|Project Audi S4 Introduction
Designed as a stealthy yet highly capable variation of the wildly popular A4, the S4 marked a return for Audi to their potent "S" lineup. Audiphiles will recall that this nomenclature in fact traces its roots back to the original quattro, the Sport quattro S1. The Audi S models have always been vehicles combining superior performance with understated appearance - all without sacrificing everyday practicality.
Available only in quattro permanent all-wheel drive and boasting an all new 2.7-liter V6 engine with two small turbochargers, the S4 is like an A4 on a serious adrenaline high. Undoubtedly the most highly anticipated Audi model in North America in recent years, the car is nothing short of an enthusiast's dream. Although very nicely equipped right off the lot, the S4, by virtue of being a high performance model in the first place, is just that much easier to modify with positive results.
Given that the S4 represents Audi's motorsport tradition distilled into an everyday car, AudiWorld has chosen a 2000 Audi S4 as an appropriate Project Car. The car in question was actually one of the very first S4's to arrive in North America in October 1999, and has been in the posession of Audiworld since new. Though now registered in Canada, this is an American specification model originally purchased from Laurel Audi in Chicago, IL.
Initial impressions of the S4 were generally positive. Power is available evenly and with negligible turbo lag, a real plus for any car that depends on spinning turbines to augment performance. First gear, while not a throw-away gear, can come and go fairly quickly under full throttle. Given the available torque the driver can in fact accelerate in any gear, be it first or sixth (overdrive). The shift box could definitely be more precise, as the throws are not particularly short or "notchy" feeling such as those found in the TT.
The S4's brakes are large and more than up to the task of hauling the relatively heavy (3593 lbs.) vehicle to a stop. The suspension, while seemingly better performing than the sport suspension option on the A4, nevertheless feels as if it has suffered from comfort trade-off. You can't help but wonder if Audi erred on the conservative side in putting together a suspension that ensures a comfortable driving experience at the expense of a truly sporting feel. The Bridgestone RE040 OEM tires on our Project Car never developed the sidewall bubble prevalent in the early S4's, but were nonetheless destined to be replaced early on for performance reasons.
The car comes remarkably well-equipped in stock form. Additional options on the Project Car include Cold Weather Package (Heated front seats/drivers door lock and ski sack), Convenience Package (Glass sunroof, Homelink Remote transmitter, Auto dimming outside and inside mirrors), CD Changer and Bose Radio. One option that was not chosen was the distinctive alcantara two-tone seats. Instead we opted for what Audi terms "silver" leather, noting that the leather is more like a very light grey.
We also regret that the Audi Navigation option was not chosen. Although not a cheap option, it is one that has undoubtedly proven itself to those who chose it.
The goals for this Project Car series are somewhat unique. One might expect that we would use the S4 platform as a basis for creating a highly modified track-only car, or alternatively a monster performing - yet still streetable - vehicle. The tack here, however, is to examine modifications which, while changing the performance or appearance of the car, still allow it to maintain a very civilized "everyday driver" feel.
Audi has gone to great lengths to produce a superior, refined driving experience with the Audi S4. We wanted to examine modifications for the driver who never intends to take the car on the track. This same driver might be called upon to drive business clients or take loved ones on a Sunday drive. Clearly it was important to retain some of the refinement of the car. Stay tuned to see where our tuning path leads us.