Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cadillac CTS Coupe First Drive 2011

Our equation for calculating the desirability of a two-door coupe based on a sedan platform is pretty simple: Does the two-door version offer enough additional visual appeal to offset the loss in practicality that is the inevitable result of the loss of two doors, rear-seat space and trunk capacity? This is the basic question we sought to answer in our first opportunity to drive the 2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe.

But first, let us give you a couple examples of how this math works, one on each end of the practicality-versus-beauty scale.

Despite using many of the same building blocks, there's a world of difference between the desirability of an Audi A4 sedan and an Audi A5 coupe. Safe to say that in the minds and eyes of those around our office, the A5's beauty more than offsets its loss of capacity.

Once upon a time, when two-door versions of sedans were more commonplace, there were both four-door and two-door versions of the Dodge Aries K-car. Now, the decision between those two might be just as easy as between the Audis, but the result would be different.

You Look...Fabulous!
Unless you happen to be viewing the coupe from the front, there's no mistaking it for the sedan with which it shares almost all of its mechanical systems. Sure, it shares a certain Cadillac-style angularity, but the coupe is a shocking thing to behold on the road. In the grand scheme of things, the greater the differentiation between the sedan and the coupe, the better. And to the eyes of most on our staff, the coupe is unusually handsome.

It does not follow the basic silhouette of the classic coupe — that smooth-and-sexy style executed so nicely on the A5 and the BMW 3 Series coupes. It looks, well, it must be said, like a hatchback of sorts. The angle of the backlight and trunk lid is so similar that from several paces away, it's not obvious that the CTS Coupe even has a trunk in the conventional sense.

The arrangement means that the rear flanks of the coupe cover an unusual amount of square footage. Some love it; some dislike it intensely, but everyone can agree that it's going to look its best when wearing very, very large wheels. Our pre-production test car wore the optional 19-inch wheels that come with the Summer Tire package. We wouldn't go any smaller. The base-level car wears 18s.

And for a brand that's still climbing out of the doldrums of its recent history, polarizing, unconventional styling isn't a bad thing. Then again, unconventional styling can be much less, um, attractive. We're looking directly at you, BMW 6 Series coupe.

We're buying wholeheartedly the shapes of the CTS Coupe's rear, yes, even the showy, chrome-rimmed exhaust outlets in the rear bumper cover. And we flat love the vertical taillights with their sharp peaks and the thorny-looking center brake light/spoiler. To offset all these vertical emphasis, Cadillac gave the coupe a wider rear track than the sedan (by about an inch).

Another uncommonly attractive detail is the inset touchpads that replace the sedan's conventional door handles. They allow for an uninterrupted flow along the car's flank, and their angular shape nicely suits this origami car.

For us, then, the CTS Coupe scores high on the design side of the coupe-vs.-sedan equation. And because it's American (built in Lansing, Michigan, it is), you can refer to it as a "coop," and not the pretentious European "coo-pay."

Audi R8 V10 Spyder Priced for UK

Audi UK has announced prices for the R8 V10 Spyder. The topless German model with a fully automatic lightweight fabric roof is to retail for £111,955 OTR for the manual and £117,155 OTR for the robotic R tronic. Power still comes from the 5.2-litre naturally aspirated V10 engine putting out a solid 525PS. It is good for a sprint time of 4.1 seconds from 0 - 62mph and tops off at 197mph.

At the same time the company said that a British LM-spec R8 will compete in the FIA GT3 European Championship. The R8 LMS is based on the road-going coupe version, and two examples have been sold to the new racing outfit United Autosports. This is the first British team to run an Audi R8 LMS car.

It features a lightweight carbon fibre body and a race-spec gearbox. The interior has been completely stripped of its luxury trim. Having debuted in 2009 and going on to win 23 races, the R8 is now considered a bargain buy that has justified its £267,000 ‘list price'.

Friday, January 22, 2010


2010 HUMMER H3 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 5cyl 5M)
National Base Price
MSRP $33,390 Invoice $31,053

What's New for 2010
For 2010, the Hummer H3 sees only minimal changes the lower portion of the front bumper is now dark gray instead of silver, the 5.3-liter V8 adopts flexible-fuel capability and the H3X package is renamed the Appearance package.

