Johannesburg - The new Audi S4 is that rarity in modern premium cars, a stand-alone model: despite a host of detail options to to help you push up the base price of R809 000, in essence, what you see is what you get.

Released in South Africa this week, the top dog of the A4 family comes with one engine, one transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.

But that engine is an all-new, direct-injection, three-litre turbopetrol V6 rated at 260kW and a muscular 500Nm from 1370-4500rpm, launching the S4 to 100km/h in a creditable 4.7 seconds and on to an electronically limited 250km/h.

The transmission is an eight-speed tiptronic with a wide spread of ratios - short, punchy lower gears for rapid response off the line and long upper gears for relaxed cruising. And if you lift your foot off the loud pedal anywhere between 55 and 160km/h it instantly defaults to freewheeling mode.

The quattro all-wheel drive is set up with a slight rear bias in normal driving, but on loose or slippery surfaces it can deliver the majority of the drive to the axle with better traction, while torque vectoring gently brakes the inside wheels for neutral handling in fast corners, and an (optional) active sports differential distributes torque between the rear wheels.

Five-link front and rear suspension for comfort without sacrificing precision is standard, as is electro mechanical power steering; dynamic steering, that varies the rack ratio with speed, is an option - as is red paint on the brake callipers, if you feel the standard black is boring.

Clean cabin

The uncluttered interior with its emphasis on horizontal lines is trimmed predominantly in black with matt brushed-aluminium trim elements, although the optional S sports seats with integrated head restraints, adjustable lateral supports and pneumatic massage function can be ordered with nappa leather upholstery in black, grey or red with diamond-pattern contrasting stitching.

While most A4 customers will likely opt for the 31cm virtual cockpit instrument display, using the ‘View’ button on the steering wheel to switch between the various interfaces - including a special sport mode with the rev-counter the dominant element - the standard analogue dashboard has also been upgraded and simplified to make its operation more intuitive.

The MMI control panel on the centre console has been revised; when the optional Navigation Plus with MMI Touch is installed, the rotary push-button control also has a touchpad for zooming and writing with ‘intelligent’ free-text search.

A built-in ‘phone box’ connects smartphones to the on-board antenna and at the same time charges them wirelessly to the Qi standard, while an optional 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system delivers 755 watts of 3D audio power.

Driver aids

Numerous driver aids can be found on the options list, including adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and rear cross traffic assist.

Standard features in the S4 include automatic climate control, cruise control, comfort key, Alcantara/leather front sports seats, ambient lighting package, light and rain sensors and LED headlights and taillights among other items.

Audi S4 pricing starts at R809 000 and includes a five year or 100 000km maintenance plan.

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