I like the idea of a sleeper car, a car that mimics the looks of a standard road car but packs in a monstrous engine under the hood. It's the car that is ideal to go for your board meeting in the day and then later in the night prove the dragstrip junkies who the real boss is. It's the car with multiple personalities. In short I'm referring to the car that's the tattooed evil version of the Audi A4.It's the Audi S4 and it's red.
The A4 in stock form itself is a sporty sedan, glance at the S4 and you'll think it's a red A4, but after closer examination one will notice quite a few additions. The lowered height, larger 18-inch wheels, arresting quad-exhausts and S badging are the giveaways. The S4 is based on the updated A4, this means the meaner looking LEDs, new hexagonal Audi front grille and revised LED taillights are here too. The car is however lower by 20mm thanks to the sport suspension while the stance is much sportier. The mirror caps contrast well with the rest of the car as it's finished in matte aluminium similar to the more powerful Audi RS models. Overall, the car isn't very loud and if it wasn't for the bright red hue one can easily mistake it for a stock A4.
Step inside and the sport theme continues, the interiors receive an all black interior with brushed aluminium detailing. The sport seats and door pads are finished with leather and alcantara to remind one that it's not the A4 that ferries you from the airport to your five star hotel. Other details include S4 markings on the steering wheel, instrument cluster and seats.
So what lies under that hood? The S4 was initially available with a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and a 4.2-litre V8. This model however packs in an engine that may seem less powerful than the previous engines but actually makes the car the quickest S4 till date. The 3.0-litre V6 engine with the addition of a belt-driven supercharger produces 333PS from 5500-6500rpm but more importantly 440Nm of torque from as low as 2900rpm to 5300rpm (that's almost as powerful as the older V8). This engine is similar to the one found in the A6 but produces an additional 33PS. The award winning engine is in fact a success story for Eaton, manufacturer of the S4's supercharger. Supercharging ensures that there is not just an increase in power but power delivery is instant like in an NA engine. The engine is mated to a 7-speed S tronic transmission and is definitely one of the quickest shifting twin-clutch gearbox's from the VW group.
Driving in town was effortless and since there's no power lag to deal with driving in bumper to bumper traffic wasn't a problem. Low end torque is impressive. Out of traffic congested Mumbai, it was time to unleash the TFSI engine's power. On the highway the car cruised at 120kmph in seventh gear with the tacho reading just under 2000rpm. The engine is very refined and perfect for long journeys but the S4 isn't just a highway cruiser but a sportscar rival.
The quad-exhausts aren't loud like say an AMG but just perfect when it comes to decibel count. During my entire time with the car over two days, there was no point in time when I even thought of turning on the stereo. The sound of the supercharger whining away along with the mild roar from the exhaust coming to full song above 4000rpm was enough to keep me entertained. Shifting down gears meant the engine rev matched automatically and sounded orgasmic.
The numbers then? Well with launch control, the car catapulted ahead to reach 100kmph in 5.27 seconds! (Only 0.37 seconds slower to Audi's claimed figure). That makes it just 0.4 seconds slower to the mighty 560PS BMW M5, the same car that went on to place first in the 0-100-0 story last month. It's also the quickest 3.0-litre car we've tested till date. The quarter mile is crossed in 13.57 seconds while the top speed we managed to achieve was 246kmph. All that performance doesn't come in at the cost of your life savings, in town the car returned 8.1kmpl while on the highway the car extracted 12.4 kms for a litre of fuel resulting in an overall figure of 9.18kmpl.
TheS4comes standard with Quattro all-wheel drive system. Road grip is phenomenal and since it is fitted with a sport differential, more power is distributed to the outside rear wheel, Audi likes to call this process torque vectoring. Understeer is minimal when compared to the standard A4. The car also features Audi's drive select system that lets the driver tailor the throttle and steering settings. One can choose between various modes, Effciency, Comfort, Auto and Dynamic or just mix and match settings for each using the individual mode. These settings made a lot of difference, in town I selected comfort mode. The steering got light and maneuvering and parking in Mumbai traffic was effortless. Later, in our test route that involved a lot of twisties and highway driving, the dynamic mode weighed up the steering and felt perfect. After a while I just left the mode in auto and let the car decide what was best. The ride is very much like a standard A4 despite being stiffly sprung, the car glided over bad surfaces, at times when I expect a loud thud over a big bump because of its sportier setup, the car surprised me with the ease with which it tackled those undulations with minimum feedback. This surprising mix of great handling and excellent ride quality makes it a tailored made aspirant car for the Indian enthusiast.
Priced at Rs 47.37 lakh, ex-Mumbai it is definitely the most affordable everyday sportscar one can buy in the country today. Its super quick, rides like a dream and sounds just perfect. And it's fuel efficient too. And since it's an S, there's a lot of standard equipment thrown in as well. What's the best way to describe this car then? A car I would like to take home and make love to - is what Rishaad said between deep gasps of breath after he sneaked in a drive. That about sums it up. But wait. Before I go around trying to find that rich woman I can marry, for me to be able to afford this car, I would like to thank you guys. About 6 lakh of you who voted for and encouraged Audi to get the car to India. Me, Rishaad (still salivating) and all those Indian enthusiasts whose dream has become just that little bit more affordable.