2010 HUMMER H3 Vehicle Overview

Powertrains and Performance
All 2010 Hummer H3 models are equipped with full-time four-wheel drive and a two-speed transfer case. The standard engine is a 3.7-liter inline five-cylinder that generates 239 horsepower and 241 pound-feet of torque, backed by a standard five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. Acceleration is lackluster thanks to the H3's nearly 5,000-pound weight, and the maximum towing capacity is rated at a modest 4,500 pounds. EPA estimated fuel economy checks in at 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined with either transmission.

The Alpha model picks up the pace with a 5.3-liter V8 cranking out 300 horses and, more importantly, 320 lb-ft of mass-moving torque mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Overall performance is noticeably improved, with 0-60 sprints in the 8-second range, and maximum towing capacity shoots up to 6,000 pounds. As expected, estimated fuel mileage suffers further, rating 13 mpg city/16 mpg highway and 14 mpg combined.

Interior Design and Special Features
The H3's cabin is handsome in a utilitarian kind of way, but a bit plain when compared to the Hummer H3's bold exterior design. The available leather seating livens things up a bit with a two-tone color scheme and contrasting piping. Build quality is acceptable, though most rivals offer finer appointments. Also, stereo and climate interfaces aren't as user-friendly as those found in other GM vehicles.

The seats are comfortable, though outward visibility is compromised for shorter drivers and passengers due to the H3's high beltline and low-profile window design. Rear-seat occupants have plenty of room to stretch out once inside, but ingress and egress through the smallish door openings can be a challenge, and taller individuals may find headroom somewhat tight. Cargo capacity lags behind some rivals, at just 63 cubic feet with the seats folded. The cargo-floor liftover is also quite high, but easily accessed though the side-hinged rear door.

Driving Impressions
The standard inline-5 generally manages to keep up with traffic when tooling around town, but the 2010 Hummer H3's near-5,000-pound mass causes it to strain when faced with steeper inclines and high-speed passing situations. The Alpha's burly V8 solves this problem, of course, and is accompanied by a muscular exhaust note and improved throttle response at all speeds.

Off the road, the junior Hummer comes into its element and can overcome just about any terrain you encounter, owing to 9 inches of ground clearance, ample wheel travel, standard skid plates and impressive approach and departure angles. Given this off-road capability, the H3 performs admirably on pavement, with decent stability at speed. The ride is surprisingly smooth and belies the H3's tough-truck nature.

GMC Yukon Hybrid Review 2010

MSRP: From $ 51,185

Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid is available with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. Both models utilize a 6.0-liter V8 engine coupled to a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors located inside what GM calls an electrically variable transmission. Together, they produce 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. The system can accelerate the Yukon up to speeds of approximately 25 mph using electricity only, while the V8's cylinder-deactivation system helps reduce fuel consumption at higher speeds. Regenerative braking replenishes the batteries by capturing energy normally lost when you come to a stop.

Fuel economy ratings stand at 21 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for rear-wheel-drive Yukon Hybrids, with 4WD versions earning identical numbers except combined, which is just 1 mpg less. Maximum towing capacity for a properly equipped 4WD model is 6,000 pounds.

Driving Impressions
It's not a stretch to say that driving the 2010 GMC Yukon Hybrid feels like being behind the wheel of a 5,600-pound Prius. There's the same eerie quiet when accelerating and braking, as the gas engine shuts off to let the electric motors do their thing. Although it's a tad strange, the result is a quiet cabin, while transitions between gas and electric modes, and eight- and four-cylinder mode, are either undetectable or easy to ignore.

Although the Hybrid is the most powerful Yukon available, it's also the heaviest, so don't expect particularly brisk acceleration. Also, the transmission isn't what we'd call responsive; there can be a notable delay when you ask for full power. Handling is about what you'd expect -- safe but ponderous. Most crossovers are notably more carlike from behind the wheel. The Yukon's cabin remains fairly quiet at speed, though, and the ride is relatively smooth for a truck-based SUV.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mercedes-Benz CL-Class 2010

Still, for sheer road-going perfection, few cars are better than the 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class.

Effortless acceleration, sumptuous luxury, high-tech safety features, imposing presence.


Polarizing styling, steep price.

