Fast Fun II
Posted: Sep 19, 2007 11:19am ET
When it rains it pours. Or when you drive fast, you get used to it. This past weekend, I had another Audi, an S4, the little brother to the faster, more explosive RS4.
At first glance, there’s not much difference. There are 18-inch rims instead of 19 inch. And, the exhausts have a little different look too…four pipes instead of two. Even inside, there’s not much difference—each car has a six-speed manual transmission and the full array of Audi electronics. The seats seemed a little plusher in the S4, not quite as sport car hard as the RS4.
The differences lie under the hood. The RS 4 turns out over 420 horsepower, in a special FSI V8. The S4, a mere 340 horsepower, out of the essentially the same 4.2 liter V8. Believe it or not, the rumble of the exhaust is almost identical when you are sitting at a stop light waiting to put it into gear.
Now, this may be heresy to the true sports car lover, but in the end, I preferred the less powerful car, the S4. It is heresy because if you’re into cars, faster and more powerful has to be better. But for me, the perfect car has to have a balance, a harmony between the power and the handling and overall feel of the car. In the RS4, I couldn’t escape the feeling (it was real I later realized) that you always had to keep a tight tether on the car or it would be out of control before you knew it. It’s the kind of car that if you’re not careful when you punch the accelerator to pass a car in front, you better be turning the wheel or you’ll end up with your engine in the car’s trunk. The S4 was just easier to manage on a day to day basis, especially when it involves an urban commute; it’s still got plenty of power, and there’s no doubt that you can pretty much point it and make it do what you want it to do. But while it won’t always outrun those little Porches like the RS4, you can still stay close.
If I lived in Montana, or a Nevada, or someplace where there were more open roads than traffic-filled highways, I might opt for the RS4. But in the big city like New York, the S4 is more than enough car, and ultimately, just a little bit more comfortable because you’re not always fighting to hold it back. And, it’s a shade less than $18,000 cheaper, which can’t be ignored.
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