A hint of negativity in the air we decided to go and spend some more time driving the damn thing in order to produce more clues, yet results were once again mixed.
There is little doubt that Audi continues to improve and refine its vehicles each generation. Just as the B6 S4’s suspension significantly tightened up the loosey-goosey feel of the previous generation B5 S4, the B7 raises the bar yet again. This car feels tight and firm – just the way a sports car should – and the new 40:60 split quattro system (available on all MY2006 manual transmission-equipped S4’s) performs admirably. In typical fall Colorado fashion we got everything from hot sun to rain and even a wet snowstorm during our time with this car. Dry pavement still results in customary minor understeer and we did not push the car excessively enough (read: no track time in a borrowed press car) to really dig into the 40:60 split. On wet pavement the car felt confident.
We would have loved to have seen the new euro RS4 seats put in the S4 25quattro as an appropriate tribute to its purpose, but alas we know from Audi itself that the North American bound RS4’s will not even have those seats due to side airbag regulations.
The gearbox is another area where Audi raised the stakes since the previous models and we were quite pleased with the short throws and overall shift feel. Positivity there, however, was balanced out with disappointment around the overall sound of the S4 25quattro. Another publication’s review of this vehicle stated that the exhaust note was deeper and somehow more satisfying than a stock S4, but we can confidently say that that was anything but true (and later confirmed with Audi that the car does indeed utilize the same exhaust as every other S4). Just as with the relatively understated approach to the exterior, the exhaust was another spot where Audi missed a genuine opportunity to differentiate this limited edition model from the average B7 S4. Nothing screams sports car louder than a truly deep, V8-displacement-induced burble and subsequent growl on WOT. This car purred; it did not growl.
Returning from a long drive we put the car away for a few days in an attempt to further contemplate and rationalize the overall S4 25quattro offering.
It was about that time that we came to the realization that we were approaching the vehicle from a no-win and perhaps unfair position. While we obviously continue to yearn for more aggressiveness from Audi’s high end and limited vehicles, it would not be appropriate to “shoot the messenger” in the form of the S4 25quattro. So what, then, is the S4 25quattro?
Quite simply it is the very best vehicle that Audi of America could put together from the existing parts bin to mark the significant anniversary of the renowned quattro system. An Audi spokesperson pointed out to us that the S4 25quattro is “the best the S4 will get in this [B7] generation” and we believe it. Keeping in mind that the US market penetration for quattro vehicles stands at a full 85% (with Europe being just the inverse at only about 15%), it is quite fitting for Audi to produce a special automobile for this market.
While it doesn’t have a beefy exhaust it does have hand stitched, ultra-high-quality leather seats from quattro GmbH. While it doesn’t break the Audi mold in terms of aggressive styling it does have the fantastic looking grill treatment and carbon fiber highlights. It also has the amazing Avus Silver exterior and the wheels can, after all, be easily upgraded at the owners discretion.
Our real issue with the S4 25quattro, then, is the price. We can appreciate Audi of America working hard for a limited number of US enthusiasts to offer a unique and meaningful vehicle to commemorate the quattro story, but would have liked to have seen a slightly smaller premium than the $60,000+ price tag.
In the end our conclusion – and the one that we think can be easily defended – is that the real reason to own this car is to celebrate quattro. Nothing Audi offers in the North American market pays homage quite as well as this vehicle and 250 lucky owners will get to own a piece of that celebration. With that in mind we did feel more hesitant to give this press car back then most that we drive throughout the year. We love Audi enough to look past some of the areas where we were wishing for more aggressiveness and to just put this incredible symbol in our garage.
The 2006 S4 25quattro can be ordered from any dealer and there is still some availability. Potential owners beware: do not go to the dealer looking to customize your S4 25quattro because they have already all be been built to spec and imported by Audi of America. Deliveries will begin the week of November 7, 2005.