2010 Audi S4: First Drive

Ken Glassman
by Ken Glassman

German’s are passionate about their domestic car brands and consider the entire package of performance, handling, technological innovation and luxury appointments into their evaluation process. The new S4 has everything a car enthusiast can want on that front, and then some.


1. For 2010 the Audi S4’s V8 is replaced by a supercharged 3.0L V6 that makes 333-hp and 325 ft-lbs of torque.
2. Fuel economy is way up, with 18/28 mpg (city/hwy) compared to 14/21 for the old model.
3. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with an ultra-fast 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (with paddle shifters) optional.
4. Audi claims a 0-60 mph time of just 4. 9 seconds.
5. Pricing starts at $45,900, or $47,300 with the 7-speed auto.

New for 2010, the S4 is driven by a 3.0-liter supercharged, direct-injection 6-cylinder motor. This gem of a powerplant produces 333 horsepower, which is 7-hp down from the last generations 4.2 liter V8. However, you get 325 ft-lbs of twist, which is up from the 302 ft-lbs that the old V8 generated. The real bonus is that all that torque is ready to rock and roll at a very low 2500 rpm. You’ll blast from zero to 60 in just 4.9 seconds with either the six-speed manual or the superb 7-speed S-tronic automatic transmission.

And not to be ignored in our save-the-planet world, the new engine squeezes 18-mpg city and 28-mpg highway from every gallon of premium fuel, which easily beats the V8’s 14 and 21 numbers. And that means there is no $1,700 gas guzzler tax. So with the supercharged six you get no loss of performance, and a big boost in fuel efficiency. It’s hard to argue with that formula. And that is a formula that will be driving every other carmaker in the future.

That 7-speed, dual clutch, S-tronic transmission is outstanding in that each touch of the steering wheel mounted paddles produces an immediate up or downshift –without the lag associated with manumatic pretenders. Audi uses the right side paddle for upshifts and the left for downshifts. I wish they would adopt the system that appears on some competitor products, which allows for up and downshifts with either side paddles. But whether you row through the gears manually with the paddles, use the gear shift lever, or just let the automatic mode do its job, the transmission works smoothly. And the high-performance vented disc brakes with ABS work well and with a nice progressive touch. They also have an innovative brake disc wiping system that automatically pulses the brakes in wet conditions to dissipate water build-up to keep the discs are dry as possible.


Ride and handling are exceptional and thanks to a 40/60 rear-biased quattro setup, it feels slightly more like a rear-drive car. The speed-dependant steering provides excellent feel and feedback, requiring greater effort the faster you travel. Big anti-roll bars in both the front and rear, along with firm spring settings help keep body to a minimum. The S4 feels planted in turns and it tracks well throughout.

Like most sport sedans with taut suspensions and low profile tires, it doesn’t particularly like to find broken pavement in mid-corner, which can unsettle the rear end a bit. Still, it exhibits a tremendous amount of poise and I never lost confidence in a corner. And when transporting a full compliment of four passengers, the ride quality is still comfortably luxurious. The increase of 6.3 inches to the wheelbase over the previous A4/S4 helps with that ride quality as well as well as with rear passenger room.


The cabin is elegantly appointed with the optional carbon atlas interior accents replacing the standard brushed aluminum on the dash and doors. There are also plenty of soft touch materials throughout. The heated sport seats are especially noteworthy because they are beautifully sculpted and bolstered to hug the driver’s body while in full Michael Schumacher mode, and yet not so confining as to make things uncomfortable for long leisurely stints. They also have pullout thigh extensions on the seat bottom to dial in extra comfort for long legged drivers. BMW, with their tight and narrow sport seats, can take a lesson from these Audi seats. And just below the headrest of each seat is a handsomely stitched S4 designation. There are additional S4 designations on the steering wheel, gauge faces, and doorsills.

The Audi Navigation System with back-up camera is excellent with a large display screen, and it is voice activated, along with many of the audio and telephone commands. However, if you can’t get what you need from voice commands, and have to use the navigation, media, or Bluetooth telephone controls, they are located on the console rather than on the center stack, so you’re forced to look down to work them while driving. Otherwise the interior is nicely laid out and easily functional. The drivers’ side of the dash is easy to read, and a small information screen provides all the usual and necessary info with dual trip meters, gas mileage figures, etc.

The cabin is very quiet – especially on the highway at speed. I’m sure the car’s slippery aerodynamics do as much for the silence as they do for highway gas mileage. My tester came with the optional $850 Bang & Olufsen sound system, and it transformed the cabin into a concert hall. There is a jack for an MP3 player, which integrates into the stereo system, and there is also an SD card slot.

Rear seat room is comfortable for two passengers, as the S4 rides on the new A4’s larger platform. Leg, toe, and headroom are all sufficient, and it definitely feels more spacious than in the back a 3 Series. The trunk is large and the 60/40 split rear seats fold down for more cargo capacity if necessary.


Standard features include a glass moonroof, 18-inch wheels with performance tires, a sport suspension, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, three-zone climate controls, heated outside mirrors, a Homelink remote transmitter, and central locking system. One thing our tester didn’t have was a push button ignition, which is offered but really ought to be standard. Additional options include things like a lane avoidance warning system to let the driver know if there is a vehicle in the blind spot on either side of the car, but alas, that too was a feature in a different package. But the option pack we most wanted to try (and, again, were left to do without) is the $3,950 Audi Drive Select, which lets you adjust the adaptive suspension settings, steering settings, transmission shift points and throttle response.

The exterior is sophisticated and elegant. In profile, the high waist and character line running from the front headlight to the rear wrap-around LED taillights give the car a sense of motion. The front grill and fascia are bold and powerful looking with just enough blacked out grill trim to offset the chrome. The rear deck lid is nicely contoured with an integrated lip spoiler. And the four chrome exhaust tips let those around you know this S4 means business. Fit and finish, and seam tolerances inside and out are impeccable, as one would expect from an Audi.

On the business side of things, the S4 with the 7-speed S-tronic transmission lists for $47,300. Our test car added $2,500 for the voice-controlled navigation system with back-up camera and rear park sensors, $1,000 for silk nappa leather seats, $850 for the B&O premium sound, $500 for the carbon atlas inlays, and $475 for the metallic silver paint. Include the $825 for destination and the total price is $53,450. That puts it in line with a similarly equipped 300-horsepower BMW 335i xDrive.


The Audi S4 is an outstanding luxury sport sedan, especially if you aren’t hung up on the number of cylinders. Since the supercharged V6 gives you the same type of performance numbers as a V8 with much better fuel efficiency, I’m all for it. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more boosted smaller displacement engines in all car models in the future. It just makes good sense. And when you combine the performance of this Audi, with excellent road manners and high quality interior and exterior appointments, there isn’t much to dislike.


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  • High mileage for a car this powerful
  • Excellent sport seats
  • Sensible size for passengers


  • Shift paddles should do double duty for up and down shifts
  • Should have push button start and smaller key fob
  • Lane avoidance system should be standard for this price.
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