2006 Audi S4 Avant
Story and Photos by Robert Dysiewicz
Imagine the conversation behind closed doors at product selection meetings… How do they decide on the product that will make public debut? Most choices are made years in advance where predicting the correct trend must be as hard as predicting the weather.
Consider all the variables that top brass must consider when choosing car models representing their brand. The line-up must include mass appeal, sex appeal, luxury, sportiness and utility.
Audi S4 Avant has all the above covered – and it accomplished the feat in a unique Audi style.
Dissecting outside proportions, curves and angles conjures images of an athlete wrapped in tight spandex performance suit. Surface tension suggests power, agility and slipperiness often associated with the greatest underwater predator – the shark! Even the antenna is shaped like the menacing fin made famous by the cult favourite movie - Jaws.
Although the single dimension of a picture fails to capture the beauty only visible in person, the S4 is one of the sexiest ‘station wagons’ on the planet – even in pictures. It is so good looking in fact, that using the ‘station wagon’ description is somewhat insulting. Until a better name becomes available – I think of it as a stretched coupe with extra doors for convenience.
The more time I spent with the Avant, I came to realize the car’s true appeal. The Audi designers and engineers played a pretty clever trick on the buyer – building a vehicle of never ending contradictions.
Station wagons were never designed to be attractive – but this one is drop dead gorgeous…
Station wagons were never injected with steroid enhanced power, but the S4 spoils the driver with gobs of usable thrust…
Those clever white coat-wearing tinkerers managed to cram under the hood a DOHC all-aluminum 90-degree 4.2 litre V8 with 5 valves per cylinder producing 340 horsepower and 302 lb-ft of torque. Matched with the slick shifting 6-speed manual and grounded by the legendary Quattro all-wheel drive, the S4 is capable of breathtaking acceleration. Regardless of road or weather conditions.
The Audi is so efficient at delivering power that it almost feels ‘slow’. Trust me however; this is a serious sports car. At normal speeds it performs like your run-of-the-mill grocery getter. But when pushed a bit closer to its performance envelope, it transforms into a weekend barnstormer. Our best acceleration run returned a 0-60 mph of 6.2 seconds (a little shy of the manufacturer posted 5.4 seconds to 100 km/h). These numbers put the Avant into a pretty selective bunch of straight-line overachievers. But when the road turns twisty, the S4 demolishes curves with ease. The combination of Quattro genius, sport tuned suspension and super-grippy summer performance tires inspire total confidence. When at the limit, the front end gives up first but a slight lift of the throttle quickly tucks the front-end in line ready for a blistering exit. And to control velocity, Audi comes equipped with fade free binders ready for abuse. During spirited driving, I never experienced any noticeable fade from the brakes.
Ok, so the S4 Avant performs like an athlete, looks the part – but how about luxury? Did the designers pinch enough cash to make the occupants comfortable while touring around town?
In a typical (and expected) Audi tradition, the interior does not disappoint. From the beautifully shaped Silk Nappa leather Recaro Sport seats to the attractive dash layout and ideal driver position – the S4 remains the benchmark in interior layout.
Audi has mastered the formula for materials, ergonomics and ambiance unlike any manufacturer today. The interior gets a dash of traditional with a pinch of evolutionary advancement. The gauges are well placed, the shifter within comfortable reach and for the purist looking to fully explore the S4’s potential, the pedals are placed to accommodate the required heel-and-toe technique.
If the sound of the raspy V8 is not your idea of musical interlude, push the knob to activate the Audi Symphony AM/FM stereo with in-dash 6-disc CD changer, cassette player, Radio Data System (RDS) and Graduated Audio Level Adjustment (GALA) stereo system to engulf the senses with rich and full sound system. Very little distortion means you can crank – and ‘this one goes to eleven’. My tester came equipped with an optional DVD-based global positioning Audi Navigation plus with glovebox 6-CD changer navigation system that proved easy and intuitive to operate.
So the question remains – Is there a market for a do-it-all 5-door sedan/wagon capable of day-to-day grunt and athletic enough to satisfy the performance-minded purist?
In my opinion, at a starting price of $70,400 Canadian, the S4 Avant scores a bulls-eye. Both the husband and wife will find a lot to love about the mighty Audi. And even the image conscious teenager will gladly borrow the wagon on weekends. If they can wrestle the keys from mom and dad…