We’ll start with what lies underhood. Never mind the TFSI badging that adorns the engine’s plenum cover; there’s not a turbocharger to be found in this engine bay. Instead, the 2009 S4 uses an all-new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with direct fuel injection. Sure, Audi could have changed the nomenclature, but would Kompressor-FSI have the same ring?
Detail-picky enthusiasts will move past the misnomer once they see the benefits of the V-6. Audi says the engine pumps out 333 hp, while torque – a good 324 lb-ft of it – is delivered between 2500 and 4850 rpm. Both figures compare admirably with the outgoing car’s 4.2-liter V-8, which produced 340 hp and 302 lb-ft. Perhaps most impressive is the V-6’s fuel economy. Audi says the engine drinks twenty-five percent less fuel, and returns an average 25 mpg in combined city and highway driving.
Predictably, Audi has mated the blown V-6 to its ubiquitous Quattro all-wheel-drive system, but there are a few new mechanical tricks. To start, there’s the optional QuattroSport active rear differential. Activated by hammering the car through a corner, the differential shifts power to whichever wheel is on the outside. Audi claims doing this allows the axle to not only push the car through the corner, but also negates both over- and understeer.
Other options further the S4’s performance credentials. Though a six-speed manual is standard, an all-new seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission is optional. So too is a variable-effort steering rack, but we’re most interested in the new Audi Drive Select system. Available with any of the above options, Drive Select can modify steering, suspension, differential, and throttle responses based upon preset Comfort, Automatic, and Sport settings. Cars equipped with Audi’s Multimedia Interface (MMI) controller go one step further, allowing the driver to customize and program settings to his or her liking.
While the mechanicals scream performance, the exterior doesn’t. If it weren’t for the traditional S4 badges, one might mistake the S4 for a run-of-the-mill 2009 A4. Most of the styling tweaks seen on the A4, including a new front fascia, tight body lines, and LED daytime running lamps, are carried over to the S4. One might notice the standard 18- or optional 19-inch wheels, but they’ll see the most change from the rear. Those left in the S4’s dust will catch a glimpse of quad exhaust tips (all chromed), a slightly taller decklid spoiler, and LED taillights, patterned after those on the R8.
That’s just as well; we’d prefer the S4 to be more go than show. Luckily, preliminary numbers seem to confirm our wishes: Audi says the S4 sedan moves from naught to 62 mph in a scant 5.1 seconds, while the Avant wagon is only one-tenth of a second slower. Both have an electronically-limited top-end of 155 mph – that’s plenty fast, but we wouldn’t be surprised if tuning firms across Germany are furiously working on how to crack Audi’s programming.
Though the S4 will appear in European showrooms this spring, it won’t arrive in North America until the fall of 2009. When it does, expect it to show up only in sedan form (Audi can’t build a business case for the Avant), wearing a sticker price similar to the 2008 S4 (approximately $48,000).