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RedRobin

Audi S4 supercharged V6 2009 - Review....

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....

It's not a secret that I am a Milltek fanboy and that I consequently occasionally test their products. I'd been testing a satin black (I nearly wrote "satan black"!) tip finish on my GTI over the winter and it was time to move to the next generation of satin black using a new ceramic finish.

So in making arrangements for my car to go to Milltek's works in Derby for a few days, I was told by the boss-man Mr Milltek that they had decided what to lend me while they had my car. The phone conversation went something like: "We thought you'd enjoy playing with this - It's....[pause] supercharged.... V6.... and 7-speed DSG" He knows I love both DSG and some good exhaust music. I was tempted to jokingly say that I needed a few days to think about it before accepting but was too gobsmacked by his generosity to say anything. I'm not sure I even managed to utter the words "Thank You" at the time.

In reading my review I'd like you to bear in mind that I'm not a professional driver nor a motoring journalist, neither have I driven on track. I am, however, a very experienced (over 40 years) and very focussed driver - No radio nor music nor other distractions while driving. So, my findings and comments are based on the kind of driver I am and I am bound to make some comparisons with my beloved and much modified Mk5 GTI.

S4Avant_1.jpg

S4_quayside.jpg

WHY WOULD YOU BUY THIS CAR?

- Because you want a smartly understated family car with strong performance and you like Audi's.

- Because, very tragically, your V6 VW R32 is no longer big enough to cater for your growing family. The same might apply to S3 owners although they don't have a V6 to miss the sound of.

- Because you want to upgrade from your Audi A4 or another similar family car.

- The S4 Avant version is far more elegant than the saloon.

- Because you have seen the error of your ways running on Satan's fuel, and are a petrolhead at heart.

- Because you can afford to and it's a car that does everything and does it well!

S4Avant_2.jpg

SOURCING:

Available through the usual places.

I think that base price is just over £34,000 for the manual transmission version and features such as Xenons and a sunshine roof are included. However, the one I had was over £45,000 and the Avant version. There's no point discussing the price further - Either you can afford it and want the car, or you can't afford or don't desire. It's a car I've been very excitedly looking forward to driving but not one which fills me with lust and desire to own - At least that was the case until I drove this one!

S4Avant_3.jpg

S4Avant_4.jpg

OVERVIEW:

Audi are absolute masters at manufacturing understated cars. This latest S4 is no exception, in fact it epitomises such designs like only the German cars can. You'd expect the English with all their awareness of class snobbery and hence understatement to be the best at that but they aren't. The aristocracy hate the nouveau riches because they shout about their new found wealth and aren't educated in the etiquette. Turning up in an Audi as a weekend guest in a stately home is totally acceptable but just make sure it doesn't make the unholy racket of one running on diesel. Satan's fuel is only acceptable in a proper off-roader.

So, the new 2009 S4 is a supercharged 3.0 litre V6 with quattro plus a new sports differential feature, and boy, does she hold the road!

Don't ask me what its platform is - The terms B4, B6, etc, are terms in which the "B" stands for "Boring" and my eyes glaze over. But I would wake up on hearing a B52 bomber! Like most Milltek exhausts, this latest S4 sounds rich and sophisticated rather than harsh or boy-racer, though the one I had was only a couple of days old and was the first development version. I don't know if it was particularly loud from outside or if it was the Sprint Blue colour, but this Audi unusually turned quite a few heads. I used to think that the R8 was the only Audi which would be guaranteed to attract attention from the general populus.

There is no old fashioned handbrake lever on a ratchet but just a solid P button, conveniently placed. Starting the car is simply a matter of sliding the key lump partly into a slot for first stage systems and then with foot on the brake, press the key again and pause to listen to that V6 wake up. The key slides half in and so effectively becomes a push/pull ignition switch.