What's New for 2010

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class now comes standard with a variable-ratio steering system in non-AMG trims and some additional driver safety aids. A rear-seat entertainment system is newly optional, some switchgear has been upgraded and multicolor ambient lighting has been added. The CL600 receives new standard 18-inch wheels, and both the CL550 4Matic and CL600 get optional 20-inch wheels. Finally, a limited "100th Anniversary of Mercedes-Benz Edition" CL550 4Matic makes its debut.

2010 Mercedes-Benz CL-Class Coupe

  • CL550 4MATIC Drivetrain AWD 5.5L V8 Auto 17 mpg MSRP $110,400
  • CL63 AMG Drivetrain RWD 6.2L V8 Auto 14 mpg MSRP $145,200
  • CL600 Drivetrain RWD 5.5L V12 T Auto 14 mpg MSRP $154,400
  • CL65 AMG Drivetrain RWD 6.0L V12 T Auto 13 mpg MSRP $207,170

Honda Freed Styling Study 2010

Honda Access will display highly customized Honda Freed Styling Study in its exhibition at the Tokyo Auto Salon 2010 with NAPAC, to be held from Friday, January 15, to Sunday, January 17, 2010, at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan.

The Honda Freed Styling Study is a metallic purple MPV with glittery girlish details stuck all over. It features engraved metal touches, purple-tinged wheels, and well-incorporated fog lights. Inside the four-door drivers and passengers will sit comfortably in the white leather interior.

Toyota Highlander SUV 2010

Toyota Highlander SUV 2010
  • Base Drivetrain FWD 2.7L I4 Auto 22 mpg MSRP $25,855
  • Base Drivetrain FWD 3.5L V6 Auto 20 mpg MSRP $27,750
  • Base Drivetrain AWD 3.5L V6 Auto 19 mpg MSRP $29,200
  • Sport Drivetrain FWD 3.5L V6 Auto 20 mpg MSRP $30,200
  • Sport Drivetrain AWD 3.5L V6 Auto 19 mpg MSRP $31,650
  • SE Drivetrain FWD 3.5L V6 Auto 20 mpg MSRP $32,480
  • Limited Drivetrain FWD 3.5L V6 Auto 20 mpg MSRP $33,220
  • SE Drivetrain AWD 3.5L V6 Auto 19 mpg MSRP $33,930
  • Limited Drivetrain AWD 3.5L V6 Auto 19 mpg MSRP $34,670

Monday, January 11, 2010

BMW ActiveHybrid X6 2010

Speed Read

Vehicle Tested:
BMW ActiveHybrid X6 2010

Base Price:

twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 + two electric motors

7-speed automatic

400 hp @ 5,500 rpm (engine alone); 480 hp (total system power)

EPA Rating:
17 mpg city/19 mpg hwy.

On Sale:
December 2009

First Impression:
Possibly the smartest dumb vehicle we've ever driven.

Specs & Performance

Make BMW
Model ActiveHybrid X6
Model year 2010
Style 4dr Crossover
Base MSRP $89,775
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission type 7-speed automatic
Engine type Twin-turbo direct-injection V8, 10:1 compression ratio
Displacement (cc/cu-in) 4.4
Horsepower (hp @ rpm) 400 @ 5,500 (engine alone); 480 hp (total system)
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 450 @ 1,800 (engine alone); 575 (total system)
Brakes, front Electrohydraulic, four-wheel ventilated discs
Steering type Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension, front Double wishbone
Suspension, rear Multilink
Tire size, front 255/50VR-19
Tire size, rear 255/50VR-19
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.) 5,688 (mfr claim)
Fuel type Premium unleaded (required)
Fuel tank capacity (gal) 22.5
EPA fuel economy (mpg) 17 City/19 Highway

Length (in.) 192
Width (in.) 78.1
Height (in.) 66.5
Wheelbase (in.) 115.5
Seating capacity 4
Cargo volume (cu-ft) 25.6
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft) 59.7

BMW ActiveHybrid X6 First Drive 2010

The BMW X6 coupe-ute is already a plenty weird thing. The X6 M is weirder still, adding incomprehensible performance capability to this plenty weird thing (to say nothing of pissing off so-called M purists).

But the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 is nothing short of utterly fantastic. And we mean "fantastic" in all of its shades of meaning offered by the Encarta dictionary in the right column of our screen as we write this.

