October 23, 2005

Celebrating 25 Years of quattro: 2006 S4 25quattro Road Test
By: Jason Teller

It started with a phone call. It ended with a revelation. The middle included both consternation and delight.

The S4 25quattro is the simple-elegant execution of a complex concept. The backdrop for the vehicle is of course celebration of the birth of quattro all-wheel drive 25 years prior. Producing a special series – in this case a limited edition of only 250 vehicles – to commemorate a significant event is a straightforward enough exercise. Complexity creeps into the equation via Audi’s own over-arching understated design philosophy. A square-peg-in-a-round-hole type of problem ensues. More on that later though.

The aforementioned phone call came from Audi of America headquarters and is, without a doubt, the type of call one loves to receive from area code 248. When the press fleet manager politely insists that, “we [Audi] want AudiWorld in this car” calendar-clearing commences immediately. The car, the one and only of its kind currently in the US, showed up a mere one week later.

The first thing we did was get out the old razor blade and scrape off the stickers that another publication thought fitting to affix to the rear pillar windows (Audi – thank us later for this return of dignity). From that point on we drove the S4 25quattro in a multitude of different situations / conditions, photographed it extensively, laughed and cried and eventually had a hard time giving the keys back.

     

Take a walk around the car and a few things clearly stick out. First of all the car is a stunning color called Avus Silver – a grayish-blue shade with unbelievable, sparkling depth. This color was previously used in North America on the anything-but-ubiquitous RS 6’s and TT ALMS edition vehicles (as well as the previous generation RS4 in Europe), meaning it retains its air of exclusivity. Silver S4’s are a dime a dozen, but Avus Silver is no ordinary shade of silver. We appreciated that immediately.

The fantastic paint is applied to a B7 S4 body modified with Audi DTM-inspired body styling. Bumpers, front and rear, have been changed and in both cases present a wider and lower-to-the-ground valenced look. Cosmetic brake ducts – very DTM looking indeed – have also been integrated into the front and rear bumpers. The new bumper covers required the sacrifice of the front fog lights altogether and the S4’s typical quad tipped exhaust in favor of a more traditional dual tip design.

The nose of the car, of the by-now-familiar single grille design, is unique. Not only is the grille finished in an almost-menacing glossy black, but it is adorned with an S4 25quattro exclusive “quattro” badge.

     

Next on the exterior menu is carbon fiber trim used on both a rear trunk spoiler and on the front lower nose of the car. In the case of the rear spoiler it retains, at least when viewed from behind the car, a functional, OEM look. That is to say it appears to be in sync with the car as opposed to being a bolt on (and perhaps ill-conceived) boy racer item. When viewed looking straight down from above the contrast of the carbon fiber with the aforementioned Avus Silver paint is perfectly orchestrated. The same may be said about the S4 25quattro’s chin where the carbon fiber is deployed on a not-too-busy front spoiler in a classy rather than clumsy manner. We are not normally fans of carbon fiber on the exterior of a vehicle, but in this case Audi’s execution was spot on.

Audi will also offer a variable-fade four rings emblem decals which, at the owner’s discretion, can be applied by the dealer to the lower passenger doors of the S4 25quattro. Our vehicle did not include the decals, but that said we are typically in favor of less, not more, badging on Audis. The perspective at AudiWorld is that the higher performance the Audi, the less need there is for any badges at all (i.e. let the performance speak for itself, while leaving everybody around you wondering). The day an RS4 lands in our garage full time we will de-badge the entire care immediately! It nearly goes without saying that Audi’s recent adoption of V8 badges on the S4 (and now V10 badging on the newly shown S8) is passe in our book.

Rounding out the exterior look of the S4 25quattro is of course the wheels, which, in continuing with the trend of borrowing from the DTM racecar look, are inspired by the OZ race wheels used on the A4 DTM vehicles. Sized 18” and a full 15-spokes, the wheels are in our opinion one of the small cracks in the vehicle’s overall presentation. Put simply, they are just not aggressive enough looking to act as a fitting foundation for this car. The thin spokes give the vehicle a thin start from the ground up and we believe this is one spot where Audi missed an opportunity to seriously beef things up. We will concede, however, that wheels are and will always be an intensely personal experience, and thus results / opinions may vary.

However, we are confused by more than just the wheels, therefore bringing us full circle on the previously mentioned “square peg in a round hole” comment. Audi could have definitely used the S4 25quattro as an excuse to conceive and produce something truly visually aggressive on the exterior. While the car, with its bodywork, is undeniably different from a stock B7 S4, it is not from our point of view a huge departure from Audi’s rigorously understated design. Some may argue that this is beauty of Audi – Bauhaus design at its best – but we instead see a car that is screaming to be more but is an obvious reflection of Audi’s inability to get out of its own way and do something really aggressive and hot.

     

This impression is also carried forward into the interior of the S4 25quattro which retains all of the amazing qualities of all contemporary Audi interiors, but fails to significantly differentiate in any meaningful way. Yes there is RS4-sourced carbon fiber, ‘quattro’ embossed seats and a unique shift knob indicating the limited (1 of 250) nature of the car. At the same time, what’s missing is anything which actually builds upon Audi’s awesome interior execution but takes it to another level in recognition of such a limited release car. We would have liked to have seen a more intense color scheme, perhaps, or maybe a differentiated dash look for example (lighting, gauge coloring, etc.)

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