S4_EngineBay.jpg

S4_EngineBay_1.jpg

DRIVING:

One word: Excellence! High performance combined with surefootedness combined with luxury and masses of accommodation. And all without feeling like the big car she is. The perfect car for a family trip through Europe - Well, the family would merely be an optional extra in my case - I've been there and done that and now prefer to be single and free to mingle.

The power is very linear and acceleration feels stronger and stronger but, being in the UK, I most unfortunately had to back off the loud pedal every time. I'm not saying this out of any deference or loyalty to Milltek, but this car NEEDS a Milltek exhaust - That aurally glorious joy is what really adds to the excitement and pleasure of driving this car. Just like its V8 predecessor, you can be cruising along gently and quietly like any big luxury limo one moment, and then suddenly you can be driving a taut sports car the next - All with a finger flick of a paddleshift and a small movement of your right ankle.

In spite of UK 70 mph speed limits, I found the S4 great fun to drive and I guess I applied many of my GTI driving habits to doing so. I did wonder if Milltek would have minded if I took a little European road trip. The S4 is awesome on British B-roads and doesn't feel like a big car at all.

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The SatNav system is first class and I found the big round knob behind the gear stick particularly useful for quickly altering the scale of the map on the fly. The display is exceptionally clear. I didn't manage to work out how to separate the voice guidance volume from the radio though.

The horn operation is very poor - I drive with hands always at quarter-to-three (don't you just hate seeing someone tailgating you with both hands touching at the very top of their wheel, sometimes with fag between fingers! Or one elbow on the window sill and their hand either near their mouth or propping up their head as if they had a mobile phone, which they sometimes do have [/rant]) and so when I stretched my fingers for the horn they slipped because the horn pad was too far away and I unintentionally actioned a voice command switch insisting I speak something! My reaction was to laugh and say "F*ck Off!"

S-TRONIC:

As a great fan of DSG in the GTI, I was very interested in the Audi version. They call it S-tronic and it's 7-speed in the new S4. Being used to the 6-speed I wondered if I would find a 7th gear a waste of time. Well not when matched to this bigger supercharged 3-litre V6 engine. Having a Milltek exhaust I could hear when I wanted to change gear and so the gear number was simply academic. It's far too easy to think that S-tronic is a slush box but I'm now even more convinced that I wouldn't consider owning a car which didn't have DSG or its equivalent.

However, I have some complaints about this new Audi's S-tronic and it's a major issue. If you study the first photo below you'll see a range of settings marked COMFORT | AUTO | DYNAMIC. The buttons which select these are the two either side with arrows. For a start, note that the selection buttons are not illuminated - But that's only one of the issues I have. I soon discovered that AUTO is the same as D-mode in the Golf's DSG and DYNAMIC is the same as S-mode. But the difference is that the S4's settings also include suspension and steering settings locked in rather like the new ACC in the latest VW's. I was more interested in driving the S4 for the 5 days I had her than reading complicated and badly indexed handbooks, but I know that I would have explored the INDIVIDUAL settings if I had had her for longer. Now I still haven't come to my main issue! Take the real world situation of cruising along in AUTO (D-mode) and suddenly needing/wanting to shift to DYNAMIC (Sports mode)....You've got to take your eyes off the road and scroll that button on the dashboard. Try it at night and it's not illuminated so even more difficult to locate. These settings need to be directly close to the shift stick, or even on the steering wheel.

The other irritation about these settings is that the car defaults back to AUTO everytime you leave it. My ideal would be for it to stay in the state you left it.

S4_ACC_Controls.jpg

S4_CentralConsole.jpg

Okay, you could argue that the supercharged V6 has so much torque and power that you don't need to quickly shift your setup on the fly, but I disagree. All driving has to take into account ever changing dynamic circumstances and a sharply focussed and enthusiastic driver needs to be able to instantly select the optimum. Hands up everyone who prefers to have their gear/rev thresholds quite separate from their suspension and steering setups?....

