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.
The S4 also has the best overall interior in the business. Drive any car after some time in an Audi, and you will invariably notice little flaws and cut corners that never bothered you before.
Complaints? The brakes are a bit grabby. Combined with a touchy clutch pedal, it makes for occasional unintended lurching in so-and-go traffic. That, of course, makes you look like an idiot, something you can ill afford when attracting all the attention that comes with a bright yellow paint job.
Ultimately, I'm not kidding when I say I'll probably crown the next premium mid-size sport sedan I drive the best in the segment. The BMW remains the purist's choice, the Cadillac still looks the sharpest (to my eyes, at least), the Volvo rides the best, and any of the Japanese trio will likely provide superior long-term reliability. And yet, I am confident in saying the Audi is probably the best choice for the greatest number of people.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor