It will take you to the limit

2009-08-22 11:42

AT TIMES we all need to sacrifice performance cars to make way for

family needs. And Audi is saying the new S4 is the everyday sports car,

therefore dads and moms can have their cake and eat it.

From the outside, the S4 might look a bit bland or just like any

other Audi in the A4 range, but the delight comes from driving it.

Think of it

this way. One of South Africa’s most favourite desserts is the plain-looking

malva pudding, more so when accompanied with warm custard or ice cream. Either

way, it always melts in your mouth and leaves you dishing up more.

Some S4 fans might even be heartbroken by the fact that the

much-loved V8?4.2 naturally aspirated engine has been replaced with a 3.0?litre

supercharged TFSI.

But interestingly, the supercharged TFSI kicks out 8kW less than

before with 245kW of power and 440Nm of torque. Top speed is electronically

governed at 250km/h with claimed top speed of 5.1 seconds in the 0-100km/h

distance.

Even with the Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system being

standard, pricing remains a bit steep at over half a million rand.

As with most Audi models, the S4 comes standard with the Drive

Select Dynamic Driving System. The system lets the driver select ­between

comfort, medium or ­dynamic modes of operation.

Then there is also the sports ­differential available for an extra

R15?000, but it has to be combined with the Drive Select System. This means a

buyer can’t just order the drive-select on its own.

The anticipated S4 launch took place in Pietermaritzburg where

motoring journalists got the feeling of the car in everyday ­traffic and open

roads. But the route guide also took us to the historic Roy Hesketh Race Circuit

as part of Audi’s centenary celebrations.

The race circuit was one of the first local raceways to host

international motor racing events and has since then been saved as a historic

site in the Pietermaritzburg area.

At the circuit there were two models fitted with the seven-speed

S-tronic transmission. The S-tronic makes for seamless and quick gear shifts

without loss of power.

The dual-clutch S-tronic transmission is available as an added-cost

option. And the manual model is available with a six-speed transmission. As a

die-hard petrolhead, I would definitely opt for this transmission just because

it would be more fun to drive. The S-tronic can be used in fully automatic mode,

but one can change gears manually with the paddle shifts. Though the gearbox

does it automatically even if you want to take the limiter ­into the

redline.

With no boundaries – almost ­in the literal sense – except for the

speed limit of 160km/h on the straight strip, the race circuit was awesome for

­experiencing the S4.

Its handling is superb and it goes in and out of corners like

child’s play. The Quattro system ensures there is sufficient power to all the

wheels, all the time. The S4 is also equipped with sports suspensions and a

high-performance brake ­system. Altogether, this makes for higher cornering

speeds and less steering effort when faced with some sharp or twisty

S-turns.

With that said, three of the eight cars went into some kind of

“limp mode” without any logical reason. They were being driven hard, but not so

much that it would justify them losing power. After they were stopped and turned

off, they seemed to be able to go again.

Talking about the brakes, which took a pounding from some very hot

laps, smoke was visible after every lap and each of us had to wait for the cars

to cool down before the next driver could jump in. But even that didn’t

compromise the ability of the braking power.

The callipers seen behind the ­18-inch aluminium wheels are painted

in black, flaunting the S4 logo in the front wheels. And if it is not enough for

onlookers to spot the difference between this car and any other Audi models,

there are the distinctive chrome mirrors and the twin-tail oval chromed

tailpipes on either side.

Though subtle, other changes ­include a single-frame grille with

the S4 logo. The front bumper is also new with an integrated splitter and lower

air intakes, and a deeper rear bumper with an integrated diffuser.

The xenon headlights with LED daytime-running lights make for

pretty “eyes” and LED rear lights are included as standard.

Inside the cabin is typical Audi with neat and clutter-free

­ergonomics. The interior also has a bold personality with sport seats trimmed

in a combination of ­Alcantara and leather.

Other goodies bearing the S4 ­logo include the leather-trimmed,

three-spoke steering wheel, the key housing and the instrument cluster with grey

dials and white needles.


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