The S4 slips effortlessly into the dynamic space occupied by the vast majority of fast Audis: its quattro four-wheel-drive system, chassis and steering all work together to harmoniously, if a little coldheartedly, deliver a level of security, drivability and point-to-point pace – regardless of the prevailing weather conditions – that few rival performance saloons can match.
However, where many of its range mates maintain their sense of steely, overly serious determination at all costs, the S4 is capable of letting its guard down for brief moments. With its stability systems reduced and a heavy application of throttle on corner exit, fleeting instances of tail waggling can be coaxed out of the otherwise steadfastly inert S4.
The car doesn’t hold a candle to the new BMW M340i xDrive in terms of expressive adjustability (which, even in prototype form, proved a wieldy, highly engaging performance saloon), but even a modest sprinkling of dynamic liveliness is nonetheless welcome.
The S4’s steering, meanwhile, is direct but typically tight-lipped. With 2.25 turns between locks, it lends the Audi a suitably responsive front end, although it doesn’t bode particularly well for the S4’s ability to engage that the passive system fitted to UK cars should make for a slightly gentler and lighter-feeling tiller. For what it’s worth, the Dynamic set-up proved well weighted and as capable of filtering out bump steer and other corrupting influences as you’d expect of a modern fast Audi.
Body control is very good. Even with the S4’s adaptive dampers in their slackest setting, they kept lateral roll tidily and progressively checked and contributed to the sense of unerring confidence the S4 imparts when driven swiftly.
Driven hard on Millbrook’s challenging Hill Route, the S4 was seriously quick. The V6 diesel engine’s immense torque reserves endowed it with incline-levelling amounts of acceleration out of corners and the grip and stability afforded by its chassis allowed impressive speed to be carried through them, too.
Surprisingly, though, the S4 wasn’t so composed that it lacked a sense of humour. Backed into sharper bends on the brakes, it would willingly begin to rotate. The same effect could also be achieved by burying the throttle on the exit of the corner.
Even with the stability systems left on, progress around the circuit was fluid and unimpeded, with only the most severe compressions forcing them to step in and restrict progress. At pace, the Dynamic steering took a bit of time to acclimatise to, but once dialled in, the quickened response when travelling at pace proved entertaining.