December 8, 2008
Majorca, Spain – You simply can’t have enough of a good thing, especially if it’s an Audi. The A4 was recently voted the 2009 Best New Luxury Vehicle in Canada by members of AJAC. Last month, Audi gave auto writers their first drive in its even more athletic sibling the new Audi S4.
While they look alike, the faster and more agile S4 and S4 Avant, its wagon-bodied edition, are the gifted jocks in the A4 family. A new supercharged V6 engine replaces the outgoing V8, plus Audi also has come up with new and clever ways to convert power into rapid, yet very stable, vehicle motion.
The new 3.0-litre TFSI engine combines direct fuel injection with a low-pressure supercharger. It can produce 333 horsepower, yet fuel consumption is surprisingly low. An official Canadian fuel rating, however, has not yet been established.
At the heart of the S4 is Audi’s brilliant Quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system that now sends 60 per cent of drive power to the rear wheels, during normal operation. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a new seven-speed S Tronic automatic is an option.
New engineering tricks start with Audi Drive Select. The driver is given three driving-style choices that alter the working modes of the engine, the S Tronic transmission and a new optional Sport Differential.
In the “comfort” mode, safety and stability are priorities along with optimal suspension damping. The “auto” mode is a balance between all functions. And the “dynamic” mode emphasizes agility and the dynamic effect of the new Sport Differential.
The Sport Differential is actually a conventional differential with additional clutch packs and gear seats on each axle. An electro-hydraulic system is used to engage a clutch pack and this can increase the wheel speed of that axle by up to 10 per cent.
I got an opportunity to play with this system on a race-track, while on the island of Majorca. Heavy rain during our one-day stay in Spain (on a plain, wouldn’t you know) actually added to the driving experience and gave me a better appreciation of the Quattro drive and Sport Differential systems.
The Sport Differential can accelerate an outside rear wheel in a curve primarily to counter understeer (a tendency to run wide). The torque intervention enables the S4 to retain directional accuracy by “forcing” the car into a corner.
An advantage of supercharging over turbocharging is that the torque boost is immediate at low engine speeds. Maximum torque of 325 lb.-ft. is available between 2,900 and 5,300 r.p.m. The S4 can sprint to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds and it has an electronically governed top speed of 250 km/h. As already mentioned, the surprising part is that its fuel consumption has also been reduced, by 27 per cent, according to Audi.
High fuel efficiency is made possible primarily by direct gasoline injection. The supercharger also is integrated into the engine design and located behind the throttle valve. When coasting, there’s a partial vacuum and its rotors are free-running, so the drive power required is low.
Visually similar to the A4, the S4 has an aero-trim package, aluminum-look side mirrors, 18-inch alloy wheels, a small spoiler at the rear and quadruple tailpipes. It also comes with xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights plus LED tail lights.
Inside, it has sports seats and the upholstery is an Alcantara/leather combination. The steering wheel, the key and the instrument cluster all bear the S4 logos and it comes with brushed aluminum trim.
The “S” designation on a production Audi has been around since 1990 and it first appeared on an A4 body car in 1997. Faster, more fuel-efficient, more agile and more stable, the new Audi S4 and S4 Avant are undoubtedly the best yet.
Quick facts about the new Audi S4:
- New 3.0-litre TFSI engine with mechanical supercharging delivers 333 hp and 324.53 lb-ft of torque.
- Zero to 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds and it has top speed of 250 km/h (governed).
- A 27 percent lower fuel consumption – combined estimate 9.7 L/100 km.
- Six-speed manual gearbox as standard and an optional seven-speed S Tronic automatic.
- Quattro permanent four-wheel drive with new rear-biased characteristics.
- Optional sport rear differential.
- Sports suspension with firm settings, optional Audi drive select dynamic driving system with adaptive damper control and dynamic steering.
- High-performance brake system with large discs and black callipers.
- Standard 18-inch wheels and optional 19-inch wheels.
Manufacturer’s web site