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Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a lighthearted fairytale highlighting the adventures of a cute little girl and a trio of cuddly bears… or is it? A closer examination of this innocent-sounding narrative reveals that it’s actually a gloomy tale that glorifies breaking and entering, trespassing, vandalism and theft.
A Battle of Five Luxury Sports Sedans
The compact luxury sedan market is an interesting place. When designing a new entry, manufacturers are constantly trying to find the perfect balance between sport and luxury. Although most cars end up skewed one way than the other, these vehicles typically offer a plethora of trims and options that allow potential customers to tailor their rides with as much sport or luxury as they want.
Given a choice, we’d select maximum sport. We’d rather evaluate a car’s ability to clip an apex than by how coddled our mothers-in-law feel in the passenger seat. What better way to do this than collect a group of the latest and greatest offerings and see which one is the best? Now, we aren’t talking about the ultimate in sport luxury sedans like a C63, M3 or IS-F as they can get quite pricey. Instead, we have grabbed a more affordable group of contenders playing around the $50,000 mark.
First we sent an invite out to Cadillac. The all-new ATS seriously impressed us since coming out last year; it was a car of the year finalist after all. Next, we brought along the BMW 3 Series. If we are going to be testing luxury sport sedans, how could we not bring the vehicle that has defined the class for decades? While on the topic of German sedans, we also had to include a Mercedes-Benz and an Audi. Finally, to complete our quintuplet of test vehicles, there’s an oddball, the Volvo S60. Now, before you cry foul that the S60 is not a sports sedan, take a look at what we grabbed; the 325 hp S60 T6 R-Design.
A FEW CONTENDERS ARE AWOL
There are a few notable vehicles missing from this comparison test. Lexus didn’t have an all new IS ready for us, nor did Infiniti the all-new Q50 or Lincoln the MKZ. Finally, the Acura TL was left out because, although a great car, it is too large for this class of vehicle (a foot longer than most of the competitors here).
With the cars collected, pencils sharpened and score sheets firmly attached to clipboards, it was time to put these cars through their paces and see which is best.
Audi drivers across the pond are getting the short end of the stick, or to be more precise: no stick at all.
What’s all this stick business, you may ask? The new version of the Audi S4 and S5 will only be available with an automatic transmission in Europe, cue the snickers and sneers from North American driving enthusiasts. It’s an unusual move, considering we’re usually the ones getting shafted with an auto-only option in cars where Europeans get a choice, but sure enough according to an article on Fourtitude, and Audi news blog, the decision is made.
This still may be a signal of things to come, but at least for the upcoming generation it seems the S4 and S5 will be available witha six-speed manual.
Barry Hoch, product planning manager for Audi of America confirmed that Europeans will lose the manual while North Americans will keep it. 100 percent confirmed, although I don’t know what other markets also get to keep it,” he said in an email to Fourtitude.
The move to S-tronic transmissions does make sense from a performance standpoint. Shorter shifts, better straight line performance and friendlier fuel economy sweeten the package in theory, but try telling that to someone as they slash through a manual gearbox on a winding road. You’re better off trying to debate Socrates.
Debates aside it’s hard not to see the future creeping in. Lamborghini and Ferrari have already adopted “automatic” dual clutch transmissions as their current standard. If the decision seems to be trickling down from the supercar market into Europe, we may expect to see similar changes in the future.
That, however, is conjecture. Focus on the positive for now, manual S4s and S5s are still available to those in North America who want them.
Since the A4 is Audi’s best selling model, it is important to be evolutionary, rather than too revolutionary, in design. While Audi has made updates to every surface including the headlight and taillight treatment, front fascia, bumpers, and hood, the A4 remains readily familiar.
As for the interior, trim pieces are further refined and Audi has also improved user-friendliness on their MMI infotainment system.
Perhaps the greatest change for the new A4 is the addition of the A4 Allroad wagon. Available for the European market will be a selection of six turbodiesels and four petrol engines. For the North American market, we expect the 211-hp 2.0 liter turbocharged four as well as the Audi S4 spec 333 horsepower 3.0 liter supercharged six.
Quattro continues to be available across the line. Transmission options include the six speed manual, a dual clutch auto, as well as a CVT available for A4′s in front wheel drive trim.
Audi will release the new A4 and S4 in North America during the summer of 2012 as a 2013 model.
GALLERY: 2013 Audi A4 line-up
A few days ago we revealed that Stasis engineering would debut its 710-hp R8 Spyder in the Audi booth at SEMA and now Stasis has released full details on three more vehicles that will appear at their own booth.
Stasis will be bringing several of their Signature Series-tuned vehicles, showing off to the world just how great customized Audis can look and perform. An S5 Cabriolet will feature performance modifications that help it put out 410-hp instead of the factory 333-hp. These upgrades also enhance torque by 26 ft-lbs and SEMA visitors will be able to admire the six-piston Alcon calipers up close and personal. For the SUV lovers out there, Stasis’ Audi Q5 puts out 310-hp with upgrades to its handling and braking capabilities. Lastly, the popular S4 sedan has close to 80-hp more than the factory to go along with its suspension and brake upgrades.
Stasis Engineering products are all sold at Audi dealerships nationwide, offering up to a 25-percent increase in performance for various Audi models. This is in addition to their suspension, brake and driveline enhancing products. All Stasis Engineering products installed by a certified Audi dealership are backed with a 4-year, 50,000-mile warranty. (No wonder they’ve got such a good relationship with the folks at Audi corporate).
Official press release available after the break.
When Audi first released the new 2010 S4 with a supercharged V6 rather than a V8 we knew it would be a hit with tuners. One of the first companies to get its hands on a new S4 is Abt Sportsline, Germany’s largest VW/Audi tuner and they did not disappoint.
Output has been increased from the standard 333hp to 425hp and torque also gets a significant bump from 325 ft-lbs to 384 ft-lbs. Combined with Audi’s incredible seven-speed DSG gearbox, the sprint to 100km/h (62 mph) takes just 4.6 seconds as compared to 5.1 seconds in the stock Audi.
What might be even more impressive, however, is Abt’s claim that fuel-consumption is not negatively affected.
In addition to these performance modifications, Abt also offers a four-pipe muffler set, as well as AR or BR wheels in anywhere from 18- to 20-inch fitments.
TT and A3 will also lose V6 powerplant
If you are looking at purchasing an Audi A4 (or A3 or TT for that matter) with the 3.2-liter V6 engine, now is the time to act. Come next year Audi has made the decision to cut the V6 engine from its lineup on those three models.
The move comes as Audi has noticed a serious drop in demand for the V6 engine. Apparently for every 3.2-liter V6 A4 sold, Audi sells nine of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder units.
Audi Corporate Communications boss Bradley Stertz told Autoblog that the move has less to do with the drop in demand for that particular engine and more to do with other options that have been added to the Audi lineup recently.
Those looking for a more powerful A4 can always opt for the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 (offered at a serious premium in the S4). As for the A3, it will be offered with a TDI turbo-diesel powerplant soon, while the TTS gives TT owners a peppier version of the base 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, that produces 265hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque, matching the V6 in horsepower and beating it in the torque category.
We won’t particularly miss the V6 either, as mentioned in our review of the A4, especially as the turbo 2.0 is such a strong engine and delivers excellent performance with better fuel-economy for significantly less.
Audi did not comment on if the TTS’s engine might replace the V6 in the near future.