New Audi S4

The new S4 sports saloon and estate break cover

Audi has revealed the current flagship to the A4 range, the S4. The big news is a brand-new engine, which is two cylinders down on the previous S4’s V8. The new car uses a 3-litre TFSI V6, which offers comparable performance to the old 4.2-litre thanks to a high-spinning supercharger capable of 23,000rpm - which is far more effective than using twin turbos on the same engine.

It's a bold move, but it means the engine boasts 328bhp and 325lb ft of torque (available from 2500 to 4850rpm) while the saloon’s 0-62mph sprint is down half a second on the previous S4 to 5.1sec (with the Avant clearing the dash 0.1sec later). As always, the maximum speed is pegged back to 155mph.

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An impressive set of figures, but thanks to the new engine, the economy and emissions are even more impressive: 29.1mpg (combined) and 225g/km are vastly better than the old V8 S4, which managed 21.2mpg and 322g/km. Not exactly the kind of numbers that normally sway super-saloon buyers, but very important ones in the current climate.

The figures get better if you choose Audi's S-tronic auto gearbox from the options list. The seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, which debuted on the Q5 soft-roader, boosts the green-credentials with 30.1mpg and 219g/km. It can be kept as an auto or controlled by steering wheel-mounted paddles.

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An active sport differential is also an option, linking to Audi’s standard Quattro AWD system, which in normal circumstances sends a 60 per cent majority of power to the back of the car, with the remaining 40 going to the front. This is automatically varied between wheels in a fraction of a second if the situation asks of it. Drive Select also shows its face, altering throttle response, gearing and steering to suit your mood – allowing you to switch between comfort, dynamic and auto modes to make the hot A4 a multi-purpose tool. Cosmetic changes are typically discreet – silver side mirrors, a butched-up grille, quad exhausts and a barely-there spoiler at the back. Inside there’s a splattering of S4 logos alongside some sculptured sports seats. The car rides 20mm lower than a stock A4 and gains 18in S-design alloys. Prices will be around £36k when it hits our roads in spring 2009. That’s almost £15k less than the BMW M3, Lexus IS-F and Mercedes C63 AMG, but the Audi possesses around three quarters of their power – aiming it more in the direction of the BMW 335i or the more hardcore Mitsubishi Evo X. There’ll be a weapons-grade RS4 to rectify this, but with the RS6 saloon very fresh expect a bit of a wait before Ingolstadt’s truly super saloon arrives. What do you think of the S4? Are the only relevant A4s the one’s wearing a TDI or an RS badge? Or do you fancy a sub-£40k Q-car? Have your say on the forum.

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