Since 1991, the all-wheel drive Audi S4 has steadily built a reputation as a world class act among compact sports sedans. Given that it did it against mainly rear-wheel drive, and supposedly more agile rivals, makes it an even bigger achievement. Well, now there’s another S4, and the questions start again. Can the new and larger S4 quattro make the grade? Well, allow us to cut to the chase.

As in the previous generation, the all-new 2010 Audi S4 sports sedan shares the platform with its mainstream A4 stablemate. That means adding over six inches in wheelbase, and about five inches in length over last year. The S4 also shares for the most part the A4’s clean-cut styling language.  Headlight clusters feature Audi’s new signature scythe-shaped LEDs, for instant recognition after dark.

Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, but our Imola yellow test car wore optional 19-inch split spoke alloy wheels with Dunlop Sport Maxx GT performance tires.

The S4 continues to move away from the milder A4 by being eight tenths of an inch closer to the ground, with tweaked side sills and lower front fascia, giving it an authentic but subtle bahn-burner look that extends all the way around to the quad exhaust.

Replacing the previous S4’s naturally-aspirated 4.2-liter V8 is a new supercharged, direct-injected 3.0-liter V6 which makes seven fewer horsepower— 333, but 23 more pound-feet of torque, for a total of 325.

The six's compact Eaton supercharger delivers an impressively flat torque curve, but at the expense of the eight's throaty rumble. As far as we're concerned, it's a worthwhile tradeoff. At the track, dumping the firm clutch at 3,000 rpm and rowing through six tightly-packed gear ratios resulted in a 4.7-second sprint to 60, a full second quicker than the previous S4.

Riding 11.6 pounds of boost, power builds quick but steady, pushing us through the quarter mile traps in an equally stirring 13.1 seconds at 109 miles per hour.

The fast ride continues in the low speed slalom, where the S4 stayed emotionally flat, and returned plenty of feedback. Audi Drive Select, a near four grand option, includes an active rear differential that trades torque left to right across the back axle. Combined with the S4's rear-biased all-wheel-drive system, understeer is all but eliminated, and the result is an almost R8-like track experience. Indeed, the harder we threw the S4 at the cones, the better it comported itself. Turn-ins were snappy and the chassis stayed very well balanced.

Stops from 60 were consistently stable, averaging an excellent 116 feet. We noticed only a hint of fade after a half dozen runs. The pedal is a little soft, and needs more feedback, but has a good progressive response. For all its superb handling abilities, the S4's ride is surprisingly smooth and supple. We also found Audi's version of a blind spot warning system to be the most effective yet.

The Drive Select option also includes adaptive damping, dynamic steering, and a choice of "Comfort," "Dynamic," or "Automatic" modes. Our S4 added a fourth option: "Individual" is only available on MMI-equipped S4s, and is fully customizable from the touchscreen interface.

The S4's dash is again mostly A4: very direct, with excellent build quality. The aluminum trim is most tasteful. The gauge cluster is serious, and easily scanned.

Our tester's raft of features kept our fingers busy. Besides the third-generation MMI interface, our car sported satellite navigation and a Bang & Olufsen sound system; all part of the Prestige Package.

Heavily contoured and thickly bolstered front buckets are supportive and comfortable, and they're finished in optional black silk Nappa leather. S4 logos emboss the seats, as well as the sill plates.

Through the back doors is a 70/30 split folding rear bench seat with center pass-through. It allows a generous 34 cubic feet of cargo space when folded flat. Seats up, the trunk handles a still reasonable 12 cubic feet of gear.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for our manual S4 stand at 18 city/27 highway. So despite stronger performance, this supercharged V6 is 40% more fuel efficient than its V8 predecessor. We saw a lead-footed 19.4 mpg on premium gas. An Energy Impact Score of 16.3 barrels of oil a year, and a Carbon Footprint of 8.7 tons of CO2 emitted annually, are also impressively better than the previous S4.

Along with being cleaner, and cheaper to operate, the new S4 also costs less, with a base price of $46,725 for the manual. But, our tester rang up to $59,150 with many add-ons. While more than the slightly slower BMW 335i, it is less than the slightly faster BMW M3.

While the Audi S4 has always been a serious sports sedan contender, the 2010 edition is more than a generational improvement. Its risky integration of supercharged power, all-wheel drive, and cutting edge driving aids with impressive fuel economy gains, shows that even in an eco-friendly world there's room for a thrill ride.


  • Engine: Direct-injected 3.0-Liter V6
  • Horsepower: 333
  • Torque: 325 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 4.7 Seconds
  • 1/4 Mile: 13.1 Seconds @ 109 MPH
  • 60-0 MPH: 116 Feet
  • EPA: 18 MPG City/ 27 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 19.4 MPG
  • Energy Impact: 16.3 Barrels Oil/Yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 8.7 Tons/Yr