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2005 Audi S4

Muscle: German Style

     Time and time again Audi/VW has shown us that they can build some pretty sweet cars. As evidenced by the A6 we tested back when the snow was still flying. The S4 is no exception to the rule, placing performance, handling, craftsmanship, and stunning good looks high on the priority list. Before I even twisted the key for the first time I could tell this car was going to be hot. Then that V8 fired and all those German stallions started to whinny; my pulse started to race!
      For 2005, Audi’s entry-level sedan lineup receives a freshening, nipping and tucking some already taunt sheet metal. The front end receives the new Audi family nose, large and in charge. Bi-xenon headlamps are wrapped behind some uniquely cut lenses. Only subtle trim changes differentiate the standard A4’s from the S. Bright chrome trim surrounds the side greenhouse and the outside mirrors feature brushed aluminum housings. Our model came equipped with the optional 5-spoke 18” cast alloy wheels shod with sticky 235/40 high performance rubber. About the only other clues that this isn’t your standard Audi will be the S badges front and rear and the four chrome exhaust tips sticking out the back.
     The S4 is derived from an equation that dates back as long as people have been driving cars fast. Cram a large engine into a small car and let ‘er rip! Ok, so that’s a bit crude of a description for a finely tuned German sedan such as this, but you get the picture. In place of the top line A4’s 3.1-liter FSI V6, Audi has instead shoehorned the 4.2-liter V8 from the A6 into the engine bay. Winding this all-aluminum V8 up to 6,800rpm yields 340 horsepower, while 302 lb-ft of torque twists out from a relatively lazy 3,500 rpm. A 2-stage intake manifold with DOHC and 5-valves per cylinder allow this mill to really breathe. Routing that power to the ground is either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed Tiptronic transmission mated to Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel drive. Our test mule came equipped with the latter, yielding an overall curb weight of 3902 pounds. Number crunching equates to each pony carrying less than 11.5 pounds, or a claimed 5.6 second sprint to 60 mph. Yeah, this puppy can hustle!
     Twist the key and bring that V8 to life, it’s time to ride! Engine idling low, it is almost possible to hear each of the 40 valves opening and closing in perfect rhythm. A quick stab of the throttle tells all that this car means business. Amidst the sounds of air rushing into the engine, a sweet low mellow bass reverberates from the four shiny exhaust tips out back. Slide the shifter down to the S, hit the gas and the Audi scoots off the line like nobody’s business. Acceleration is handled quick like, pressing you deeper into the heavily bolstered Recaro sport seats. It is these seats that hold you in place during those “spirited” runs through the “twisties”. Those complaining that the seats are too tight change their tune after a couple of hot laps. The S4 was tuned to negotiate some rather aggressive corners and it shows. Turn-in is amazingly agile with the steering weighted nice and heavy. This car literally clings to the road with the quattro all-wheel drive system. Power is biased rearward but you can still feel the front tires tug once in a while. Maneuvers are little more than point and shoot. Our only complaint: where is the manual transmission? Our tester came equipped with the Tiptronic tranny, which is a superb piece, yet left us feeling disconnected from the car in a way only attainable with the straight transmission. Leaving the gear selector in D (drive) was yawn, boring, as the computer tried to keep things smooth at first but then picked up a bit as we applied more go-go juice. Sliding the stick to the right puts gear selection at your control with a tap up for upshift, or tap down for down shift, so long as the computer agrees with your decisions. Paddle shifters reside on the back of the steering wheel spokes, but unless you are driving with a certain amount of spirit, their use is just a bit tedious. Thus we left the shifter in S (sport) mode for most of our driving. Shifts were firm and quick, and there was none of the awkward lag leaving the line.
     Only Audi can top such a gorgeous exterior with an even more astounding interior. Brushed aluminum trim can be found throughout the interior on the dash, console, door panels, and steering wheel. A three spoke sport steering wheel replaces the standard four spoke, this one being wrapped in perforated leather and featuring paddle shifters behind the spokes. Gauges are surrounded by thin, chromed rings and are as beautiful as ever, each being angled towards the center for better viewing. Leather wraps the shifter and hand brake, while soft touch plastics are used throughout the remainder of the dash panels. The real interior highlights however, are the Recaro sport seats. Premium Nappa leather and Alcantara suede wrap these aggressively bolstered buckets. Forget about sliding into these because they are grabby! Never an instance did we feel unstable or like we were being bounced around in the corners; although those of larger girth might find them a bit intrusive. Our only quarrel with the interior came from the MMI system, not the complexity of it, but from the physical placement. Having the control knob up on the dash was a bit awkward for use. Navigating the system on the go was much easier when the controller was down on the console as in the A6, falling naturally to where the hand wants to rest.
     All in all, it was a sad event handing back the keys for this one. The S performed to our expectations, took what we threw at it, and asked for more. True, we were a bit bummed to find the slushbox instead of a much-anticipated clutch, but we managed (not that it is really hard to manage 340hp!!!). Was our Light Silver metallic mule worth the $55,045 Audi is asking for it? We think so. In concluding this review I have only one thing to say to Audi. Bring on the RS4!

The Good:
Superb handling, strong brakes, muscular powertrain, sweet exhaust note.
The Bad:
Dash mounted MMI controller, Tiptronic tranny has a better idea.
The Verdict:
Save some dough, stick with the stick. BRING ON THE RS4!


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