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Having had the pleasure of access to an Audi 80 2.6 Quattro for 4 years i've had plenty of time to get aquainted with the style and quality that oozes from these 4 ring-badged beauties. The 80 is long gone and now i'm even more priveleged to be able to drive an A4 S4 Avant with a 2.7 Bi-turbo V6 engine. And it's a beast of a motor. 0-60 in just over 5 seconds although I find this irrelevant as the overtaking speed is of far more importance. With a six speed box this car has no trouble in performing safe manoeuvres. Hitting the throttle in top gear produces a response keen enough to whizz you past slower vehicles with the utmost of ease. The biggest problem is the speed you come up behind other vehicles. No problem - the massive brakes keep you in check if you need to be stopped in a hurry. Quattro transmission ensures grip is tighter than Scrooge in a Christmas card shop and it would be hard to get this car out of control provided it's being driven sensibly. Of course, sendibly for this car means making the most of the available performance. The two turbo units ensure there is no turbo lag and the capacity of a six cylinder ensures that power is delivered smoothly and with silk precision. It really is a pleasure to accelerate in this car and such is its response that i've never had to exert full throttle at any time. There is a slight but hardly noticeable whistle from the turbos but sound deadening is so efficient that you're hardly troubled by this or any road noise. Perhaps the most intrusive noise comes from the big fat low profile tyres but it's reassuring to know you've got this substantial contact with the tarmac. In terms of quality, the Germans have it cracked and no other nation builds cars like this. Interior fixtures are rock solid and rattles are a thought that need never enter your mind. Handling is not as sharp as in the old 80 and has been a criticism of the S4. Wit
h the 80 Quattro you could just position it almost down to the last millimetre. Not so in the S4 and this is where it gets marked down. Still, it depends just how keenly you want to drive it and on our over-clogged highways you get be too keen. It's not an issue that I worry too much about. The equipment levels for a £37K could be a little better and i'd have at least expected a CD player to be standard and not a £400 option. Leather is also not standard but the jaquard sports seats do just fine. Climate control is of course standard and very easy to use and efficient. And that's about all you need. Even fuel consumption is respectable and if driven carefully can be in the 30s. Don't look upon this car as an estate. That does it an injustice. The S4 is the top of the range (until the RS4 arrives later this year and I can't wait to be driving around in that!) but all Avants ooze the same kind of quality from their respective (and very fine) range of engines. I just hope that when Audi replaces the Avant that they don't lose it's character. They got it right with the 80 Avant and the A4 Avant. I believe they'll crack it the third time as well.