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2014 Audi S4 ROAD TEST

The 'S' stands for sporty and speedy.

3.0L V-6 AWD
333hp @ 5,500RPM
1,750 kg
325 lb.-ft. @ 2,900RPM
8.3L/100 km

Whenever you see the ?S? designation in Audi?s lineup, you know you?re talking about the performance version of a particular model.

That?s what differentiates the 2014 Audi S4 from the A4, Audi?s entry-luxury sedan that has been a popular fixture in the lineup over five generations.

In most respects, the cars are identical, but when it comes to performance the S4 definitely has a leg up on its more docile sibling.

With a supercharged 333 hp 3.0-litre direct injection V6 engine, the 2014 S4 moves along quite nicely thank you with acceleration of 0-100 km/h in 5.1 seconds, according to Audi.

Meanwhile, the A4 sedan with its 220 hp turbocharged 2.0-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder engine is no slouch in its own right, taking 6.6 seconds to do the 0-100 km/h run. Premium unleaded fuel is recommended for both cars.

There is a cost to the added power in the S4, though. Natural Resources Canada posts fuel economy numbers of 13.1L/100 km city and 8.3L/100 km highway. We averaged 11.3 in combined city/highway driving.

Our recent S4 tester came in the up-market Technik trim (Progressiv is the entry model), dressed in a Glacier White Metallic exterior paint colour (an $800 option) and a two-toned silver/black leather interior. Power was delivered through a six-speed manual transmission, while an S-tronic dual clutch automatic transmission is available as a $1,600 option.

The test car started with a base price of $57,800, however a fairly lengthy list of optional equipment totaling $8,650 brought the as-tested price to $66,450 plus $1,995 freight and PDI.

It?s not an inexpensive ticket, but you are getting a German-made sport sedan that is sleek, stylish and speedy. And it has to be considering the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Infiniti Q50 and the Cadillac ATS are among its direct competitors.

All are fine cars in their own right so to compete in this segment; you?ve got to be good.

However, Audi has a leg up on the competition with its standard quattro all-wheel drive system. Our tester also had optional features like adaptive damping suspension, quattro sport differential and dynamic steering to push the sport sedan envelope even further.

Unlike previous generations, the new S4 is available in sedan form only. If you want a roadster, you?ll have to move up to the S5 Cabriolet.

To keep up with the Joneses, Audi gave the A4/S4 a mild refresh in 2013 so for 2014, changes are in packaging only.

While I?m a fan of the S4?s exterior styling, some pundits find it dated. The front is aggressive and macho looking with a new fascia that was redone for 2013. From the rear, the styling is more sedate, perhaps even boring, in my opinion. But overall the look is stylish and elegant.

And for all those that feel the S4 has dated styling, it would be hard to complain about how the S4 drives and handles.

Although it weighs 1,750 kg (3,850 lb), the S4 is quick and agile and handles like a much lighter car. We didn?t get the opportunity to do much spirited driving, but our tester was kitted out with features like dynamic steering, adaptive damping suspension and rear sport differential that distributes torque (normally it is a 40/60 split) where needed.

All these serve to improve the car?s ride and handling on the twisties. And thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive system, the driver is left with a feeling of confidence in wet or snowy conditions.

Add in Audi?s Drive Select that controls the adaptive suspension, transmission shift characteristics and engine response. You can dial up drive settings such as Comfort, Dynamic, Auto or Individual depending upon your style of driving. It?s almost like having four cars in one.

Like all Audis, the cabin is tastefully done with attention to detail evident throughout. The two-toned colour scheme in our tester was attractive and the aluminum/black Beaufort inlays ($1,100) add another touch of class to the interior.

Legroom up front is generous with plenty of fore and aft movement in the driver?s seat to satisfy this six-foot driver. The seats are supportive and comfortable with eight-way power adjustments and four-way power lumbar support.

It may seem like a minor thing, but the three-spoke, flat-bottom leather clad steering wheel is designed perfectly for an easy grip.

There is three-zone automatic climate control and our tester had the upgraded 505-watt 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system. A 10-speaker Audi sound system is standard on the Progressiv model. Similarly, our vehicle had a standard rear view camera but strangely, it is not available on the entry-level model.

The trunk is deep, but not huge with a cargo capacity of 352 litres ? big enough for trips to the grocery store, even with a golf bag or two thrown in.

Overall, the S4 is an outstanding package for drivers who crave performance in a vehicle that can be comfortable and docile until the need for speed arises.

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