January 4, 2000
AudiWorld Long Term S4: Update #1
Article and photos by Jason Teller
Over two months have elapsed since I picked up the S4 and I'm happy to report that the car is trouble-free and just as exciting as the day I bought it. Truth be told, it's probably more exciting than the first day since it's now well out of the break-in period and for lack of a better term it's like a silver bolt of lightening. Coming from my 1997 A4 2.8 12v, I am still amazed by the incredible difference in power, handling and overall refinement.
The car now has approximately 3500 miles on it. Mileage could be better -- at about 18 mpg the car gets a full tank of gas once a week or more. And as we all know, premium-grade gas isn't getting any cheaper. I definitely notice a difference between highway and city mileage, although I really haven't run a full tank of 100% highway driving since I got out of the break-in period. I would guess an average somewhere around 22-24 mpg on the highway. If you own an S4 then you know that it can be particularly discouraging to set the trip computer to instantaneous mileage, stomp on the accelerator and watch the average miles per gallon drop to nearly nothing within a matter of seconds! These little turbos are great at moving the car swiftly and suck a whole lot of fuel in the process.
Complaining aside (hey, if I couldn't afford the fuel then I shouldn't have bought an S4 in the first place), the car has performed flawlessly. All buttons, lights, switches and other assorted gizmos are in place and fully functional. From a "looks" point of view the car is just a blast to be inside. Between the ever-obvious xenon headlights and the unique, yet stealthy, body styling, the car simply attracts attention. It is not all that unusual for me to come back to the car in a parking lot and have somebody make a comment to me. Similarly, I've had more than a few folks pull up next to the car on the highway and give the "thumb's up". Part of this could be the geographic area I'm in -- there just aren't that many S4's in Southern Ontario. However, I like to believe that the car's classic looks just do a good job of illiciting an emotional response from others.
Completed Modification: Snow Tires
I had decided from the get-go to use the stock Avus wheels as my winter wheels. Why buy another set of wheels when these look great and I am planning on buying new summer wheels anyway? Based on the requirement to retain some semblance of the car's performance characteristics I knew that needed a speed-rated snow tire. I considered the Dunlop Winter Sport M2, the Michelin Pilot Alpin and the Pirelli Winter 210 Asimmetrico, all H-rated studless snow tires. In the end I went with the Pirelli tires based on their overall price/performance mixture.
Unfortunately I have not gotten the opportunity to run the snow tires in snowy conditions yet (although in these parts I know it's just around the corner). So I'll give you my dry road impressions instead. The tires are stable at speed and in a straight line up past 100 mph. In turns the tires are adequate, although a far cry from the stock rubber and certainly not good enough for agressive cornering. One small complaint -- the tires have a slighty noisy band at right around 70 mph. Otherwise they offer relatively good driver feedback and are not annoyingly noisy.
|Completed Modification: Vanity Plate
I was very taken with the expression "S Force" after buying this car and determined to get some variation on my plates. Easier said than done. I guess that there have been plenty of S-designated cars over the years and I wasn't the first person with this brilliant idea! Most of the more obvious letter combinations were not available, but I still like my final choice. To the non-Audi enthusiast it probably remains a bit of a mystery, while those who know the S4 will understand immediately.
Damage Update: Scratches on Hood
It's an inevitability that a new car is going to get a scratch or a ding somewhere along the line. Remember the old video game Asteroids? You used to be able to press a button and have your shield come on and suddenly none of the asteroids could hurt your beloved little ship. But even the shield wasn't perfect -- it would run out of juice if you used it to much. I use this analogy because for the first couple of weeks I felt like I had an invisible shield around the car. I didn't want people to touch it. I didn't like to drive close to other cars. At the supermarket I parked half a mile from the entrance. But just like in asteroids, my shield ran out of juice.
I was driving down the highway one day when I saw this object bouncing down the road. As it got closer I could make out exactly what it was -- a lug nut! I was going probably 80 mph, but I did manage to get the car moved over a bit. The bolt struck the hood in the front right corner leaving four ugly looking scratches. Of course from my driver's seat I could not tell exactly where the damage had occured or what might be broken. "Cracked xenon light" kept going through my head! When I finally got a chance to get off the road and check it out I felt lucky it hadn't bounced a little higher and struck the windshield. All in all it could have been worse I guess.
I do not have any further modifications planned for the S4 during the winter. Come spring there will definitely be additional changes, however. We'll be looking at things such as summer wheels and tires, a performance chip (or perhaps a comparo article with multiple chips), exhaust and suspension.
Note: Many people have asked me in the past about whether this car is U.S. spec or Canadian spec. While I am temporarily living in Ontario, my permanent address is in Colorado. The car, which includes U.S. features such as Xenon headlights and foglights, was purchased in the U.S.