If you love the way a 335i tackles a bend-rodeo-style sideways-then the S4 might bore you. But when someone poises the stopwatch and cordons off a given stretch of twisty blacktop, the fuss-free and focused Audi might well be quicker than the hooliganesque BMW. I'm of course biased, because I stepped out of my personal A5 coupe, which has Drive Select, Dynamic Steering, and all that. I like the steering to be light and quick at parking speeds, and I prefer it meaty and virtually unassisted on the autobahn. I also appreciate this momentary softness in the helm that indicates that the front wheels are about to run out of grip, when all it takes to bring life back into them is a little tug toward the apex.
The electronic damper control fitted to the S4 is not magnetic ride but a conventional system that varies the diameter of a valve to control the oil flow. More important than the switchable shocks are the changes made to the base suspension. To reduce the unsprung weight, Audi replaced certain chassis elements made of steel with new ones made of light aluminum. To reduce unwanted body movements, they fitted tauter springs and dampers, and they lowered the ride height by nearly an inch. To cushion excessive elastokinematic liberties, they installed stiffer mounting points. This setup works well, but I would not hesistate to opt for bigger nineteen- or twenty-inch tires. While they compromise the ride, they stick like superglue, and they make provision for the bigger seventeen-inch brakes, which are essential when hard driving is on the agenda.
A typically understated Audi interiorInside, the S4 is an A4 in monochromatic livery-black in the case of the test car. It sports redesigned instruments with gray faces, a special leather-wrapped steering wheel, comfortable and supportive motorized sports seats, a new type of high-tech mesh wire trim, and bespoke striker plates. Inside and out, the new S4 is an undercover fast-lane warrior rather than a baby RS4.
Yes, we like it
Audi has created a product that epitomizes sublime efficiency. It is introverted in appearance and delivery but extroverted in character and ability. Call it pragmatic, if you wish. Call it multi-talented, because that's what it is. Call it the reincarnation of the Q-car. All it takes to enjoy it is to adjust to the S4's minimum-input, maximum-effect approach. And to keep pestering the manufacturer for a more tuneful engine and exhaust melody.