- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

The folks at Audi have upped the ante in the compact hot rod category, with the segment’s first V-8 engine offering. Both the Audi S4 sedan and the Avant (Audi’s wagon moniker) are packing quite a wallop with their new version of the 4.2-liter V-8 found in other Audi models. To manage the tight fit, the Audi engineering team repositioned the drive chains at the rear of the engine, thereby reducing the overall length to roughly 18 inches, and tipping the scales at a mere 430 pounds. Despite the diminutive size, the new power plant pumps out an impressive 340 horsepower and a peak torque of 302 foot-pounds.

Scooting from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds is a breeze when the engine is mated to the six-speed manual gearbox. If you’re the shiftless sort, a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission may be substituted, which still provides the capability of shifting manually, and Dynamic Shift Program (DSP) which automatically chooses from more than 200 shift patterns, matching exhibited driving styles.

Shifting manually may be done by using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles or by moving the lever within the Tiptronic gate.

Both the sedan and Avant come standard with Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system with a Torsen torque-sensing center differential that assists in directing power to the appropriate wheels (those with the most traction) for consistent and superior control.

The test car was an Audi S4 sedan. The S4 doesn’t come cheap — the base sticker was set at $45,650, while extras boosted the final tally to $50,790. The S4 comes with a multitude of equipment and features as standard, not to mention the sinister “don’t mess with me” look. The car sits lower on specially tuned suspension componentry, hovering over 18-inch Avus-designed six-spoke alloy wheels, shod with high-performance rubber. Inside, both the driver and passenger up front are treated to superlative support in Recaro sport bucket seats with 12-way power adjustments and Silk Nappa leather covering.

The Audi S4 is a solid piece of work — scorching V-8 power, smooth-shifting gearbox and firm but comfortable ride, with room for five intimate friends.

Except for the lower stance, ground effects and large alloy wheels with low aspect ratio tires, the S4 is actually somewhat understated, coming across pleasingly as any other Audi family member. Beyond the exterior impression though, is a genuinely capable sports sedan with performance to spare, coupled with lots of safety features and luxurious appointments.

Add the four-year/50,000 mile no-charge scheduled maintenance, four-year/50,000-mile limited new vehicle warranty and four-year 24-hour Roadside Assistance program and the lofty price tag doesn’t seem that high after all. So, if you’re considering a six-cylinder sport sedan, just think, with Audi, you could have a V-8.

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