• Mar 27, 2006

To borrow a phrase, Smurfin' ain't easy-- at least not for those hoping to maintain a low profile. Case in point: Our Audi S4 tester, resplendent in Gargamel-goading Sprint Blue Pearl Effect ($750). The cop-baiting color readily illustrates that cartoon blue is the new 'Arrest Me Red' -- as if the S4 lacks sufficient visual and aural drama to begin with. Given the S4's throaty 340-horse, eight-cylinder urge, drivers quickly learn that striking a wallflower pose is near-as-dammit impossible... but we'll get to that later. In the meantime, prospective owners are advised to invest in a quality radar detector, pick an understated hue from the order books, and pray for understanding magistrates.

[Click through to the jump for more design details and tons of high-res photos]

 

It isn't as if the S4 wants for a sense of occasion-- at least up front. As seen here, Audi's new corporate face centers around the large chrome-lipped horsecollar grille has quickly spread throughout the lineup to divisive reviews. While it undoubtedly fails to deliver the elegant proportions of previous iterations, it certainly doesn't lack presence. This is particularly true in light of S4's broad stance and wide footprints. Given the massive shove underhood, candlepower of similar urgency for safe nighttime travel is comforting, necessary stuff. To that end, piercing tri-element high intensity discharge headlights cast their gaze down the road, augmented by bumper-resident round auxiliary lamps. With the Premium Package mentioned earlier, adaptive lighting is also part of the picture. Critically, our evaluator was registered in Michigan, saving it the indignity of a front license plate-- something that has a way of really blemishing the face of automobiles whose grilles appear to run below the bumper line.

In profile, the S4 is remarkably similar to garden-variety A4s-- no lurid fender extensions or rude cutlines, just some subtle doorsill extensions and side mirrors mittened in chrome. Audi's lilting arc of a roofline continues to age as gracefully as you like, with windows edged delicately in brightwork. On the S4, the brand's now-iconic 18" Avus wheels come as standard-fit, but as part of a $2,900 Premium Package, ours arrived shod with somewhat timid-looking 18" 14-spoke alloys and summer tires. With just a pair of small dedicated turn-signal lenses hiding in the bumpers and a fender-punctuating repeater (adjacent a diminutive 'V8' badge), the S4's profile borders on Q-ship innocuous. 

Out back, the rump plays the same restrained tune. Eagles-head taillamps (subtly echoing the fixtures up front) and a flash of chrome garnish mark out the trunklid, and a blacked-out lower valance bookended by the business-end of a pair of double-tipped cans add visual aggression. But without the modest S4 emblems front and rear, one could be forgiven for mistaking Audi's bahn-burner for a bog-standard A4 flexing upgraded wheels and tires.

The net-net is a split-decision. For some, the S4's visual enhancements will likely not speak loudly enough to the substantial price and performance increase over more common A4s. For others seeking a clandestine mod-rod, the reigned-in aesthetics (our tester's color aside) and lack of boy-racer aerodynamic addenda speak of the sort of quiet dignity and restraint best suited to high-speed, ticket-free running. Besides, for those with the financial wherewithal, a hotter RS4 arrives in Audi dealerships shortly and promises to ratchet up the visceral wattage another notch.

Stay tuned as we crack the door, peer underhood, and row through our S4's six-speed gearbox with great vengeance and furious anger in search of its Quattro-abetted, V8-motivated mettle and soul.

Can't stand the suspense? Here's a hint.

[Source: Wikipedia]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 19 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      Let me just say, for the record, that driving this thing on a track can make ya need a cigarette when you're done. At least walk funny for a little bit.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Cool car, but those rims need some serious help.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #16,

      Real-world, expect 15-16mpg city and 19 highway.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Oh, you lucky sods. I drove one of these back-to-back with an M3 a couple of years ago because, well because someone asked me to. Yeah, I had to be pushed. For once I preferred an Audi to a BMW. The wonderful V8 in this car makes up for somewhat bleh steering. Which they might have fixed with the refresh. Time to drive one again?

      Or wait for the 420-horse RS4?

      My review: http://www.epinions.com/content_138932293252

      Prices can be compared at http://www.truedelta.com (redesign now up)

      Did I forget to mention the fantastic Recaro seats? I expect to read all about them in your next installment.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Audi's are wanker cars. Quite popular round here; more A4s than Passats, etc. The A3 is the ultimate wanker car: VAG finally found a way to make the Golf more expensive. Too bad that car sucks large.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I have always been leary of Audi. I know a Lexus is a Toyota, but a Audi is a Volkwagen for Gods sake. I had a 2000 Jetta - car sucks, dealers blow and repair and maintenance costs are offensive. Maybe Audi is a little better but last month a doctor at a local clinic had his brand new A6 spontaneously combust in the parking lot and burn to the point it could not be repaired - apparently an electrical problem. He's now tooling around town in his new M45.
      • 8 Years Ago
      A fine writeup... and colorful pictures to boot(probably can't help it with a Sprint Blue car). Keep it up, and never mind the (apparent) illiterates in the comment section!

      BTW, how are the child seat provisions?
      • 8 Years Ago
      A fine writeup... and colorful pictures to boot(probably can't help it with a Sprint Blue car). Keep it up, and never mind the (apparent) illiterates in the comment section!

      BTW, how are the child seat provisions?
      • 8 Years Ago
      I managed to drive a B7 S4 on track. I never was a fan of the S4, just too fat and nose heavy.

      The new S4 changed my mind. The power from the V8 and perfectly spaced gears made the car feel like it was half it's weight.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The B6.5 update downgraded the rear lighting, red turn signals, WTF!
      The biggest problem is poor weight distribution due to legacy packaging 60/40 is Acura TSX 6speed manual.
      The front drive shaft needs to be under the crankshaft. See Acura Legend circa 15 years ago, That would allow Audi to reach a 55/45 weight distribution without having a car weigh 4500 lbs W12 LWB, or 5500 VW Phaeton W12
      Audi is late to the Torsen 3 party-see Alfa Romeo, and it is an unncessary move until they move to 55/45 weight distribution cars.
      The 'spider bite' of normal Torsen 1 & Torsen 2 center differential can be eliminated by adding a rear torsen differential-See Audi V8 of early '90s
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Time to unpimp ze auto" - lose the chrome...

      I still can't get used to that nappy grille treatment - is there an aftermarket company making a killing on color-matched panels to go across the bumperline? Good place for a euro plate, I suppose.

      TO ALL AUTOMOTIVE JOURNALISTS:
      Please remove this from your vocabulary: "bahn-burner" - it's hackneyed.
      • 8 Years Ago
      it's hot, especially in yellow. by far the best everyday family sedan you can buy. it handles with the best of them, wont get caught up in the snow and is nice enough on the inside for just about anyone. and it'll fit 5 people. When I'm a daddy, I wouldn't mind having one!
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