Let's see: The X6 ActiveHybrid is "extraordinarily good," at least compared to other hybrid SUV/coupe things. It is "apparently impossible but real," because, honestly who could have thought of such an impossibly complex thing? It exists "only in the imagination," or it will for the vast majority of humans, as the $89,775 base price will keep it off virtually all streets. That it's "extremely strange in appearance" needs no further clarification, although we note the additional bulge in hood of the X6 hybrid isn't helping make the vehicle look less strange.

And finally, the X6 hybrid is "unusual and unlikely to be successful."

Stop Making Sense
Because there is no conventional frame of reference in the automotive realm that will make the 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 make sense, we will from this point forward, avoid trying to make some sense of this vehicle.

After all, what are we to make of a $90K sport-ute with little utility, almost as much sport as the standard and much cheaper X6, but without the big fuel-economy gains that you'd hope would come with 420 pounds of increased complexity?

The ActiveHybrid X6 (which we will refer to from this moment forward as simply the X6 hybrid) is the result of BMW's participation in a consortium of automakers including General Motors and (then) DaimlerChrysler that's since been disbanded. The consortium has to show for its work and money several technically impressive but practically vexing trucks such as the unpopular Chevy Tahoe hybrid and GMC Yukon hybrid, the Silverado and Sierra pickup truck versions, the guilt-assuaging Cadillac Escalade hybrid and, soon, a Dodge Ram hybrid, the BMW X6 hybrid and the Mercedes-Benz ML450 hybrid.

BMW is understandably not eager to talk about the consortium's other offspring, preferring instead to play up the fact that it has built the BMW of full hybrids. In other words, the 2010 BMW X6 Hybrid is meant to maintain as its guiding principle the traditional BMW ideal of performance driving.

The Ultimate Driving Hybrid?
So all right, we'll take that bait. BMW claims that the X6 hybrid does zero to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds. That is indeed high-performance. And that it's done by a vehicle weighing in at a flab-tastic 5,688 pounds is really very, very impressive. Such performance is but a tenth of a second slower than the standard V8-powered X6 and about a second quicker than the six-cylinder X6. And in what surely must be a first, BMW says the X6 hybrid's hypercomplex electronics incorporate a launch control function (although we were unable to make it work on our test car despite repeated tries and guidance from the X6 hybrid's head powertrain engineer).

The 2010 BMW X6 Hybrid uses the same twin-turbo, direct-injection 4.4-liter V8 engine as the conventional X6 V8. For accelerative force the hybrid also brings two electric motors incorporated into the transmission to overcome the hybrid's additional 420 pounds of heft (thanks, NiMH batteries and magic transmission!). Possibly, as children the BMW engineers liked to try to run up the down escalators, just like us.

How It All Works
Look, there's no disputing that the X6 hybrid is a quick thing. BMW says that the powertrain system can make a maximum 480 horsepower. That is enough to move just about anything, but if you floor the throttle from a standstill or from a steady cruise, be prepared to wait awhile for the silicon brains to grab a cup of coffee and figure out what the hell to do about this recent request. We trust that, like many of the aspects of the X6 hybrid (and, for that matter, the related two-mode hybrids), this is possibly the state of the science — that such complex matters might not be able to be sussed out any more quickly. But the end result in the real world of non-engineers is that the X6 hybrid is slow to react to its throttle.

Of course, the presence of four fixed mechanical gears; two electric motors trading duties as power delivery devices or generators for the batteries depending on speed and load; three "virtual" gears that act something like electric continuously variable transmissions but using fixed ratios (for gears 2, 4 and 6); and a handful of magic beans, means that it might take us several lifetimes to figure things out, only to have load, speed or throttle position change when we'd just begun our calculations. Except that it wouldn't, because we'd sooner push the nearly 3-ton X6 hybrid to our destination than to try. Oh, and that's just the transmission.

A more impressive aspect of powertrain performance (though decidedly less typically BMW) is its ability to run on electric power alone up to 37 mph. This is faster than the related GM two-mode utes are capable of doing. And it's a claim with some merit. Furthermore, the gasoline engine fires up and shuts down in a most agreeably smooth fashion. Like the GM offerings, the 2010 BMW X6 Hybrid is all-electric in reverse so we think maybe BMW should just mount the seats the other way around and just forget about the gas engine.