BialiVolunteers.jpg

^ Yes, I thought so! ^

QUATTRO + SPORTS DIFF:

The next generation. Feels like the tyres have giant suckers on them as if the latest technology uses octopuss rubber! Add a Quaife diff onto each axle and you've got what the latest quattro feels like. Even when I once flicked the back out, she grabbed it instantly - That octopuss rubber has fantastic elasticity properties. However, I would strongly advise driving within both the car's and your own driver limitations - Getting over confident could be both extremely expensive and dangerous.

PLUS POINTS:

- A truly great allrounder.

- The glorious sound of a V6 - But adding a Milltek exhaust is absolutely essential!! I would not want this car without a Milltek - Truly! There is a certain amount of enjoyable supercharger noise at first and the exhaust music hardens as revs increase.

- 0-60 in close to 5 seconds is very useful. Next target................

- S-tronic transmission with paddle shifters - Very smooooth and fast.

- quattro plus sports differential makes the S4 very sure-footed.

- Audi standard of luxury. You have to sit in one - The quality doesn't come across in photographs.

- Excellent limo accommodation for passengers plus a mahoosive boot.

- Sunshine roof as standard. Though not on this Avant unfortunately.

- Low-key body styling (assuming that is a plus for you), but extremely elegant. And stunning in Sprint Blue (I discovered that the ladies love this colour too).

- The option to have Alacantara seat coverings - So much gripper than leather.

S4_AlacantaraSeats.jpg

MINUS POINTS:

- Doesn't come from Audi with Milltek exhausts. Seriously, if you are going to enjoy the performance this car offers, you need that exhaust music - It's truly glorious, even on a first stage development Milltek of only two days old.

- The switches for Comfort | Auto | Dynamic settings are on the dashboard and should be on or part of the transmission shift stick so that you don't have to take your eyes off the road to reach and use them.

- Poor horn operation - You don't want to have to slam the palm of your hand on the central horn pad every time, you need to be able to just finger a short sound while keeping both hands at quarter-to-three.

- A surprising number of switch operation positions are poorly thought out. But those which work well, work very well.

- If you are wearing a hat with a peak it's very easy to knock your head on the open boot lid (only operable with touch switches), but I guess that not many S4 owners wear baseball caps!

- Less than 20 mpg if you enjoy spirited driving. But if you can afford the car, then you can afford the fuel.

S4_194mpg.jpg

SUMMARY:

Superb quality and engineering and I find the styling really elegant. I still don't like that Cadillac style front grill - Just because the S4 uses the same supercharger doesn't mean the relationship should go any further. My first mod would be to go the TTshop and get an all black grill, but this S4 is not really the sort of car to mod (apart from the exhaust), or is it? Hmm, an extensively modified S4 which has all the attributes of a luxury family car - Could be interesting afterall. But possibly a tad expensive.

Would I want to swop my modified Mk5 GTI for the latest supercharged V6 S4? Regardless of any cost factors, I originally thought the answer would be no, but the more I drive her, the more I'm falling in love with her. However, I would have to be much wealthier and have different vehicular needs. Why? - Because the allrounder Golf GTI suits my needs so much better and I don't want a smooooth bigger family car as a ride. But for someone who does, the new S4 is a great choice because like most of the higher performance Audi's, she is a car with many talents - She can be a reserved and obedient wife one minute and then the next minute she can be a very hot and sexy mistress - Just at the flick of a (frustratingly awkward to locate) switch and some footsie action. Either way, the Milltek is a must-have!

One day when out driving this car just for the fun of doing so (every day!), I came across an overturned car on a B-road. The woman driver had already got out and had only a scratch on a finger. She said she had fallen asleep and had obviously hit the bank and rolled. I was disgusted to find that I was the only driver on the scene prepared to stay with her until Police and medic arrived. She refused to take my advice and insisted on standing up, so I persuaded her with difficulty to sit in my car. I have to say that she was an arrogant cow! Anyway, while waiting it occurred to me that the latest Audi S4 Avant would make a far better Police car than any of the Volvo's or BMW's, and especially if unmarked.

