The quirky British — naturally — were the first to come up with the wacky concept of a rattlesnake quick, high-class station wagon (the "shooting brake" Aston Martin). But leave it to the Germans to one-up the Brits. Audi's S4 2.7T Avant is the only twin-turbo, six-speed, all-wheel-drive sportwagon in the world. It's just the ticket for hauling the dog — and hauling butt — all at the same time.
The only thing missing is a microwave in the glovebox and a shower somewhere in the back. The S4 2.7T has pretty much everything else you could think of to put in a car, including heated door locks and washer nozzle jets.
It's also quick, with the standard intercooled, twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 jamming 250 hp through the S4-only six-speed (a less fun five-speed automatic is available) and standard quattro all-wheel-drive system. The tenacious quattro setup allows the S4 to get going even when just one wheel has decent traction — so it's great in snowy/wet weather as well as superb on dry pavement. Few true high performance cars (let alone wagons) offer this kind of all-weather capability.
Though it's turbocharged, the S4's engine does not feel turbocharged — at least not in the sense of that "rush" one experiences with most turbocharged engines. It’s very torquey throughout the rev range — a characteristic of other Audi turbo engines, such as the 1.8-liter four used in the A4. There is no turbo boost gauge to betray the turbo's presence. Not much sound, either — it just goes.
Some fiddling is in order for the six-speed's shifter, which feels vague and even econo-boxy compared to the excellent, ratchety, precision-machine sensation of better-actuated gearboxes, such as the ones found in the Honda S2000 or Chevy Corvette. Audi should contract with Hurst or some outfit like that to get the action right.