A 3.0-liter V-6 is now underhood, pumped to 333 horsepower with a mini version of the Roots-type Eaton Twin Vortices supercharger that bulges a Corvette ZR1’s hood. From its 2008 base price, the S4 has dropped $4360, to $46,725, and Audi expects 50 percent of S4 sales to fall between the base price and $50,000, landing it right in the lion’s cage prowled by the fabulous BMW 335i, a mark upon a bench if ever there was one.
Audi is proud of its timely price cut, but the first few 2010 S4s in the U.S. were optioned to the bump stops. We took what we could get: a deli-mustard six-speed manual with the $6100 Prestige package, which includes a bang-up Bang & Olufsen stereo, keyless start, 19-inch wheels, and a few other convenience items.
It also had the $3950 Audi drive select, fitting electronically adjustable shocks and steering and a torque-vectoring rear differential with push-button settings (the diff is available by itself for $1100). We got all-leather seats ($1000; the base seat is a leather-Alcantra hybrid), blind-spot and backup help ($900), and some interior inlays ($750).
With the V-8–powered M3 starting at $56,975, the $41,125 BMW 335i with its 300-hp, twin-turbo inline-six is the S4’s new, lower-priced doppelgänger. But watch the little print. The BMW doesn’t match the S4’s standard equipment until you add the Premium pack ($2650), the Sport pack ($2150), the Cold Weather pack ($1150), and $995 in iPod interfaces and satellite radio. We also had parking sensors ($750) and keyless access ($500).
We’ll boil it down: Forget the Audi’s as-tested price of $59,425 and the BMW’s $49,320 tab. This story is about how a $50,675 Audi S4 (the base price plus the performance-vital Audi drive select but minus all the nonessential luxuries we’re assiduously ignoring because we’re trained professionals) meets a $48,470 BMW 335i (base price plus all the requisite options to match the S4’s standard equipment) on virtually equal treads. Before you howl about the Audi’s higher price, recall that it also has standard all-wheel drive. [See sidebar for why we didn’t compare it with an all-wheel-drive 335i xDrive.]
Consider: Both the S4 and the 335i are four-door sedans with 3.0-liter, force-fed six-cylinders and redlines starting at 7000 rpm, and both hail from autobahn-honeycombed Germany. It’s the perfect two-car duel—a concours a deux, says a man who wears Boss. Does Audi want this bad enough? Let’s gas ’em up and see.