September 28, 2002

Audi at Paris Motor Show
By: Gavin Conway, UK Correspondent

In honor of two important new Audis Inglostadt brought out the big guns for the Paris Motor Show. Most members of the Audi main board turned up, including the very useful Dr. Werner Mischke. This straight talking guy is Audi's Technical Development chief, and he can speak his mind without interruption from pesky, over cautious-press officers. And that's what he did.

Mischke explains that Audi is reorienting itself as an even more seriously sporting brand. And even though there was an A2 on the Audi stand there just ain't room for a car like that in the new plan, so it will die a natural death in 2005. "To replace that vehicle directly is not the right thing for the future," said Mischke.

There's news on the TT, too, which gains a mild grille tweak but a fairly major drivetrain option. Mischke says it was a mistake to launch the car as a standard-shift only, so the TT has gained Audi's slick tiptronic gearbox. "This is an important lesson we had to learn," explains Mischke. "Availability of an automatic is important even in a sporty car, and especially for the U.S."

Even better, Mischke says that in a bid to keep interest in TT alive until its replacement arrives in 2005, Audi is developing a storming version with a potent VR6 powerplant. That should be a stunningly quick car.

Another important Audi for the U.S. also made its debut in Paris - the allroad quattro has finally gained Audi's superb 4.2-litre V8, in this guise developing a potent 300bhp.

The rest of Audi's range was present and accounted for, including the S3 that will be replaced early next year. But the real buzz at Paris surrounded the all-new A8 and the S4 with its sensational V8 powerplant.

     

Audi S4 makes its debut

Walk too quickly through the Audi stand and you could miss this shy little bruiser entirely. The new S4 - with nothing less than a 344bhp 4.2-litre V8 under the hood - seems a more discreet package than its equally mental RS6 sibling. The major cues are the dual exhausts, little trunk spoiler, black side sill extensions and deep front spoiler and foglights. But the effect is more vague menace than direct threat. The S4 says 'are you talkin' to me...?' rather than 'go on, make my day.'

But there is no question that the S treatment suits this latest A4 body style better than ever. The latest A4 has a more muscular stance to begin with, a less soft-edge presentation that just cries out for bigger wheels - 17-inch in this case - and seriously deep spoilers. The deep, split front grille with its jewel like fog lights is an understated yet effective message to the car in front. And those exterior rear view mirrors, finished in natural aluminum, are a stylish touch as well as another subtle clue that an S4 is coming your way.

Gratifyingly, Audi also offers the S4 in Avant wagon guise. It's a lovely piece of irony, and I've always preferred the Avant to the sedan. It looks better and it's obviously a bit more practical, too.

Inside, the Recaro seats do justice to the term 'bucket' as you are clamped rather than held in position. The leather and Alcantara trim is beautifully applied, as are the optional slivers of aluminium dash trim which suit the car much better than the growing cliché of carbon fibre, which is the standard item on the S4. And that leather clad steering wheel is great to hold.

If good taste is a variable, performance is an absolute. On this score, the S4 ends all discussion with a 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed governed to 155mph. In fact, the latest S4 has a much better power to weight ratio than the old car, with just 10.5lbs per horsepower compared to 13 for the old car.

It is the engine's remarkably short design that enabled Audi engineers to fit it into the A4's tight engine bay. By locating the chain drive for the camshafts and ancillaries on the back of the engine, the overall length of the unit was reduced by 52mm. And Audi engineers give us assurances that this won't make the engine more difficult to service and repair.

Measures were taken to ensure that the engine's frictional losses are minimised, too. Lighter pistons and conrods help this V8 to achieve a high maximum engine speed of 7200rpm. It'll also make it a much more free-revving and responsive unit. For the record, the 4.2-litre 40-valve V8 produces 344bhp at a peaky 7000rpm and 302lb ft of torque at a more reasonable 3500rpm.

There is the option of a six-speed tiptronic gearbox with paddle-shift but even better, this fastest ever A4 is available with a new six-speed close-ratio manual gearbox. Which will mean that enthusiast drivers can get the benefit of every single inch of the engine's torque.

So it's another q-car Porsche-eater from Audi. Just don't order it in red and you're all set.

     

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