For a car company whose ranges of saloons, estates and SUVs are now so conformist as to appear as different sized versions of the same school uniform, the S4 is pleasingly iconoclastic.
The A4 platform upon which it’s based is and has been for some time the only one in its class to offer the curious blend of front-wheel drive and a longitudinal engine installation, and it’s a configuration that’s retained for the S4. This despite the need to direct power to the rear wheels as well, both to eliminate torque steer and allow it to play the quattro card so dear to Audi's marketing department.
The engine is also neither the large-capacity normally aspirated unit nor the smaller, turbocharged powerplant that would be traditionally employed in such a car. Instead, Audi uses a 2995cc V6, boosted by a supercharger to provide the throttle response, torque spread and aural encouragement often lacking in turbos today.
There is a price to pay, and quite a severe one at that, and you’ll not need to look past the ‘MPG and running costs’ section to find it. Those hoping to change gears themselves will be disappointed. A six-speed manual transmission is entirely compatible with the car and it’s sold so equipped in other countries. For the UK, however, a seven-speed dual-clutch paddleshift gearbox is all that’s available.
Like other A4s, the S4 is suspended by multiple links at each corner but is naturally lowered and stiffened. A limited-slip rear differential is optional, as is Audi’s drive select system that in the case of the S4 provides driver selectable maps for both the steering and engine, but not the suspension.
Brakes are suitably vast ventilated discs at each corner – 345mm in diameter at the front – which is just as well. As we shall see, this is a high-performance car and, at 1705kg (1750kg for the Avant), not a light one either.