Accident_18May09_4.jpg

This latest V6 supercharged S4 Avant is an excellent allrounder - Rather like a bigger and much more luxurious Mk5 GTI (modded of course!). I wonder what the next RS4 will be like?

Meanwhile, I think I could be very tempted by a S3 Sportsback S-tronic if it had the supercharged V6 engine - Only in Sprint Blue of course!

S4_above.jpg

FOOTNOTE:

When I arrived at VWRacing where we had arranged to swop back our cars, I immediately went out in my GTI and took VWR's Mark with me. I really expected to find my GTI both unexciting and disappointing by comparison, but was surprised to still be very excited by my GTI. When Mark took over the driving I felt just as pleased about my car from the passenger seat and especially when Mark put her through her paces on roads he's very familiar with. Yes the ride is harder but she doesn't feel that much slower, though of course she is.

S4RED_VWR.jpg

A special thanks to Milltek for the loan of the car - Very much appreciated and one of those cars I shall always remember enjoying driving.

Also, a thanks to friend John Carter who is an Audi-phile and knows so much about them and introduced me to how much of how the new S4 works. I found that largely due to S-tronic and quattro, I adapted to the car very quickly.

Next.................

RR_S4_finger.jpg

Edited by RedRobin

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Nice review.+++

I thought I'd help out by clarifiying one or two minor details :

The sunroof is an option even on the S4 (around £1.1k IIRC)

The platform is B8 (I know you're interested really!! ) ;)

Voice guidance volume can be adjusted simpled by turning the volume knob (or the one on the steering wheel) whilst she's talking.

"Hands up everyone who prefers to have their gear/rev thresholds quite separate from their suspension and steering setups?...." That's exactly what the Individual setting gives you. You choose what you want.

"If you are wearing a hat with a peak it's very easy to knock your head on the open boot lid (only operable with touch switches), but I guess that not many S4 owners wear baseball caps!" - you should be banned from Audi's for ever more!! :P

Coming from a Milltek equipped B6 S4, the new S4 was obviously on my shopping list. However although it's only £800 more than the 3.0TDI, to get it to the spec I'd like it was going to cost £8k more than the 2.0T that I plumped for. The extras are by no means compulsory but I felt I'd want them in an S4 were the full dynamic set up (rather than just suspension on mine), sports diff, S4 sports seats, carbon trim, bluetooth phone prep (included in my S-line Exec but not the S4!!) etc etc

I concluded that although the heart said yes, I simply couldn't justify the extra purchase money let alone the increase in running costs and the anticipated loser residual value.

Instead I've specced a car that will look virtually the same as the one pictured above (but with a black grill +++) and has enough go for most situations....especially once APR has done their deed!

As before RR, nice review +++

p.s. Did you get the rear out with lift off provocation or just power ?

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^^^^

Cheers, Scotty - Very helpful to get the input of someone who knows far more than I do about Audi's +++.

Perhaps I should have explored the INDIVIDUAL settings but I was too busy getting familiar with the standard setups.

Flicked the back out while applying lots of power in a very tight turn. Easily corrected in milliseconds and just felt a nice twitch.

If I'd bought this car I would want to do a CarLimits day course to familiarise myself more - Experience the limits on an airfield and then stay away from that cliff edge.

+++

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"Hands up everyone who prefers to have their gear/rev thresholds quite separate from their suspension and steering setups?...." That's exactly what the Individual setting gives you. You choose what you want.

Or you could of course have a gearstick +++:rolleyes:

Nice review Robin, it's certainly not on my shopping list and I'm not sure that Sprint Blue suits it that well but it's certainly a nice machine.

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Nice review RR!

Just one question......what's this 'quarter to three' hands on steering wheel position you talk of?

