Audi's RS range of high performance cars occupy pride of place at the Ingolstadt feed lot but the line between them and slightly lesser models is becoming blurred if the new S4 Avant is any indication.
The S cars don't cost as much as the RS cars but in this case, you'd be better off saving the (considerable) dosh and go for the penultimate model S4 Avant. It gets within a whisker of RS performance and the S cars are possibly better all rounders for everyday driving.
This is the first time an Avant S4 has been available here ($123,900) and it's a cracker of a drive as well as looking the business. A sedan version is also available for a few grand less.
The S4 is a repository for plenty of desirable kit from the extensive Audi equipment list but you can still inflate the price considerably by ticking the boxes. There's no need really because S4 boasts, among other things, Audi's Drive Select system that offers five modes: dynamic, auto, comfort, normal and individual. It changes calibrations for engine, throttle, transmission, steering, suspension and even the aircon' system.
Should be on all prestige and performance cars. We settled for `auto' or `dynamic' modes most of the time. Other handy features include radar cruise control, lane assist and attention assist but a reverse camera is optional - on a high end Euro wagon... We love the auto wipers and headlights and electric tailgate but the space saver spare is a bummer.
The interior is full-glam' in muted metallic and grey tones complete with classy leather upholstery, sports seats and a beautifully finished and integrated dash. There's a large info screen with controls for many functions and a premium audio with 20 gig music register.
There isn't much lacking inside that's for sure. Exterior styling features the new A4 mask and minor body tweaks that came when the model was revamped earlier this year. It looks better than ever, in this case accentuated by optional 19-inch titanium coloured alloys, minor body aero add-ons and brushed alloy roof rails.
Exhilarating performance comes from the supercharged 3.0-litre, petrol V6 engine with direct injection and variable valve timing. It clocks a 0-100kmh sprint in 5.0 seconds and thanks to stop start and other efficiency measures, uses as little as 8.1-litres/100km. The 3.0-litre is in other Audis but they don't drive as well as this one which seems to go better and certainly sounds better - arguably the best sounding V6 currently available.
A rumbling blatt on full throttle upchanges comes from the quad-tip exhaust and is a new sound dimension compared with the exhaust pop of other makes. It's good for 245kW/440Nm, the latter at around 1750rpm through to 5000 plus.
Drive is to all wheels via Audi's refined quattro system after moving through a dual clutch S-tronic manumatic. The test car had the optional sports differential with torque vectoring providing a higher level of grip and traction. Sporty driving is aided by paddle shift on the fat, flat bottom, multi controller steering wheel. It's practical too with room for five and a large, expandable load space.
We'll have to change our opinion of 3.0-litre V6 petrol engines after this experience. The car looks a million bucks too.
Audi S4 Avant
Price: from $123,900
Engine: 3.0-litre supercharged V6; 245kW/440Nm
Transmission: 7-sp dual-clutch auto, AWD
Thirst: 8.4L/100km, 197g/km CO2
BMW 335i M Sport Estate
Price: from $112,600
Engine: 3.0 litre turbo six-cylinder, 225kW/400Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 8.7L/100km 95 RON, 203 g/km CO2
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate
Price: from $154,800
Engine: 6.2-litre V8, 336kW/600Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 12.3L/100km 98 RON, 288g/km CO2