2010 Audi S4 Preview
By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2009
- New supercharged V-6 powerplant
- Engine power ratings of 333 hp / 325 lb.-ft. of torque
- Available 7-speed dual-clutch S tronic transmission
- Optional quattroSport rear differential
- Available only as a sedan
- Arriving in fall of 2009
The Audi S4 is a performance variant of Audi's A4 sedan. While the standard Audi A4 models utilize turbocharged 4-cylinder or normally aspirated V-6 engines, the high-performance S4 models have traditionally offered significantly more power, upgraded suspensions, and sport-oriented interior appointments (the S4 models should not be confused with Audi's RS4 models-the highest-performing A4 variants). The first S4 was launched in the U.S. in 2000 (several years after its European debut). It featured a twin-turbocharged, 2.7-liter V-6 engine that was rated at 250 hp.
The second S4 model debuted in 2004. It was the first time Audi offered both sedan and wagon body styles of the S4 for sale in the United States. The twin-turbo V-6 engine had been replaced by a 4.2-liter V-8 that was rated at 340 hp. Although powerful, the large engine was heavy and fuel economy wasn't its strongest suit. An updated model arrived in 2006, and it shared the same 4.2-liter V-8 engine with the previous model S4.
Audi's all-new S4 model, to be sold in the States as a 2010 model, is built on the all-new A4 platform launched for 2009. Unlike the models that preceded it, the S4 has dropped its large-displacement engine and replaced it with a smaller, supercharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine rated at 333 hp. While it doesn't offer the sheer horsepower of its most recent predecessor, it does generate more tire-twisting torque-sure to keep the enthusiasts happy. As an added benefit, the technologically advanced powerplant delivers improved fuel efficiency, too. With a new chassis, new engine, and the latest in innovative technology, the 2010 Audi A4 promises to be the strongest example to date.
Compared to the standard A4 sedan, the S4 has a much more athletic and muscular look. Special body panels and ground-effect aprons set it apart from the rest of the lineup. Aluminum-look exterior mirrors, unique aluminum wheels, a restrained rear spoiler, and quadruple exhaust pipes complete the exterior package. The interior receives special sport seats with electric lumbar support and pull-out thigh support. Differentiating itself even further from the standard models, the instrument panel features white needles over gray dials and the upholstery and trim choices are unique to the S4 model. Audiophiles will be pleased with the available Bang & Olufsen sound package, while the navigation system, iPod interface, and integrated Bluetooth phone connectivity are standard equipment.
The latest Audi S4 is only offered as a sedan equipped with an all-new, 3.0-liter, supercharged 6-cylinder engine rated at 333 hp and 325 lb.-ft. of torque. Direct injection feeds fuel to the engine, while a mechanical supercharger (two 4-vane rotary pistons) forces air into the combustion chambers. According to Audi, the resulting power is enough to propel the S4 to 62 mph in just 5.1 seconds. Its top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, the company says.
The standard transmission is a familiar 6-speed manual, with a clutch pedal to the left of the brake. For those who prefer something a bit more advanced, a new state-of-the-art, dual-clutch 7-speed transmission (Audi's "S tronic") is available as an option. The sophisticated transmission essentially contains two separate transmissions which hand over power delivery based on the selected gear. As each gear is engaged, the subsequent gear is readied on the other side so the shifts are nearly seamless. The resulting gear change is extremely smooth, and highly efficient, Audi says. The S tronic allows the driver to shift via paddles on the steering wheel, directly through the shift lever, or hand over control to the computer in fully automatic mode. In its fastest setting, the transmission can shift quicker than a human, yet it still delivers impressive fuel economy, the automaker states.
The standard driveline is Audi's permanent quattro all-wheel drive. To enhance vehicle dynamics, and give the car more traditional "rear-wheel drive" handling properties, the engine torque is split sending 40 percent to the front wheels, and 60 percent to the rear. When necessary, this rear-bias can be changed automatically within fractions of a second as the electronics vary torque distribution to where it is needed. A new sport differential complements the quattro drive system to automatically deliver power to the outer rear wheel-literally pushing the vehicle through the corner. Based on sensor input, the differential system needs less than 100 milliseconds to redirect the power.
The front and rear suspension are both independent. The front is a 5-link design, while the rear is a trapezoidal-link setup. Most of the suspension components are made of aluminum to save weight, improve handling, and give the driver precise road feel. The adaptive damper control system, containing hydraulic gas-pressurized shock absorbers with electronically actuated valves, calculates the damping power for each individual wheel 1,000 times per second. Huge brakes feature black-painted brake calipers (with S4 logos on the front) and special compound brake pads. The standard wheels are 18-inch aluminum alloy, while 19-inch cast aluminum wheels are optional.
Managing the adjustable hardware and technology is Audi's drive select system. From the cockpit, the driver is able to press a button to adjust throttle response, shift points on the S tronic transmission, and dynamic steering. These systems may be set in "comfort," "auto," or "dynamic" mode. If the vehicle is equipped with Audi's MMI (multi-media interface) system, a fourth setting allows the driver to customize settings to their own driving preferences.
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