em­bar­rassed when the bi­tu­men turns bendy.

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