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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
Strong power at pretty much anything above 2,000 rpm
Left Lane News
Speed is barely audible, barely visible, barely decipherable
Transmission fired off lightning-quick upshifts
Conventional wisdom dictates that in order to improve in one area-say, acceleration-you have to make sacrifices in another area, such as fuel economy. With the 2010 Audi S4, Audi takes the conventional wisdom and throws it out the window, making a whole host of improvements on the Audi S4 with no obvious sacrifices.
The biggest change for the 2010 Audi S4 is the return to a forced-induction six-cylinder engine, similar to the one that powered S4s a decade ago. While last year's S4 featured a powerful V-8 engine, Motor Trend says that "worries about gas mileage and CO2 emissions are finally causing the automaker to blink," and the "new 2010 S4 has a supercharged 3.0L V-6 under the hood." Road & Track summarizes the powerplant change nicely, writing "while horsepower figures are down slightly (333 bhp versus the former S4's 340), torque figures have improved and are available across a wider rev range." The result, according to Automobile Magazine, is that the "new 333-hp S4 outsprints the car it replaces from 0 to 62 mph by half a second." Most reviews surveyed by TheCarConnection.com agree with Left Lane News, where experts find that the V-6 is capable of "delivering strong power at pretty much anything above 2,000 rpm."
Audi's sport-oriented version of the A4 gets one of two available transmissions, depending on whether you prefer to shift for yourself or let a computer handle the gearwork. Left Lane News reports "a six-speed manual transmission returns, but a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission is new." Although most reviewers are serious driving enthusiasts, and thus prone to choosing tried-and-true manuals over the high-tech automatics, Automobile Magazine nevertheless recommends the "seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic, which makes its American debut here, [and] definitely is the gearbox to go for." CNET reviewers love the transmission's dual personalities, finding that the dual-clutch "was smooth and comfortable on the road," yet when used at the track "the transmission fired off lightning-quick upshifts." While the automatic fares extraordinarily well with reviewers, the manual doesn't score quite as high, and Left Lane News reviewers lament the "relatively long throws and a slightly rubbery feel" that seem to plague the six-speed.
With a full half-second separating the 2009 and 2010 Audi S4s in the 0-to-60-mph run, you expect the quicker 2010 S4 to be the thirstier sedan. However, the 2010 S4 only has to feed six cylinders, as opposed to eight, and its fuel economy is actually significantly better than the outgoing S4's. According to EPA estimates, the 2010 Audi S4 with the S Tronic transmission should return 18 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, with the manual close behind at 18/27 mpg. Left Lane News deems these numbers "class-leading," and Motor Trend compares them favorably to those of the 3.2L Audi A4.
Many car manufacturers have tried to deliver a sports sedan that is comfortable during commutes but aggressive during hard driving maneuvers; they almost always strike a compromise that fails to deliver on either count. Audi circumvents the straddling problem by offering a driver-selectable suspension that can alternate between comfort and sport settings, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are unanimously positive regarding this feature. Left Lane News calls the ride "soft and composed over urban bumps" but notes that it "firmed up nicely for sweeping on-ramps and hilly curves." Motor Trend adds that the Audi S4 is an excellent "option for those who include canyon-carving as part of their commute." CNET is impressed at the Audi S4's split personalities, concluding that "Audi's Drive Select system" effectively makes "the S4 two cars in one: a comfortable boulevard cruiser and a rip-snorting canyon carver." The only major criticism comes from Left Lane News reviewers, who point out that "the S4 suffers from an ever-so-slightly vague feel through the tiller" in some driving situations.
The 2010 Audi S4 offers capability without much compromise, leaving comparable sports sedans in its lower-emission wake.