Does Not Compute
So what about those characteristic BMW brakes and steering — two elements arguably more responsible for BMW's ultimate driving machine that powertrain performance?

Well, you won't be surprised to learn that the braking system for the hybrid is complicated by electronics. BMW calls this Sensotronic Brake Actuation, which de-couples the brake pedal from the rest of the mechanical/hydraulic braking system. This is because light braking is accomplished by the regenerative braking system, wherein the electric motors act as generators to recharge the batteries. Beyond a 0.3g threshold of braking force, the conventional hydraulic/mechanical system takes hold. Because there is no mechanical connection between the system and the pedal, BMW is forced to fake it, using an "integrated pedal force simulator." This doesn't so much simulate actual braking feedback as it does simulate stepping on a rubber playground ball. There's an initial light resistance followed immediately by an apparent collapse of all structure, followed by high pressure and unexpectedly high braking force. It's not like a BMW in any conventional way that we know about.

Electrons are responsible for the steering assist in the 2010 BMW X6 Hybrid as well, and, like many such systems, the steering feel is a little light for the old touch receptors. We'd be able to tell better if we didn't drive the X6 hybrid on the highway and surface streets in and around Miami Beach, where there is no geographical feature that a straight road or bridge can't be built directly through.

Just Like Crockett and Tubbs
Miami Beach also proves to be perhaps not the finest place to test handling prowess, unless you're into 90-degree corners and using tourists as apex markers.

The X6 hybrid's reason for being is its purported status as the most dynamic and characteristically BMW of hybrids. Unfortunately BMW's marketing position does not entirely jibe with the fact that the excellent torque-vectoring system from the standard X6 could not be fitted to the X6 hybrid because the battery pack took up the space under the cargo floor. An extra quarter-ton of heft doesn't help, either.

But we'll have to reserve judgment on the hybrid's handling until we get it on roads that curve or undulate or, well, do anything. It gets new, stiffer springs and dampers along with stiffer antiroll bars to cope with the added weight and replicate the tuning of the conventional X6. Also, the hybrid gets its own sassy 19-inch wheels that can only be described as "swoopy."

Those wheels, a few discreet badges and a big old lump in the hood (to accommodate electronics that sit atop the engine) are the only real identifiers of this X6's alternative powertrain.

Also, if you stalk the owner of an X6 hybrid, you'll notice he'll make slightly fewer trips to the gas station than a standard X6 (either V8 or six-cylinder). The hybrid is rated by the EPA at 17 mpg city and 19 highway. Compared to the atrocious mileage of the standard V8 model (13 mpg city/18 mpg highway) and the pretty-darn-bad mileage of the six-cylinder (15 mpg city/21 mpg highway), the X6 hybrid represents a big gain. Still, a rating of 18 mpg combined means this hybrid achieves a combined fuel economy roughly equal to a Chevy Avalanche and an annual gas cost of about $2,300.

The 2010 BMW ActiveHybrid X6 represents more work for less meaningful results than most first marriages.

Alpina Will Enter Modified BMW 6 Series in FIA GT3 Racing

BUCHLOE, Germany — Alpina, a specialist in tuner BMWs, is making a return to racing after a 20-year absence with a car based on the BMW 6 Series. The public will be able to see that car, the B6 GT3, at the Geneva Auto Show next month.

The Alpina factory team will enter the FIA GT3 racing series with its B6 GT3, derived from the BMW 6 Series. The B6 GT3 is also inspired by Alpina's B6 S road car that makes 523 horsepower and 535 pound-feet of torque from a supercharged 4.4-liter V8. That B6 S is capable of accelerating to 60 mph in less than 3.9 seconds and can hit a top speed of 177 mph.

In addition to putting up a factory team, Alpina will sell B6 GT3s to individuals and teams looking to compete in the series.

Inside Line says: Alpina's expertise in tuning BMWs with the quality and polish of major manufacturers should help the company when it comes to racing. — Eric Tingwall, Correspondent.

