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Re: first drive - s4 avant (long)

Dave.Eaton@clear.net.nz (Dave Eaton) wrote:

> s4 avant test reportÖ.
> ...

Thanks for the report Dave but I find some of your experiences completely 
unreconcilable with my experiences of the S4. I took delivery of mine 
last October (saloon rather than avant) and have been very unimpressed 
with some aspects of it. Specifically :

> ...
> moving off you become aware
> of how much improved the gearshift is.  it is a 6-speed unit as 
> precise as the rs2 unit, but much lighter with shorter throws.

This I just can't understand. My experience of the S4 gear shift is that 
it is a much longer throw than that of my RS2. So much so that after 
driving the S4 and then switching to the RS2 the RS2 box feels like a 
short stubby sports car stick which it obviously isn't.

The S4 doesn't really need a 6 speed box with its engine. Changing gear 
in it isn't a very rewarding experience so I've ended up pulling away in 
1st or 2nd and then slipping straight into 4th.

> this is a very good shift.  none of the old quattro clunkiness or
> reluctance to move fast.  no audi iíve driven has a better shift.

Can't agree there. No better feel wise than the RS2 shift and, as I said 
above, a much longer throw.

> the steering is your 1st driving impression. gone is the lightness of 
> the 80-series with the servotronic over-assist.  gone also is the rs2
> lack of positive centering.  replacing this is a nicely weighty
> steering without a
> great deal of sensitivity.  this is no 20v ur-quattro, but it is an
> improvement on the s2/rs2 which have gone before.  the steering does
> communicate well though: on lock in corners it is pleasant to hold, 
> tells
> you what is happening and weights up well.  it doesnít communicate 
> like the quattro does though.

I'd agree that it's an improvement on the RS2 steering but only a small 
one. Compared to the 20v ur-quattro I used to own (or the Porsche 968CS 
or Lotus Elise) it's just not in the same league.

> the brakes surprise you.  the a4 grabiness is there and it takes 
> practice to learn to modulate them.  high speed stopping is very, very
> good. instant response and excellent retardation.  better than the rs2?
> surprisingly yes, although fade wasnít tested. 

More amazement here. I found the S4 brakes to be so over-assisted they 
had none of the delicate adjustability of the RS2 brakes. Only really 
hard braking gave any feel or feedback from the pedal. Gentler braking's 
more like operating an accelerator pedal - just position it to adjust 
braking strength. No feedback and small pressure changes on the pedal 
make big changes in the brake effect. Heel-and-toe blipping of the 
accelerator on the downshift just can't be done at moderate brake 
pressures as far as I can see as just a small change in pressure on the 
brake pedal as you blip the accelerator causes a big lurch as the car is 
braked far harder than you intended.

The brakes are by far the worst aspect of the whole car.

> ...

> engine response is very good.  it is very like the 20vt in the urgency 
> of itís low-speed pickup, perhaps even more so.  you immediately tune
> to a different way of driving the car to the rs2.  gone is the
> low-speed lethargy of the rs2, and itís high speed urgency, replaced by 
> a pleasant degree of throttle sensitivity.  the rs2 above 4,500 is
> magical and addictive, although a fairly rare experience, in normal
> conditions.  the s4 does not have the high speed thrill of this motor,
> or the high speed pickup, due, iíve no doubt to the smaller turbos
> (although the engine was new and tight). it does not have the relative
> breathlessness of the 20vt about 5,500 though (even given the test cars 
> newness).  the s4 does however make the low-speed throttle control of
> the rs2 look pretty ordinary.  there is a solid wall of torque from
> 2,000 - dropping to 2,000 in 3rd and planting foot still reveals
> some lethargy, but pickup is very very good.  do this in 2nd and the 
> car simply takes off. 

I'd agree with this though I have had the MTM 340bhp mod. done to my RS2 
to give it much more low down torque which has helped a lot.

Didn't you find the accelerator pedal to be horribly springy with little 
in the way of damping? Every time I drive over a bump my foot bounces up 
and down on the pedal. I even had it kangarooing down the road after 
pulling away out of driveway with a large step down onto the road, 
something I've not had in any other car.

> there is a disconcerting throttle snatch between 
> 1st and 2nd gears which betrays the turbos rapid spoolup.  you need to
> feather your ordinary change between 1st and 2nd to avoid this shunt.

Yes, I found it nigh on impossible to make the change up from 1st to 2nd 
without the passenger being noticeably thrown forward by this shunt.

> this changeup at higher engine speeds is not a problem, so i suspect
> the turbos are contributing.  otherwise the driveline is very smooth
> and very quiet. owners of older audiís would be very impressed.  the
> engine note is pleasantly rorty at higher speed, certainly more
> noticeable than the normal v6.
> handling ...

I agree with most of your comments re the handling being good but I've 
also found the car tends to get a very light feeling about it on long, 
sweeping motorway bends at around 80 - 90 mph. It just doesn't feel 
solidly planted on the road, more like it's up on tip-toes ready to dart 
one way or the other. It never has actually done anything unexpected, it 
just feels like it may do and doesn't inspire confidence.

> ...

> would i replace my rs2 with this car?  a definite maybe. a better car 
> than the rs2?  in all truth i would say that it is a worthwhile
> improvement is almost every way.  the only thing youíd miss about the
> rs2 is the in-your-face ďpit bullĒ look, and the high speed response of 
> the inline 5. you would miss nothing else.  perhaps the seats.

Well, I for one am glad that I still have the RS2. As far as I'm 
concerned the S4 looks gorgeous, is beautifully put together and is a 
very comfortable and effortless way to get from A to B but has totally 
failed in terms of driver involvement with controls that largely make the 
whole experience feel like you're playing a video game even to the extent 
of the controls themselves largely having the same feel as those in 
arcade machines. That's why my 4 month old S4 is going for part-exchange 
and I'm sticking with the RS2. (Wish I still had my old 20v ur-quattro 

> ...

I'll probably give the S4 another test try once the face-lift model is 
available to see if they've improved the brakes. I really can't 
understand your comment re. the length of the gear shift throw though. 
Perhaps you could ask your dealer if they know of any changes to it from 
the European model.