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Audi S4 Avant

Subtle looks disguise performance estate’s incredible talents

The trend for downsizing has
even affected the performance
car market. Rising fuel costs and increasingly tough emissions regulations are forcing manufacturers to take a fresh look at their most rapid models. And
the Audi S4 is a prime example.
A more modest 3.0-litre V6 engine has been fitted to the latest version of the hot A4 – replacing the 340bhp 4.2-litre V8. Will it leave Audi fans feeling short changed?
In performance terms, probably not. Thanks to the addition of a supercharger, the new direct-injection unit produces a respectable 328bhp. More impressive
is the hefty torque output of 440Nm,
which is 30Nm up on the old car.
As usual in a fast Audi, power is transmitted to the road via the firm’s famous quattro four-wheel-drive system. Despite this hi-tech hardware, the car doesn’t shout about its potential. Take a quick glance at our Avant estate test car and you could easily mistake it for an entry-level diesel A4. Closer inspection reveals subtle side skirts, quad exhaust pipes, a silver finish on the door mirrors and S4 badging.
It’s a similar story inside, where a thick-rimmed steering wheel, deep sports seats and S4 logos are the only clues to the Audi’s range-topping status. The rest of
the cabin is standard A4, which means
a logically laid out dash, high-quality materials and first class fit and finish.
The S4 loses out to its cheaper rival in the space race, though. Not only is there less room for luggage in the boot, but occupants in the rear will find conditions a little cramped compared to the VW.
However, start up the supercharged engine and all thoughts of practicality soon disappear. The latest S4 doesn’t have the ultimate firepower of its predecessor, but it still managed to scorch from 0-60mph in only 4.9 seconds. And with 90 per cent
of the maximum torque available at 2,200rpm, overtaking pace is equally impressive. The only disappointment
is the rather muted engine note.
Head down a twisting back road and it’s the Audi that delivers the more engaging driving experience. The steering is direct, and the strong grip inspires confidence
in the corners. Our test car was fitted with the Drive Select system, which provides Comfort, Dynamic and Auto settings for the steering and dampers, together with a hi-tech sports rear differential.
Together, these racy extras push the
price tag to nearly £39,000. Add a few
other desirable options such as leather and sat-nav, and you can easily spend more
than £40,000. While the Audi undoubtedly has sharper driving dynamics and a more desirable image, has it done enough
to justify its price premium?

Details

WHY: Grippy four-wheel-drive chassis and powerful engine make S4 a sports car slayer.

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