The next-generation Audi S4
has significantly less horsepower (333) than the BMW M3
(414), the Lexus IS
F (416), the Mercedes-Benz
C63 AMG (451), and the Cadillac
CTS-V (556!). While the S4 has always been the finesse player of the group, the rest of the gang has grown so brutish that it hardly makes sense to include the Audi as a member. But more than ever, it's the S4's uniqueness that keeps it in the conversation. The new torque-vectoring quattro all-wheel drive system (in a nutshell, it directs more torque to the rear outside wheel to improve cornering) is a revelation, especially on the track. The new 3.0-liter supercharged V6 is so responsive, strong and beautifully voiced that it had us laughing with satisfaction. And even though it's the fastest, most fun S4 ever, the car's reputation as the gentleman's choice is intact. It's enhanced, in fact, by the Audi drive select system that gives the driver control of engine, transmission, steering, suspension and AWD programming to emphasize comfort or sport at the push of a button. The 2010 Audi S4
isn't the strongest car of its kind, but it may be the smartest.