2012 Audi S4 offers premium performance
BY JEFF TAYLOR For Sun-Times Media March 20, 2012 11:07PM
2012 AUDI S4
ENGINE: 333-horsepower 3.0-liter supercharged, intercooled V-6
TRANSMISSION: seven-speed S Tiptronic with paddle shifters
DRIVETRAIN: all-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 18 city/28 highway
BASE PRICE: $48,700
AS TESTED: $59,350
Audi is known for its luxury sedans packed with technology and crisp interiors surrounded by attractive exteriors. Audi’s performance image always has been secondary, even with the fantastic quattro all-wheel-drive systems, rally car history and Le Mans-winning race cars.
The beautiful R8 coupe tops the Audi performance offerings, but an S designation takes a standard Audi and transforms it into a capable performance machine. Case in point is the 2012 S4 sedan that I recently tested. Make no mistake: An S car is not a fit for everyone — or their wallets.
The heart of the S4 is an advanced 3.0-liter V-6 featuring supercharging, direct injection and intercooling that boost output to 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. In driving this car I noted that it has plenty of torque distributed all the way up the rpm band. You never get the feeling that something has been added to enhance the engine or that you experienced a delay waiting for the horses to kick in.
With the S4 you have a choice of a paddle-shift seven-speed dual-clutch transmission or a six-speed manual. My test car came equipped with the paddle-shifted automatic, and I liked it. This transmission was perfect for congested Chicago traffic. I was able to plod along effortlessly, but when the roads opened, neck-snapping, g-force acceleration was just a paddle shift away — no clutch pedal required.
If you prefer manual so be it, but the automatic is not a downgrade. Manual and automatic transmissions both induce a pleasing exhaust note. All this zoom is complemented by decent fuel economy estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The horses pound the pavement through Audi’s standard quattro all-wheel-drive system featuring a 40/60 rear-wheel-biased power split. An optional sports rear differential distributes power side to side, providing a tenacious grip on the asphalt. This grip does not come at a sacrifice to daily ride comfort. The ride is a bit firmer but in this car you expect some firmness over a stock A4 and a premium feeling is present.
Flinging this car through the corners you’ll be able to maintain a tight line with minimal body lean. The brakes have been upgraded to confidently handle stops from triple digits. The only blemish is steering that is not as responsive and connected, leaning more toward a luxury cruiser versus a sports sedan.
The S4 has just enough exterior changes to differentiate from a standard A4. Eyeball it and you’ll note the meaty 18-inch wheels and tires, front and rear LED lighting, aggressive front and rear fascias, subtle rear spoiler, tasteful badging and chrome additions.
The inside is all business with a crisp, slightly subdued interior look. I was a little disappointed because the design was not as cutting edge or as enhanced as previous S editions have been. The materials were in keeping with an S car, including a new steering wheel, aluminum trim and a choice of console and door/dash trims. The sports seats are firm yet supportive, and I liked the black and magma leather.
Audi’s reputation for technology is maintained via the MMI navigation that displays audio, climate and navigation functions; also present is a three-zone climate control system, Bluetooth, keyless entry/ignition, xenon headlamps, blind-spot warning system, excellent 505-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system and adaptive cruise control. Audi’s advances in suspension, engine and transmission are also up-to-the-minute.
With the 2012 S4, Audi is strengthening its performance push, but expect to pay if you want to play. The pricing is in the same ballpark as performance editions from other European competitors.
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