It looks like an A4, bolts like Usain and sounds like the build up to a storm. That, in a nutshell, is the Audi S4. It may look subtle and very domesticated, but, make no mistake, there is nothing delicate about the 3.0-litre, supercharged V6 under the hood. It’s the same as the one in the A6, except it makes exactly 38bhp more, in a car that weighs 110kg less.
Let’s get the numbers out of the way – they are quite stunning, but there’s a lot more to this car than its 0-100kph time of 5.6sec. You’ll get to its top-speed of 250kph very quickly too.
But what makes the S4 special is that it rides well. Yes, you heard right – the ride is fantastic. Audi has resisted going the ‘Nürburgring lap record’ way and stuck to a pliant, composed ride that never comes close to realigning your vertebrae. This little fact has direct consequences to this car’s usability – it means you can use it day-in and day-out because it has the compactness of an A4, enough performance to scare a few sportscars and can be absolutely civilised when you want it to be, a fact that’s confirmed by how subtle it looks. Subdued looks has always been a hallmark of Audi’s S-line models and it is painfully evident in the S4. It looks so much like a well-specified A4, it’ll take a rabid Audi fanatic to tell them apart. You have to look for discreet S4 badges, the V6 T badge on the flanks, the quad exhaust pipes sticking out the back and the aluminium-finish rear-view mirrors. This may not be good, considering the S4 costs considerably more than its poorer cousins. Owners might want a bit more distinction.
However, if you do like the restraint Audi’s designers have exercised, you’re in for a treat. Most of this is down to the engine – it loves to be revved, power delivery is very linear, and the way the shove gets stronger as the needle swings towards the redline is absolutely addictive. Even the exhaust note eggs you on to visit the redline just to hear the noise and that delicious rumble every time you execute a full-throttle upshift.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission’s snappy responses and well-matched gear ratios also mean that there’s instant, spine-compressing acceleration wherever and whenever you want it.
It’s so responsive, partly because of the supercharger – there’s boost right from the word go – and partly because the supercharger sits in the ‘V’ of the cylinder banks. Compressed air has to travel a very short path to the cylinders and this sharpens the bite.
And, don’t think the comfy ride makes for soggy handling. Sure the S4 rolls a bit when you tip it into corners, but once there, it sits down and doesn’t move from its line. You can get the S4 to flow beautifully on a twisting stretch of mountain road, but the steering, though weighty and adequately direct, isn’t as feelsome as a BMW’s. There’s lots of grip too, thanks to the Quattro system but, like most Audi’s, the front starts to wash wide as you approach the limits. We do wish the brakes were a bit more feelsome though, and the car really sits down when it’s fully loaded, so it does ground out over speed-breakers.
As for the interiors, there are some special bits that tell you you’re in something different. The S4’s three-spoke steering, grippy Alcantara upholstery and the grey dials look classy, and the black and aluminium theme goes well with the sporty nature of the car. The interior remains a terrific place to spend time, with fabulously supportive seats, and that deep sense of quality, regardless of which surface you’re touching. And because the S4’s dimensions are similar to the A4, the cabin is as spacious and the boot is big as well.
At Rs 45.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Maharashtra), it is approximately Rs 15 lakh more than an A4 1.8T, which is expensive. But look at it this way – if you want explosive performance, practicality and everyday usability, then here’s a car that offers it all at a realistic price.