2018 Audi A4 Driving Impressions

Even the base engine displays gratifying zeal, natural engine sounds while being smooth and well balanced. The paddle-shifting twin-clutch 7-speed transmission is evolved and not jerky like some of them.

The A4 doesn’t have the best handling among midsize sedans, as some of the competitors have the advantage of rear-wheel drive; but it’s better than most and its road manners are impressive. The chassis was stiffened with the recent redesign, while the weight was reduced, and it shows. The adaptive dampers are well worth their cost, as they soften the bumps while giving firmness to the control. A mode in the electric power steering increases the boost and broadens the steering angle at low speeds, easing urban maneuvering. Brake action is progressive, with excellent pedal feel.

Audi Drive Select includes four modes: Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual. The A4 feels most adept with the active dampers and the steering and transmission in dynamic mode. It responds promptly and takes corners predictably.

Still, handling isn’t quite as sharp and sporty in the front-wheel-drive based A4 as that of some of its rear-wheel-drive rivals. In inclement conditions, however, its legendary Quattro all-wheel drive should give the Audi an advantage.

As for the new S4, the turbocharger’s feeding one bank of three cylinders first, and then the other, works as designed to reduce turbo lag. The S4 never gets breathless, and comes on the power briskly and without drama. Almost all of the torque is available early, at a super low 1350 rpm.

The 8-speed automatic transmission rips off confident shifts with the steering-wheel paddles. But it isn’t quick, and, regardless of the drive mode the car is in, it’s eager to upshift to save fuel, unless you’re standing on the gas.

The S4 uses four-wheel independent suspension, with the five-link front setup revised for 2018 to be lighter. The new adaptive dampers lower the ride height by one inch, and even in Dynamic mode they’re not stiff. In fact, all of the modes feel on the side of comfort. The S4 seems meant to be an all-around car, rather than an aggressive sport sedan, despite its aggressive stance.

The available rear differential that moves the torque between the rear wheels in corners enables the S4 to perform well on the track, but the sport steering that comes with it is pretty aggressive. The variable ratio quickens with speed, but it’s unpredictable, not progressively linear, so the S4 can get darty when you don’t want it to be. You have to be careful and sensitive with the steering wheel when you’re pushing it.

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