When I read in Car and Driver that the 2010 Audi S4 had bested the BMW 335i in a head-to-head shootout, I was a bit skeptical. BMW sets the standard for handling prowess and the 335i's 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 feels like it makes more horsepower than the 300 the company claims. Meanwhile past Audis, while beautiful inside and generally fun to drive, have always had a design flaw: they're engines were set too far forward to allow for the balance needed for world-class handling.
In the first week of December, I took possession of a 2010 Audi S4 test car. Standard quattro all-wheel drive made it ideal for
For 2010, Audi has rethought the S4, opting for a supercharged 333-horsepower 3.0-liter V6, lengthening the wheelbase 7 inches and the car 5 inches overall, and cutting the price by $4360 to $46,725. The new design has also moved the engine back so it is centered over the front axle, not far out in front of it. The car is still a bit nose heavy, with 55 percent of the weight up front, but it feels much better balanced.
One turn behind the wheel revealed the new S4 is far more fun to drive than its predecessor (last offered in 2008). The steering is simply marvelous. Though a tad light, it offers immediate response and lots of road feel. The car turns in impressively well, handling like a car much smaller than its 4000 pound curb weight. It gathers itself quickly in fast changes of direction, and remains very flat in hard cornering.
Since I haven't driven the new S4 on a racetrack, I can't say it's as composed and planted as the BMW, which I have driven in anger. Based on my test drive, though, I can tell that this S4 is much more of a driver's car, and it should come close to the BMW.
Inside, the optional silk napa leather seats ($1000) felt comfortable and supportive, and the optional Bang & Olufsen premium sound system ($850) was impressive. I wasn't so impressed with the overall ambience, though. While most Audis are chock full of soft-touch materials, this S4 had a rather dull monotone look and more hard plastic surfaces than I'd prefer.
On the whole, however, the 2010 Audi S4 is a winner. It is now truly in the ballpark with the BMW 3 Series, and that's saying a lot.
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