Audi S4 / A4 CAB Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
audi s4 a4 cab review

There are two sides to every driver: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is the courteous, law-abiding motorist beloved of governmental agencies. He drives slowly and sensibly, follows the Highway Code with religious zeal and simply shakes his head when someone cuts him up. Mr. Hyde is a hooligan and a speed freak. His only concern with the law is not getting caught. His only concern with fellow road users is blasting past them.

The Audi A4 Cabriolet is Dr. J's ride. One glance at its surgically sharp creases and fat-free curves and you know this top-down two door was designed for physicians. The shape is so clean you have to scrub-up just to look at it. In a world where Mercedes Benz has more classes than a pre-med program, BMW's are listed under "ubiquitous" in the dictionary and Jags are for geriatrics, the sexy but smart A4 Cab is the ideal, understated image projector for a status-conscious MD.

How did Michelangelo make his David? He bought a block of marble and removed the bits that weren't David. How does Audi make the world's best car interiors? They build a cabin, leave out the bits you don't need and arrange what's left with logic, taste and discretion. Like all physicians, Dr. J is a neat freak. The A4 Cab's minimalist interior is the perfect cockpit for a medical miracle maker: someone who only feels comfortable in the centre of a perfectly ordered universe.

Once underway, Dr. J is not over-concerned with driving dynamics. Neither is the A4 Cab. The ride vacillates between masterful and miserable. The suspension dismisses major surface imperfections with a shrug. But drive over an extended section of broken pavement and the body shakes like an alcoholic's hands after a twelve-day bender. That's the price you pay for a bit of sunshine. Anyway, the A4 Cab goes where you point it.

Yes, but control is nothing without power. The A4 Cab's 3.0-litre V6 stumps up 220bhp. The poke propels the 4013lb. cruiser to 60mph in 7.5 seconds– as long as you're going in a straight line. Corner at speed in the (non Quattro) Cab, and the front tyres squeal so loudly you'll swear pigs are being tortured nearby. Still, as Dr. J is more concerned with Bach than back roads, the Cab's hairdresser handling is a non-issue.

And then Dr. Jekyll swallows his potion. "I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought, in that moment, braced and delighted me like wine." Yup, Mr. Hyde's off, thrashing Audi's V8-powered sports sedan to an inch of its life, scaring the beJesus out of any driver or pedestrian hapless enough to get in his way.

And what, pray tell, fuels this motorized maniac's unbridled delinquency? Torque. The S4 places 320 ft. lbs. of twist under Mr. H's right foot. Max power clocks in at a leisurely 3200rpms. Translation? The drug-crazed madman has unlimited access to every one of the S4's 340 horses. The S4 rockets forward at the merest whim, and continues to do so until, moments later, you find yourself driving a Hell of a lot faster than anyone else on the road.

The UK press has continually slated the latest generation Audi S4 for not being a "driver's car". True. The S4 has none of the aural drama, steering feedback or chassis adjustability of a Porsche 911 or BMW M3. But it's much faster. By that, I mean an S4 is stupidly easy to drive stupidly quick. Remember: Mr. Hyde is a total lunatic. He's oblivious to the finer points of road craft. All he wants is a big engine (check), massive brakes (you got that right) and the ability to maintain his speed anywhere and everywhere (Quattro uber alles).

More refined drivers will also bemoan the S4's variable power assist rack and pinion steering. It's lithium light at low speeds, and pretty much DOA at the straight ahead. But Mr. Hyde couldn't care less. The helm weights up just fine when driving Ingolstadt's pocket rocket at speeds that defy the laws of physics and local law enforcement. Besides, what else can you buy for 40k that makes you a slave to your original evil?

I know what enthusiasts are thinking: I'll buy the S4, reign myself in, and indulge both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. No, you can't. The S4 is itself a transformative potion. One taste and you're hooked. The only way to escape the S4's power is to get out of the car and walk away. Better yet, don't sit in it in the first place. After all, there's a bit of Mr. Hyde in all of us. You have been warned.

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