Welcome to our series of track reviews, conducted by our in-house racing driver, Chris Atkinson.
Our track reviews take place against the clock at Queensland Raceway Sprint Circuit. This week we handed Atko the keys to the Audi S4, a car that is not historically regarded as a track weapon of choice.
However, you may be surprised by the results.
Overall Track Performance
I was genuinely impressed with the 2020 Audi S4 on the track! For me with whatever you are racing or trying to drive fast you have to have a realistic expectation of what is achievable, and that goes all the way up to F1 racing.
That is no different here.
You have what is basically a luxury family wagon with a decent level of performance enhancement
that weighs 1750kg, that was fun and easy to drive and did a very respectable lap time.
Overall Road Performance
The Audi S4 wagon has always been a solid choice for those that need a practical car but don’t want to miss out on at least some fun.
It’s nowhere near as hardcore as the RS4 but it’s actually on the road where that difference becomes less significant.
The S4 is more than capable of putting a smile on your face on a twisty patch of road, and can be sedate and comfortable enough to be used as a daily. We found the ride supple, and ideal for road driving.
The 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine was strong and smooth with 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The 0-100km/h time was very impressive and consistent. With Alborz and I in the car, we consistently did 4.8-second runs – which is actually quicker than Audi’s claimed 4.9 for the Avant.
I would like the bottom end to be a bit more reactive, especially for corner exit. I also felt like there was a bit of lag, and I couldn’t really get the car to react and squat how I would like because of this.
The brakes are very solid and the car very stable – I was even braking a bit early on the first few laps which cost me a little lap time.
By the time I got used to it, the temperature had caused a little drop off in initial bite and I lost
a bit of performance. There was no interference from the ABS, which I always appreciate on the track.
The chassis is well sorted and you really don’t notice the size of the car in the corner.
It builds grip nicely in the middle of the corner and although there is a bit of understeer mid corner, if you’re patient the grip comes back to you and you can turn the car surprisingly well at both high and low speeds.
It is understandably lazy on the track but still changes direction well, and you are able to predict nicely where the car will settle. When you send the car fast into a high-speed corner, the rear is a little bit nervous, which is nice.
Normally you would expect a car like this to really understeer with that sort commitment, but the S4 actually allows you to slide a little on entry which helps for mid corner and exit.
Transmission and Differentials
I was happy with the gearbox, although it would have been nice to have a faster gear change.
It was also very safe on the down shift, which meant I was always have to check if I had actually shifted to the correct gear as I entered the corner.
For track work I would have liked something a bit more reactive and engaging.
The differentials where very good and I think they added to and complemented the chassis very nicely.
They are free enough to allow the car to turn well and be driven aggressively, but also offer enough slip control to keep the car in line and offer good traction.
This is almost what impressed me the most about the S4. Audi has obviously used its rally heritage to its advantage here – the only complaint is that I would have liked a little more rear drive on throttle which would have just helped from mid corner to exit.
The suspension is on the softer side for track use with more movement than you would like, especially on corner entry.
It does, however, settle nicely in the middle of the corner which allows you to gain back control and position the car exactly where you would want. Traction is excellent and no issue at all.
The steering is nicely weighted with good feedback. No problems here.
Wheels and Tyres
The Continental Sport Contact 6 rubber worked really well, and was very stable.
The tyres gave me good support and feedback, and I did my best lap on the third and final lap, which shows they’re really consistent. I didn’t feel any of the usual drop off you would expect from a road tyre.
The feedback was also very nice, and you could really tell when the tyre was at the limit and also keep it there. It was very progressive past the limit, so you had no big surprises.
Driver Aids (Electronics)
I did my best laps with everything switched off and really struggled to attack with the safety systems on. But this is a fast family sedan and I am sure the majority of you would like that safety blanket on if something went wrong.
Although the car is very comfortable and well thought out, I didn’t feel like I was completely in it! This is
something I find hard to pinpoint.
Certain cars you just feel a part of, others you feel like you are nearly sitting on top. The S4 just fell somewhere in the middle.
For me, the seats didn’t offer enough support for track use, but I am not sure how many people will really track this. The steering wheel is a good size and easy to position. The overall feel in the cockpit was very good but not exceptional.
The lap time of 60.9 sec was solid, and has set a benchmark for cars in the class. For something that is not touted as an outright performance car it has really done a good job. I can’t wait to see what can try and challenge the S4, and see how long it can hold its place there.
The fact that it did its best lap on the last of its three-lap run is also a feather in its cap.
All the other cars have achieved their best time on the first lap and dropped away from that, so it was nice to see that stability in performance.
- You can commit on entry without being afraid of bulk understeer
- Try and predict the exit with the throttle to be ahead of the car
- Let the car settle mid-corner before adding too much steering