Audi A4, 2012: Beautifully built, fast and firm

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Sorry you gave up your sports car because you needed more room? You won’t feel bad after driving the 2012 Audi S4 — the hot rod sedan version of the automaker’s popular A4 sedan/wagon.

The 2012 A4 has a remarkably strong turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine with 211 horsepower and is fun to drive. But the S4,which I tested, has a 3.3-liter supercharged V-6 with 333-horsepower and considerably more torque.

All models are compact sports sedans, except an A4 station wagon also is offered.

The A4 was redesigned for 2009 as a third-generation model, and the S4 arrived for 2010. All have minor trim changes for 2012.

No A4/S4 is inexpensive. Prices start at $32,500 for the A4, and the S4 goes from $47,300 to $55,400. Most option packages are tempting—but pricey.

Audi is striving to spread the word that it’s an upscale car that doesn’t live in the shadows of, say, BMW or Mercedes. So all versions are loaded with comfort, convenience and safety features, with the S4 offered with most of the go-fast stuff. 

The base price of my S4 quattro (all-wheel-drive) “Auto S Tronic Sedan” was $48,700, but a $6,700 Prestige Package helped raised the bottom line to $59,350. However, the package contained such desirable items as 19-inch wheels, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and a navigation system. Still, I could live without the package’s stitched leather door armrests “in Fine Napa.” 

The V-6 is quieter than the turbo four-cylinder and has an easier time motivating the car’s weight, which starts at approximately 3,600 pounds. The A4 can be had with standard front-wheel-drive, but most versions, including the S4, have an excellent standard all-wheel-drive system. 

Between the A4 and S4, four different transmissions are offered, ranging from a CVT for the base A4 to an eight-speed automatic. The S4 has a seven-speed  dual-clutch automatic, which shifts crisply and has an easily used manual-shift feature. You can also get the S4 with a six-speed manual transmission.

Estimated fuel economy of the S4 with the efficient dual-clutch automatic is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways.

While quite fast, the S4 is a picture of docility in town. Steering is firm and quick, and handling is sharp, although not quite in the BMW 3- Series class. The ride is supple, and the brake pedal has a linear action.  

My test S4 was beautifully built with superb fits and finishes, and its four exhaust outlets were a tip that it means business. However, its low front front can be damaged by curbs.

The car had a cheerful red-and-black interior with top-grade materials. Gauges could be easily read. Controls were rather small but still fairly easy to use while driving. Dual  cupholders were positioned to avoid spills, and front seats were supportive. The push-button start/stop feature was handy.

While the S4’s front area is roomy, the rear-seat area has an uncomfortable stiff center area best used for the fold-down armrest with cupholders.And a 6-footer behind a tall driver will want more leg room.

All doors have decent-sized storage pockets, and the glove compartment is fairly large.

The cargo opening is low and wide, but the long trunk is rather shallow. Rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area.

The hood is held open by a hydraulic strut, not an awkward prop rod, but some fluid-filler areas are a stretch to reach.

Rivals include the BMW 3-Series, Buick Regal, Acura TL, Mercedes C–Class and Volvo S60.

That’s a tough bunch, but the Audi S4 can more than hold its own with it.

Pros: Stylish. Upscale. Fast. Athletic. Supple ride. All-wheel drive.

Cons: Rather tight rear seat. Shallow trunk. Low front end.

Bottom Line: One of the very best sports sedans.

Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for more than 40 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.
 

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