In the farewell installment to our long-term Audi TT 3.2 DSG (ec 12/05) I praised its direct sequential semi-automatic transmission and
mentioned we'd been looking forward to testing it on other high performance Audi platforms. I thought I got my wish when this smoldering red S4 showed up in the parking garage.
Interestingly, the S4 felt more detached than the TT in throttle response and the urgency expressed in the transmission's shift points. I thought maybe the passage of several months between my driving the two cars may have dulled my memory a bit, so, perplexed, I took out the window sticker and perused the list of equipment. It turns out the paddle shifters on the steering wheel had tricked me; the car's six-speed transmission was a standard automatic box equipped with Tiptronic-hence the AT6 designation on the window sticker. It was not, in fact, an actual DSG unit. Considering this, the Tip actually performed fairly well, especially when you consider how abysmally slow such "manumatic" transmissions used to be.
On the road, the S4 feels far better suited to high-speed touring than canyon carving. It's a pretty heavy beast, 3,800 pounds' worth, and you can really feel its heft on tight roads. Quattro all-wheel drive affords the S4 an abundance of grip, but at the limit it tends to throw its weight around and simply push. Anyone who can put this thing sideways without going horribly out of shape is a better man than me.
Fit and finish on this car is very, very good. I love Audi's premium interiors. The controls are laid out simply, the materials are second to none, and the overall design is balanced and tastefully restrained. I like the way the trapezoidal element in the steering wheel's center echoes the in-your-face trapezoidal grille on the front end. I like the big, thick carbon-fiber stripe running along the interior beltline. I like the snug, comfy Recaro seats-in fact, I wouldn't mind a set for my living room.
Until the new RS4 arrives on dealer lots, the S4 is Audi's premier performance sedan. That said, it is a completely different animal than, say, an M3. It's more sledgehammer blunt force trauma to an M3's surgically precise scalpel. Still, it's a genuine roaring-V8 musclecar, finished to a degree few other manufacturers can approach.
2005 Audi S4 AT6
Price as Tested: $56,270
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
4.2-liter V8, dohc, four valves per cylinder
Six-speed automatic w/ Tiptronic
Peak Power: 340 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Peak Torque: 302 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.6 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)
Fuel Economy: 15 city/23 hwy
From the Hip
+ Factory Recaros, musclecar exhaust note
- A bit heavy and insular