Though not quite as enthralling as BMW's frenetic M3, the 2006 Audi S4 still offers entertaining performance along with a more livable personality.
The S4 now has brushed aluminum for its interior trim highlights; gray birch and carbon-fiber trim are optional. The torque split for the quattro system has been revised to 40 front/60 rear on manual transmission cars.
The Audi S4 has certainly moved up in the performance ranks with the addition of the V8. Even with a pair of turbos, the previous V6 was no match for eight high-revving pistons. Moreover, Audi was determined to beat the M3 in the spec sheet race and continued to massage the 4.2-liter engine until it surpassed the Bimmer's 333-hp rating. With 340 hp screaming out at a heady 7,000 rpm, the S4 loves the upper end of its rev band. Of course, a few tweaks were needed to match the chassis to the prodigious power plant. A tightened-up suspension along with 18-inch high-performance tires help to make the most of the powerful V8 and Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Far from being a one-dimensional car, the Audi S4 also provides a comfortable and functional cockpit -- for example, in the sedan and wagon models the ultrasupportive front buckets are 12-way adjustable Recaros covered in what Audi calls Silk Nappa leather. Elsewhere, you'll find the fine-quality materials and upscale conveniences that make the A4 family the most luxurious among all entry-level luxury cars. The S4's most noticeable shortcoming is endemic to the entire A4 lineup, namely the lack of rear-seat room. Now that virtually all Japanese sedans have spacious rear accommodations, and most European competitors have at least paid passing attention to the needs of those relegated to the back, the S4's lack of rear legroom might be off-putting to some enthusiasts with families.