Audi is still chipping away at its reputation for being unable to equip anything other than its RS-badged cars with the chassis to match their performance, but on this evidence much work remains to be done.
At first that might seem a harsh judgement. Drive it and you’ll be awed by its traction and not much less impressed by the amount of grip available, especially in the dry.
More impressively, especially with anyone familiar with the way older ‘S’ products tend to handle, the car is properly damped, giving it the ability to breathe a little with undulations in the road which, in other words, provides the ability for it to feel pleasant on the road rather than just simply quick around a track.
But others are more accomplished still. While the S4 is not the dogged understeerer we’d once have expected it to be, not does it yet offer a truly interactive driving experience.
In particular there’s too little feedback through the steering wheel and almost no opportunity to use additional power to modify your line through a corner. Snap the throttle shut in the middle of a turn and it will tuck in a little, but rear-drive rivals from Mercedes and BMW in particular offer better balance and better steering by far.
Nor is there as much grip in the wet as its vaunted Quattro system would like you to believe. It will slingshot you away from slippery roundabouts, but in steady-state cornering offers no more lateral grip on any surface than would be possible were it merely front-wheel drive. And because the suspension is notably stiff, those grip levels are limited.
It’s the same reason the ride is mediocre: the car is just too firmly suspended to offer a chance of real comfort. It doesn’t feel inept in any way, but its ambitious spring rates feel honed for the immaculate surfaces more commonly found in Germany than here.