I find 12 o'clock or 25 past 5 is fine! :grin:

Oh, and is that your pad in the first picture? Nice one! +++

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Nice review Robin, car looks nice and its something I might look at when I come to change so thanks for the up front guide. +++

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Or you could of course have a gearstick +++:rolleyes:

....Let's not get into an endless flappy-paddle vs manual-gate debate. Whether you use a floor stick or a paddle, you are in control of when you change gear and any of the thresholds at which you, or indeed the box of tricks, decide, should be independent of suspension/steering settings. Scotty has helpfully pointed out that my criticism could be easily answered by using the INDIVIDUAL settings. But I didn't have the car long enough to go that far.

Nice review Robin, it's certainly not on my shopping list and I'm not sure that Sprint Blue suits it that well but it's certainly a nice machine.

....Well, colour is very subjective and up to the individual.

Ceratinly a great machine from one of Germany's best +++. Much better to drive than I thought it would be.

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Great review RR, I even more desperate now for mine to arrive - build this week hopefully delivery 2 week in June. Any idea on the cost of the full Milltek system?

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^^^^

Ian, you're going to love it! That supercharged V6 is a beautiful engine.

I have no idea at all what the Milltek will cost - A first development exhaust was put on the car just a couple of days before I had it. As such, the exhaust tended to boom in 7th at lower revs - But Milltek warned me of this and I said I'd rather have a boomy exhaust than not enjoy the supercharged V6 soundtrack at all. It's to be expected on a new design and will get sorted before it's offered to the public.

+++

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I'll keep an eye on the Milltek site for updates although I probably won't do anything straight away - I'll be waiting for my finances to recover!

Never spent this much on a car, but I do plan on keeping it 4 years at the very least and if it’s half as good as everyone says it is, it should keep me from getting bored.

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^^^^

Scotty! I was literally about to post exactly that link!

+++

If you do much spirited driving you ain't gonna make the claimed 30 mpg!

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Great review RR, and such a nice photo to finish it off! :grin:

BTW - you can't replace your red red red red GTi, that would leave me as one of the few fast VW owners still holding onto their beloved (VR6 powered) road rocket. :(

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^^^^

Thanx Rachel!

Isn't your Mk4 R32 a V6 rather than VR6? Sorry if I'm displaying my ignorance. I recently drove Dan32's highly modified Mk4 .:R and will never forget the soundtrack as long as I live!

+++

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^^^^

I learn something new every day! I knew the term VR6 but never knew much about it nor its differences from a V6. It seems too that I have been misled by most people referring to the .:R's as having "V6" engines.

+++

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Nice review Robin, very creative too +++

Have to ask - what's with the birds feet? ^^^^

Oh and you're the only person I've ever heard say an R has a V6 :P

+++

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Nice review Robin, very creative too +++

Have to ask - what's with the birds feet? ^^^^

Oh and you're the only person I've ever heard say an R has a V6 :P

+++

- Thanks, Mollox +++

- "^^^^" means "referring to the post above".

- On the other GTI/R32 forums most people call them "V6".

:)

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That's what you get for straying! :P

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Hi RR - I think you'll find the answers to your questions here: VR6 engine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

...and yes - the engine sound is to die for (or lose the licence for). :)

That's wierd. I always thought the Passat syncro/4motion had the 2.8 V6 (Audi, and mounted longitudinally/north-south!) engine along with the quattro drive train.

Hmmmm.

The VR engines always reserved for use in VW pocket rockets.

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Excellent write up RR. Really enjoyed reading it. I'd really like a go in one though as a comparrison. I bet with a map, it would be an RS4 challenger.

Just too understated for my liking.

And agree with you on the Milltek, have had them on my R32, S3 and now have one going on my RS4 - non res of course!

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It looks a fantastic car but not in that colour or with the tints... :P

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^^^^

I normally don't like tints but on the window acre-age of this Avant S4, I think it suited it very well. Colour is very subjective and I welcome an Audi in a more exciting colour than the usual ones.

S4Chevvy.jpg

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