AUDI S4 has plenty to crow about

I GENERALLY don't derive pleasure from of watching contact sport such as wrestling, boxing and rugby, but must admit that I keenly enjoy watching the brawl between Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

I GENERALLY don't derive pleasure from of watching contact sport such as wrestling, boxing and rugby, but must admit that I keenly enjoy watching the brawl between Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Their efforts to outdo each other through styling, innovation, performance and gimmicks make for great entertainment.

It was Audi's turn last week when it introduced its S4 sports sedan. For many years the S4 played the role of flagship model in the A4 line-up until the arrival of the RS4, which, it can be argued, has sent the S4 into obscurity.

The latest version boasts a host of features designed to deflect attention from its rivals.

With a new supercharged 3,0-litre V6 engine punching out 245W and 440Nm, this new power-plant is said to be both frugal and environmentally sensitive.

As expected of sporting Audis the S4 is underpinned by quattro drive. Helping transfer all that power to all four wheels are two gearbox choices: a new 7-speed auto box, dubbed S-Tronic, or a 6-speed manual.

As can be expected from a car of this calibre, its cabin is filled with an array of luxury equipment complimented by the latest in passenger safety systems.

You will recall Audi vowing to upstage BMW and Mercedes to be the best luxury car brand in the world by the year 2015 and that means matching and at times completely outclassing competition.

This S4 is a direct challenge to the BMW 335i sedan in terms of performance, equipment and segment, but the Audi is almost R90000 more expensive.

A quick, informal comparison reveals that the S4 is equal to the task. The engine is refined and spontaneous and emits a delicious note while its well-cooked chassis setup, lowered by 20mm and stiffer than average A4 species, helps the driver deal confidently with curved roads yet have the comfort of driving to work daily.

With optional sport diff in place, the S4 will wag its tail but the oversteer is controllable, predictable and heightens driver involvement. The S4 has plenty to suit individual tastes and conveniences. Its supercharged engine is on point, though it did feel a bit wheezy at higher speeds and displayed hints of being brutal on fuel supply.

Overall it's a deeply satisfying alternative to the rule. I honestly could not find much to fault. It will take a more intense comparison test that includes satellite stop-watches and metric measurements to state if it upstages the cheaper BMW 335i.

But potential owners will enjoy the full peace of mind add-ons that come with new Audis, such as maintenance plans, warranties and all.

Now we can't wait for the new RS4, which will be more powerful of course.

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