ON PAPER, Audiís suave halfway-house S4 sports sedan has it easy: add performance to the most dynamically accomplished A4 ever produced, and leave something in the clip for the full-noise RS4 still to come.
In one way itís a tease Ė much like its launch, which took place at Mt Panorama without any track time Ė but lap records arenít the stealthy S4ís main game.
Into the B9ís sorted MLB platform slots an all-new 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 making it five different engine layouts in five generations of S4. Outputs lift to 260kW/500Nm, up 15kW/ 55Nm over the B8ís 3.0-litre supercharged V6.
Peak torque arrives earlier and hangs on longer (1370-4500rpm), bringing 100km/h up in 4.7-4.9sec (sedan/wagon). Itís properly brisk, and in isolation has a sporty, cultured exhaust note in keeping with the S4ís newfound gentility.
Itís a personality switch from the snarling induction rasp and top-end urgency of the old blown V6, with its 500rpm-higher redline (7000rpm). That shift in focus extends to the new S4ís silken eight-speed torque-converter auto, which is easier to live with and more efficient than the sevenspeed dual-clutch it replaces, though not as razor-sharp.
Priced at $99,900 for the sedan and $102,900 for the Avant, this is the most affordable S4 ever, especially when factoring in its high level of standard kit. Interior detailing is impeccable, and the S4ís standard digi-dash gets an S-specific layout with a central tachometer and speed readout.
Every piece of available driverassist tech is standard, leaving the Quattro Sport differential as the most worthwhile option, for maximum poise under power.
Even if you donít shell out for the trick diff, the standard S4ís clever AWD offers huge traction.
A unique torque management calibration is able to channel up to 85 percent of drive to the back to give the S4 a more rear-driven flavour than vanilla A4s.
Thereís no need for Audiís overly sensitive (but thankfully optional) dynamic steering, though. The lesser A4 is already addictively pointy, and the S4 builds on its fundamental agility. Only an occasionally lumpy ride, even with adaptive dampers at their softest, goes against the normal A4ís plush cohesion.
LED lighting, 19s, and subtly distinctive bodywork lend visual sophistication but the 2017 S4 is less overt than its predecessors.
Though it downplays its sportiness, the new S4 is more capable than ever. Its ultrapolished engine packs serious strength under a cloak of civility, and the underlying balance of its chassis bodes well for future fast B9-generation Audis.
Restrained personality and soundtrack; optional dynamic steering Rapid acceleration; cornering grip; chassis dynamics; interior quality
The S4ís all-new, allaluminium 3.0-litre V6 is set to power S5, SQ5 and others. Itís 14kg lighter and has a twin-scroll turbo mounted in the engineís 90-degree vee, fed by an integrated exhaust manifold with shortened runners to minimise lag. Smart thermal management cools components on-demand, while friction optimisation, centrally mounted injectors and a two-phase combustion process increase efficiency. Consumption is 7.7-7.8L/100km on the combined cycle.