Audi S4 2010

Featured Specs

Vehicle Tested:
2010 Audi S4

Base Price (MSRP including destination charge):

Price as Tested (MSRP including destination charge):

3.0-liter supercharged V6

Six-speed manual

333 hp @ 5,500 rpm

0-60 mph:
4.9 seconds

Fuel Mileage:
15.9 combined

What Works
Responsive and powerful engine; all-wheel-drive confidence; roomy backseat.

What Needs Work
Lacks the feedback of its competition, but does it matter?

Specs & Performance

Make 2010
Model Audi
Model year S4
Style Premium Plus Quattro 4dr Sedan AWD (3.0L 6cyl S/C 6M)
Base MSRP $46,725
As-tested MSRP $59,150
Options on test vehicle Prestige, Driver Assist Package, Audi Drive Select Package, Silk Napa Leather Seats, Metallic/Pearl Effect Paint.
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission type Six-speed manual
Transmission and axle ratios (x:1) I=3.667:1, II=2.158:1, III=1.520:1, IV=0.133:1, V=0.919:1, VI=0.778:1
Engine type V6
Displacement (cc/cu-in) 2,995cc (183 cu-in)
Block/head material Aluminum/aluminum
Valvetrain Double overhead camshaft
Compression ratio (x:1) 10.3
Redline (rpm) 7,000 rpm
Horsepower (hp @ rpm) 333 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm) 325 @ 2,900
Brakes, front Ventilated disc
Brakes, rear Disc
Steering type Electric speed-proportional power steering
Steering ratio (x:1) 16.5:1
Suspension, front Multilink
Suspension, rear Multilink
Tire size, front 255/35R19
Tire size, rear 255/35R19
Tire brand Dunlop
Tire model SP Sport Maxx GT
Tire type Performance
Wheel size 19-by-8.5 inches
Wheel material Alloy
Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.) 3,847
Curb weight, as-tested (lbs.) 3,984
Weight distribution, F/R (%) 56/44
Fuel type Premium unleaded (recommended)
Fuel tank capacity (gal) 16.9
EPA fuel economy (mpg) 18 city/27 highway
Edmunds observed (mpg) 15.9

Conditions for Testing
Temperature (°F) 70.56
Humidity 67%
Elevation (ft.) 1,121
Wind (mph, direction) 1.62 mph headwind

0 - 30 (sec.) 1.9 (2.2 with stability control on)
0 - 45 (sec.) 3.3 (3.6 with stability control on)
0 - 60 (sec.) 4.9 (5.2 with stability control on)
0 - 75 (sec.) 7.2 (7.5 with stability control on)
1/4 mile (sec. @ mph) 13.2 @ 106.1 (13.4 @ 106.0 with stability control on)
0-60 with 1-ft rollout (sec.) 4.6 (4.8 with stability control on)
30 - 0 (ft.) 27
60 - 0 (ft.) 109
Braking rating Excellent
Slalom, 6 x 100 ft (mph) 68.8 (67.2 with stability control on)
Skid pad, 200 ft diameter (lateral g) 0.90 (0.92 with stability control on)
Handling rating Excellent
Sound level @ idle (db) 36.3
Sound level @ full throttle (db) 76.4
Sound level @ 70 mph cruise (db) 63.0
Acceleration comments Turning off stability/traction control also removes launch rev limiter. However, electronics still protect drivetrain once the clutch comes out through throttle manipulation and clutch damping. Very respectable numbers with stability control on or off. Incredibly responsive engine. Good shifter.
Braking comments Solid pedal has more mechanical feel than some competitors. Loud ABS. Consistent, fade-free stops.
Handling comments All handling tests with Drive Select in Dynamic mode. Somewhat erratic front grip (perhaps due to varying torque split?) makes driving around the skid pad more difficult and less predictable than some RWD competitors. With stability control on , however, it works awesomely on skid pad. Requires neutral throttle or acceleration with stability control off through slalom. Otherwise, it will go backward -- probably a useful trick on the track or back roads.

