2010 Audi S4

Napa Valley, California - Time does fly in the automotive world. I remember driving the A4-based Audi S4 in 2001, and being blown away by its poise and power at the time. Equipped with a twin-turbocharged V6 engine making 250 horsepower, it was a substantial step up from the 150-hp, 2000 A4 1.8T. But it cost about $70,000.

By 2008, the S4 had transformed into a rip-roaring 4.2-litre, V8-powered car making 340 hp. Its sound under hard acceleration was something to savour, but the price was still over $70,000. Serious coin, as they say.

After taking a break from the marketplace for a year, the Audi S4 returns for 2010, and it is a true evolution. Not because it’s bigger, more aggressive and more imposing (it’s not); but rather because it’s more sophisticated, more fuel efficient, and makes about the same power as the V8 S4, even though it uses a new and smaller-displacement 3.0-litre V6 engine. Happily, the price now starts at $52,500 for the six-speed manual version, which is what car manufacturers call a “repositioning” of the product, and would-be S4 owners call an opportunity.

2010 Audi S4
2010 Audi S4. Click image to enlarge

The new engine is a supercharged, direct fuel-injected, dual overhead camshaft V6 that makes 333 hp at between 5,300 and 6,000 r.p.m. Torque is rated at 325 foot-pounds from between 1,500 and 4,200 r.p.m. (23 more than the outgoing V8), but 90 per cent of the S4’s torque is available at only 2,200 r.p.m. Fuel economy is improved compared with the previous-generation S4, estimated to be 13.8 L/100 km city and 9.0 L/100 km highway. Premium fuel is required, and the coefficient of drag is 0.28.

The re-engineered six-speed manual transmission (6MT) is a very smooth and precise unit with short shifts and no vibration when moving up and down through the gears. Alternatively, for $54,100 you can order your S4 with the optional paddle-shifting, seven-speed S tronic (7AT) which operates like a conventional automatic transmission with benefits.

In paddle-shifting mode, this dual clutch transmission shifts faster than Allan McNish (Audi’s Le Mans-winning driver) can shift through a manual gearbox, doing so by preselecting the upcoming gear with its second clutch while accelerating through the range. The result is that when it’s time to shift, it’s effectively already happened.

2010 Audi S4
2010 Audi S4. Click image to enlarge

In automatic mode, the S tronic transmission shifts almost imperceptibly through the gears under mild or moderate acceleration, but responds instantly and optimally to your right foot when high performance is requested. This transmission can skip gears when required, blip the throttle when downshifting, and change gears in micro-seconds when accelerating hard, with no power loss (according to Audi) between one gear and the next.

Standard equipment on the “base” S4 includes a full array of safety and convenience features, including stability control, multiple airbags, climate control, full leather interior with contrasting stitching, power seats, tilt/telescope steering, Sirius satellite radio, special grey-faced gauges, trip computer and, of course, quattro all-wheel drive.

For an extra $4,700, you can order your vehicle with a Premium Package that includes 19-inch wheels, “Silk” Napa leather seats, rear parking sensor, Homelink, Audi Side Assist, and Advanced Key with start button.