I have absolutely fallen for this car. The Audi S4 is a joy to drive hard, easy to live with, and hardly flashy (as long as you skip the yellow paint). However, if I were buying this Audi, I would only consider the car with the Drive Select package. The included torque-vectoring rear differential is phenomenal when you roll onto the throttle in a fast turn. The extra push from the outside wheel makes bends feel effortless and the handling incredibly neutral, as the car follows your line perfectly. The other adaptive measures included with Drive Select are also quite impressive. Most notably, the steering effort in Dynamic mode is much more engaging than the standard setting. Up to about 6 mph, the wheel is still feathery light (which seems a bit unnecessary), but it all feels good once you're out of the parking garage. Having driven S4s with and without Drive Select, I'd say it's a shame Audi didn't firm some of the controls in their standard offering.
It's a bit silly that the supercharger leads to a "T" badge on this car, but what matters is that the engine is powerful, flexible, and smooth. I was also pleased to discover that the accelerator is well calibrated. Calling up serious power requires a serious push of the pedal. Far too many modern cars try to jump off the line with the slightest nudge of the pedal.
Putting the powertrain, the chassis, and the steering to work at the same time is fantastic. The transmission invites downshifts and the engine welcomes revs. The Quattro all-wheel drive creates huge amounts of grip and helps keep handling neutral. Steering is weighty and predictable. All in all, the S4 is a bit like a grown man's Mitsubishi Evo.
The interior is sporty and sleek, with supportive seats that seem suited for both hard driving and long cruises. Audi's MMI is fairly complex, but I haven't had any trouble finding features or learning how to use the controls. But tying the HVAC controls to the nav screen does seem a bit cumbersome. The driving experience could also be improved with a few small tweaks. Occasionally there's a weird sticky, steppy feeling as you let the clutch pedal out. The six-speed stick also takes a relatively high effort to stick it into a gear, but the throws are short.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor