The Audi A4 is the brand’s best-selling car, and it’s easy to see why. It has so much going for it: elegant styling, a classic interior, practicality and, of course, sporty performance. It’s a great luxury sedan, but one bit of advice to anyone considering an A4: You might not want to test-drive an S4.
Once you put your foot down in Audi’s performance-tuned version of its flagship midsize sedan, you’ll never look at the A4 in quite the same way. With a supercharged V6 under the hood, the S4 is an A4 on ’roids. Consider the math: Per Audi’s statistics, the A4 clocks 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. A Camry can run near that. The S4: 4.9 seconds. That 1.6 seconds is basically the difference between “Ooh, that was nice” and “Holy sh#t!” Stepping up the power to 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque with incredible handling and a sport-tuned suspension, the S4 is a driver’s dream. It cuts through curves like it’s on rails, in large part thanks to the optional sports differential on our test vehicle. This tricky feature from Audi distributes torque to the rear wheels depending on the driving situation—in a right-hand turn, more torque goes to the left rear wheel to carve the turn, akin to a downhill skier putting more force on the outside ski during a slalom. Audi’s dual-clutch seven-speed S-tronic transmission delivers lightning-quick shifts when you let the car do all the work, though there are wheel-mounted paddles for those control freaks who want to do the shifting.
The S4 comes in two trim packages, Premium Plus and Prestige. Our 2012 monsoon gray metallic S4 came with the Prestige package, which includes 19-inch five-spoke wheels, adaptive front lighting that pivots up to 15 degrees when turning, a 505-watt 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, stitched leather door armrests, rear acoustic parking sensors and Audi’s MMI navigation system. The S4’s sport seats swaddle the driver in leather and Alcantara while providing the bolstered support necessary when pulling g’s through twists and turns.
The final sticker on the S4 — adding in the silky Nappa leather interior, the sport differential and other options — lands just south of $60K. That puts the S4 right in the ballpark of a loaded BMW 335i and other comparable luxury sport sedans, making it a worthy contender for any driving enthusiast’s attention. The A4 and S4 will reflect a mild makeover inside and out when the 2013 models hit showrooms later this year, including restyled headlights and taillights, along with some streamlining to the multimedia interface, but both will remain essentially the same: great luxury sport sedans. How to choose? Depends on how much of a speed addict you are.
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