Length (in.) 185.2
Width (in.) 71.9
Height (in.) 56.2
Wheelbase (in.) 110.6
Front Track (in.) 61.6
Rear Track (in.) 61.1
Turning circle (ft) 37.4
Headroom, front (in.) 40.0
Headroom, rear (in.) 37.5
Shoulder room, front (in.) 55.5
Shoulder room, rear (in.) 54.3
Seating capacity 5
Cargo volume (cu-ft) 12.0
Max. cargo volume, seats folded (cu-ft) 34.0

Warranty Information
Bumper-to-bumper 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain 4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion 12 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance 4 years/Unlimited miles
Scheduled maintenance 1 year/5,000 miles

Safety Information
Front airbags Standard
Side airbags Standard dual front
Head airbags Standard front and rear
Knee airbags Not available
Antilock brakes 4-wheel ABS
Electronic brake enhancements Braking assist, electronic brakeforce distribution
Traction control Standard
Stability control Standard
Rollover protection Standard
Tire-pressure monitoring system Tire-pressure monitoring
Emergency assistance system Not available
NHTSA crash test, driver 5 stars
NHTSA crash test, passenger 5 stars
NHTSA crash test, side front 5 stars
NHTSA crash test, side rear 5 stars
NHTSA rollover resistance 5 stars
IIHS Offset Good

Audi S4 Full Test 2010

Don't let the fact that the 2010 Audi S4 says "V6T" on its quarter panels confuse you. This alphanumeric soup has more to do with Audi's marketing department than it does with anything going on under the hood of the new S4.

Rest assured, the 3.0-liter V6 in the 2010 Audi S4 cranks out 333 supercharged horsepower and 325 supercharged pound-feet of torque, which hit the ground via a six-speed manual transmission and standard all-wheel drive. Audi's seven-speed, dual-clutch automated manual S tronic transmission is optional.

You see, the sassy Germans running Audi's marketing department decided that "T" should be the moniker used to indicate both turbo- and supercharged engines on the fenders of all S models using forced induction. For this, Audi lacks a good explanation — offering only that the "T" is, in fact, misleading.

We agree.

Accordingly, we've come up with an equally sensible name for the new sedan. For the remainder of this review, this Imola Yellow S4 will be known as the Red Baron.

From Eight to Six
Indeed, this 2010 Audi S4 is a giant leap for Audi, if not in the expected direction. After all, its last S4, which disappeared in 2008, had under its hood the genuine article as far as Americans are concerned — a V8 power plant. That all-aluminum mill revved to a righteous 7,000 rpm, cranked out 340 hp at full tilt and made all the right sounds. It was also strapped to a car which (according to our measurements) was lighter than this new-generation S4 that replaces it.

To these facts the Red Baron flips a big, supercharged middle finger and disappears into the distance. This is because in addition to being bigger (a good thing for rear-seat passengers) and heavier (a bad thing for everyone), it manages to punch through the 60-mph barrier in only 4.9 seconds (4.6 seconds with 1 foot of rollout like on a drag strip). It goes on to complete the quarter-mile in 13.2 seconds at 106.1 mph.

Both of these numbers are considerably more impressive than those of the previous S4, which might have sounded good, but simply wasn't as quick. At least part of the gap can be explained by the fact that the blown V6 makes more torque than the old V8. Its 325 lb-ft of torque is delivered as low as 2,900 rpm, while the V8's torque peak of 302 lb-ft didn't arrive until 3,500 rpm.

Lightness and Its Measurement
Run these figures past anyone at Audi and they're quick to point out that the new 2010 S4's chassis is actually 10 percent lighter than the outgoing S4. Our scales show that this does not translate into a lighter car, but when you consider the fact that the new car's wheelbase and overall length is more than 6 inches longer than the previous generation, it's quite a feat to have kept this package as light as it is.

There's also the matter of weight distribution. Hanging eight cylinders forward of the front axle gave the old S4 an unavoidable 62 percent front/38 percent rear weight distribution. The Red Baron hit our scales at 3,984 pounds. The front axle, however, bears only 55 percent of that weight thanks to the new car's revised engine placement and its lighter engine. Meanwhile the 2008 S4's claimed curb weight was 3,864 pounds.

Better weight distribution almost always means better manners, and we were impressed with the 2010 Audi S4's handling. At 68.8 mph it charged through the slalom at a rate approaching the last BMW 335i sedan we tested, which managed the feat at 69.9 mph.

Lateral acceleration around the skid pad was also striking. A two-way average of 0.90g with the stability control off is good, but the 0.92g average with the system turned on speaks volumes for Audi's attention to the calibration details.

