From the November 2009 issue of Automobile Magazine
by Joe Lorio
Photographs by: Daniel Byrne
Nor were we terribly sad to skip the Drive Select package, which, along with the torque-vectoring axle, includes adjustable damping, dynamic steering with selectable effort, and a choice of throttle mapping. In fact, during our hardest driving over the worst roads, the S4 with its standard suspension configuration - which is firmer than that of the A4 - displayed even better body control than the already exemplary 335i. And unlike some past Audis with sport suspensions, the S4 doesn't beat you up over bumps. The S4, like the 335i, was adept at absorbing impacts without transmitting any harshness. Again, both cars impressed us tremendously with their ability to blend agility and a relatively comfortable ride. (As it happened, both were riding on eighteen-inch wheels. They're standard on the S4, with nineteens optional - and fitted to the car that we tested against the clock. On the 335i, eighteen-inch wheels are an upgrade over the base seventeens.)
The one area where Drive Select might have helped was in steering effort, as we found Audi's standard Servotronic setup too speed-sensitive. Although it firms up pleasantly at higher speeds - and even offers a bit of road feel - it's overly light and artificial at low speeds, and transitioning between the two is off-putting. In contrast, BMW is brave enough to let the 3-series live with relatively high steering efforts at low speeds, and the reward for its consistency is that the steering feels absolutely natural and never contrived, with great feedback as well.
The driver's compartment is all business in the 335i, even rather plain, with a mostly black dash face that is relieved only by a splash of wood trim. Ordering navigation gets you iDrive, but the system has gone through enough iterations that it's now no harder to use than Audi's MMI. The sport package includes upgraded bucket seats, which are firm and comfortable. The driving position is above reproach, but the rear seat is still a bit tight for a six-footer. Still, the BMW's more upright greenhouse makes for a slightly more livable back seat than one finds under the Audi's sloping roofline. The Audi's more stylish cabin largely lives up to the brand's billing, and the S4 indulges in a good deal of flash with aluminum and (in our test car) carbon-fiber accents. High-back sport seats are standard. The upholstery is leather and Alcantara - in all black - or you can spend $1000 for full leather, in black or three two-tone combinations.