I'm adding the S4 to my informal list of "Cars I'd Buy if I Won the Lotto." Admittedly, there are snazzier choices on which to spend jackpot winnings, but the Audi S4 is unbelievably satisfying to drive. It all starts with the engine, a fantastic supercharged V-6 that provides truly energetic throttle response. It always has enough power, pulling steadfastly in every gear. The sound -- just a tiny hint of supercharger whine -- is exactly what you expect from a sports car, ranging from a growl when slipping the clutch to a bark if you rev-match downshifts. The clutch travel is quite long, but the engagement point is firm and easy to modulate. Like most Volkswagen/Audi products, the six-speed manual is very precise and easy to use but feels a little rubbery at times.
Over the weekend I was asked what new car I would buy for a daily driver if cost were no object. Normally this type of question would be difficult to answer, but I had recently driven an S4 and instantly knew the S4 would make a perfect daily driver. The S4 splits the difference between a more pedestrian A4 and the racy RS4 (which hasn't been sold in the U.S. for several years), with most of the performance of a supersedan and the stealthy looks of an A4. Choose a color less exotic than our tester's Imola Yellow and you'll never need to worry about standing out in traffic.
Acura TL, BMW 3-series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS, Volvo S60. I thought I'd list the cars in this segment so you can keep in mind that it's no small thing when I say the S4 is likely the best of the bunch (although I reserve the right to completely go back on this statement when I drive any of the others). What's great about it? First and foremost, it has the best overall powertrain. Audi's supercharged V-6 impresses me more each time I drive it, providing torque a plenty, instant throttle response, and a level of refinement we normally associate with inline configurations. The torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system similarly strikes a perfect balance -- it's fast-acting enough to impart impressive handling capabilities, but doesn't dominate the driving experience as such setups tend to do on other all-wheel-drive performance cars. The result is a fun-to-drive, refined, and very quick sports sedan whose talents are reasonably accessible to the average driver.
2011 Audi S4 Quattro MT6 Sedan