You should own a supercharger. Think of the cool company you would be in. Mad Max had a supercharger. So did Jay Gadsby. So listen, old sport, if you want something special skip the twin-scroll turbo. Everybody has one. If you want a car that is a little out of the ordinary, why not try the 2015 Audi S4 3.0T Quattro S Tronic. It comes complete with a supercharger and so much more.
The S4 is Audi’s sports sedan. It’s gobs better than the near-luxury A4. The S4 is the real deal. It has everything one can use in sporty on-road driving, but in a package that also looks and acts like a compact family car. It is the perfect sleeper.
A dual-use car needs to be four-season capable, so like all real Audis, the S4 quattro has the company’s legendary all-wheel drive system. The quattro system does more for this sedan that just add forward traction. Since Audi’s design puts the engine forward of the front wheels a bit, the Quattro helps to balance the vehicle. Of course, it does make the vehicle rock-solid reliable in wet, snowy, or icy conditions and in New England that is the new normal. In this hopped-up Audi, it also helps to get the incredible power and torque to the ground. Although I often preach that AWD has its drawbacks, in this car it does not.
So back to that supercharger, and why it is so cool. Another German make defines this category. It uses in-line six-cylinder engines that have morphed from smooth-revving sweethearts to light-switches. The power in the older engines would come on nice and linearly. Now it lags and then explodes, making the cars less than perfect. This is all due to the turbochargers and their drawbacks. Superchargers don’t need to “spool-up” like turbos, and you can feel the difference immediately. Superchargers compress the intake air for the engine using a mechanical pump driven by the engine (or an electric motor). Turbos are powered by the exhaust gas from the car and they are usually “off.” When you give the car gas, they are put to use, but it takes an instant for them to do their thing. In the case of the S4’s nemesis, it comes on too much, and too abruptly – for some. Brand loyalists pretend the lag’s not there. It is.
The S4 develops 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. 333 may be the perfect number for a sedan this size with all-wheel drive. It will propel the car forward to 60 MPH in under 5 seconds if you use the launch control, which is sort of like the sequence required to blast an F-18 Superhornet off a carrier. It isn’t necessary. At any stoplight just toe the throttle and the S4 leaps ahead and the power builds so perfectly you would swear it was a normally-aspirated small V8, which, by the way, is exactly what the S4 had in past years.
My test vehicle had the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Most of the goofiness is now baked out of these. The only odd sensation one might note is that when you are alone heading onto the highway and you floor the car. Do this, and the S4 first revs the engine to the redline, and then it shifts. That is the opposite of how a conventional torque converter transmission operates, and it is a unique sensation. The car has scoot, and once you get used to the feeling it is all good. Around town, if you want to play boy-racer, the paddle shifters or the gear selector can be used to select the gears manually and each shift is utterly perfect, and so very satisfying for the soul.
Audis are unique now in one other novel way besides superchargers. Audi uses an indirect tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). There are no sensors in the wheels, but rather the vehicle measures the rotation speed of each wheel to make sure that a loss of pressure has not occurred. The enormous benefit of this system is you can much more easily buy winter tires on their own rims without the high cost and hassle of a second set of TMPS sensors. Many owners do just that, including my neighbor Bob who owns an identical S4 to my test car right down to the color. He says that the slightly higher profile of his winter rubber makes the ride much better over the broken pavement during winter and spring. The S4 has a very stiff ride, and thus this is a big deal. Note that not only does that other German sports sedan use TPMS sensors inside its wheels, that brand also uses run-flat tires, which are unpopular and expensive.
The S4’s interior is a work of art. Each part appears to have been carefully crafted. The Alcantara (artificial-suede) seats my test vehicle had felt wonderful and offered welcome grip when I tossed the car around corners. This car handles completely flat. It simply does not lean in corners, and its steering feels perfect for sporty drives. Like all smallish sedans in its class getting in and out is not as easy as in a coupe, so Audi offers a 2-door S5 if you don’t have a need for the rear doors. My neighbor Bob finds this to be an issue so serious he is considering trading his S4 for an S5 coupe.
Overall, the S4 nails its mission. For those that are willing to live with a stiff ride and fuel economy in the low 20 MPG range, the $55K Audi S4 offers not just a great sports sedan experience, it also offers some unique equipment. Say it with me like you’re from Boston, “Soopah-Chahjah.”