High Gear Media accepted travel expenses to attend the first media drive of the 2010 Audi S4.
With the new 2010 S4, Audi takes a bold step to assert itself as one of the top three performance-sedan brands on the planet. The previous S4 had V-8 power that fell behind the Benz C63 and BMW M3, yet it was priced higher than those four-doors. A new 333-horsepower V-6 pits it squarely against those supersedans in acceleration, but the $47,000 S4 carries a base price nearly $10,000 less than those cars-which, Audi says, makes the much slower BMW 335i and Benz C350 its real competition.
The S4 shares most of its body with the Audi A4 sedan, which was revamped for 2009. The longer, wider body resembles Audi's larger A6, with a gentle wedge and aero-rounded roofline following a massive front grille and LED daytime running lights, capped by LED tail lamps in this special performance edition. The S4's unique styling pieces include deeper front and rear bumpers, a revised grille, new side moldings, a small spoiler on the trunk lid, bright mirror housings and bright trim on the air diffusers in the bumpers, and 18-inch wheels. Inside, the S4 has a taller, darker dash that's not as classically handsome as previous Audi interior themes, but it's still an efficient place to work. Special S4 additions to the basic wide-binnacle dash include a black headliner, a new steering wheel, aluminum trim, and a choice of console and door trim: walnut, aluminum, gray birch, or woven stainless steel.
This year, Audi reintroduces the S4 with a powerful new V-6 engine that's downsized two cylinders from the last edition. The 3.0-liter six-cylinder uses supercharging, intercooling, and direct injection to boost its output to 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. With a grittier sound than the old, sweet Audi V-8 purr, the six shifts its power to the ground through a six-speed manual gearbox or TheCarConnection.com's perennial favorite, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters that clicks off quick, precise, clutch-pedal-free gearchanges. Audi says the S4 shoots past 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with a limited 155-mph top speed. It's as fast as a BMW M3 or a Benz C63. Fuel economy is rated at an awesome 18/27 mpg for manual-equipped S4s, and 18/28 mpg for the dual-clutch edition.
Quattro all-wheel drive, with a power split weighted to the rear wheels, and an optional Sports Rear Differential that vectors power from side to side, give the S4 awesome road-holding potential and grippy feel. It's entertaining to press to its tire limits, but the S4's optional Drive Select system dials in lots of artificial heft to the electronic power steering, while giving the driver some usable flexibility in ride comfort and transmission response. Audi's base configuration works well enough to avoid the expensive option.
The S4's cabin and cargo holds are essentially identical to the A4 sedan; the S4 does get unique front sport seats with firm backrests and high headrests that sit at an ideal angle. The current A4/S4 lineup is blessed with more interior room than the last-generation lineup, and though legroom in the backseat is good, the seat itself could use more bolstering and a taller, thicker cushion for better comfort. The trunk is large and usefully boxy, with a low liftover, and the S4 has lockable storage inside, good cup holders, and lots of small-item storage. Quality materials are incorporated throughout, though some knobs could look nicer and work with more refinement.
The 2010 Audi S4 has been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and has earned five-star ratings. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested it yet. Safety equipment includes standard airbags all around, as well as traction and stability control, all-wheel drive, a rearview camera, and parking sensors.
The $47,000 2010 Audi S4 comes in a single body style, and it's heavily equipped with luxury and technology features. Leather is standard, along with Bluetooth, a music interface for audio players, keyless entry and ignition, xenon headlamps, and Audi's MMI controller, which operates audio, climate, and navigation functions. A navigation system is an option on the S4, along with adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot warning system, and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system.
The Bottom Line:
The 2010 Audi S4 blasts its way into a performance war with BMW and Mercedes-Benz-and Lexus, Infiniti, and Cadillac-thanks to a big price cut and 333 supercharged horsepower.