The S4's 109-foot stop from 60 mph is also better than most of its competition, as is its pedal feel.

Driving Reality
Following are the words you'll need to understand what's missing from the above acceleration numbers.

Topping BMW's twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter six in a contest of throttle response is a task we figured impossible. But tickle the Red Baron's go pedal and its V6's instant snap makes the Bimmer engine feel positively apathetic.

So rapid and immediate and crisp is the supercharged Audi engine's response that it made us forget all about the fact that turbos are, ultimately, more efficient than superchargers when it comes to adding power. Again, in response to this fact, the Red Baron simply snaps to attention and begins making real, usable power faster than you can say "turbo lag." Such is life with belt-driven boost.

To that snap this S4 adds Audi's Drive Select — a $3,950 option that includes adjustable suspension damping and steering assist as well as Audi's active rear differential, which can bias torque individually to each rear wheel. Of course, this is coupled with all-wheel drive, 60 percent of which the 2010 S4 now biases to the rear under normal conditions.

Maximum Attack
When you're driving hard, you'll likely not notice these bits of management, but you will get a sense that you're driving one of the most capable sport sedans available today. The S4's balance rivals its German competitors even if feedback — especially through the steering wheel — is less natural. Drive Select can add or remove steering assist, but the S4 lacks the high-resolution steering communication we'd like it to have.

Still, there's more control here than we expected, largely due to the adjustable suspension, which stiffens up the ride control to a level that permits maximum attack, a level of confidence that can only be had with all-wheel drive. Oh yes, and it's fast. Very, very fast.

We worked up to a quick rhythm in the 2010 Audi S4 until we channeled our inner Walter Rohrl and dared to touch the brake pedal with our left foot. That mistake shut down the fun faster than you can say "unintended acceleration," as the electronics cut back the throttle in response. Audi says the electronics' lack of tolerance for an overlap between throttle and brake action is a safety feature. We say it diminishes the S4's abilities when going flat out and takes away a useful driving tool for skilled drivers.

It's What's Inside That Counts
There is no shortage of S4-specific niceties on this car. Embossed into the silky napa-style leather upholstery of the optional seats is the S4 logo. The front brake calipers share this logo as do the rocker sills, steering wheel and grille.

The rest of the interior is typical Audi, with lavish materials solidly assembled in a sensible and appealing fashion. Everything the driver needs to touch feels solid, durable and responsive. Quirks include the iPod cable in the glovebox that needs to be about an inch longer, because it binds when the door is fully open. And there's the engine start/stop button, which seems to kill the engine only about half the time. (Certainly this is because of something we are doing or not doing, but, really, should this ever be a problem?)

Your rear-seat passengers will never notice this gaffe because they'll be too busy appreciating the abundance of legroom. No longer is the backseat in the 2010 Audi S4 a penalty box. In fact, it's so commodious that a 6-foot-1 passenger will fit comfortably behind a driver of the same size.

Then there's the $6,100 Prestige package, which adds 19-inch wheels, the ear-tingling Bang & Olufsen audio system, keyless start/stop, navigation, voice-activated controls, auto-dimming mirrors and seat memory. Really, that's a lot of goodness for $6 grand.

The Tally
All in — with its Prestige package, Drive Select, leather seats and Driver Assist package — the S4 you see here totals $59,150 including destination. That's no small investment for a car in this class, but the S4 is no small consideration, either.

The Drive Select adjustable suspension and steering alone set the Red Baron apart from most of its rivals, many of which are just as comfortable, but lack the ability of the 2010 Audi S4 to adapt to full-whack driving with the push of a button. Plus, the S4 is quicker. And in the sport sedan segment, quick counts for something.
The fact that the German marketers behind this car don't give a rip about the difference between a "T" and an "S" probably isn't going to keep anyone from enjoying this truly great car. Least of all us.

Diesel Audi TT Sips Fuel at 42 MPG

INGOLSTADT, Germany — After showing a diesel concept of its R8 supercar in Detroit, Audi is bringing diesel to the sports-car market with the TT 2.0 TDI. Audi claims to have the first diesel sports car with its unique package that combines the TT's iconic sloping roof line and respected handling with a fuel-sipping engine.

Making 170 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, the diesel TT isn't exactly a rocket. The coupe is capable of reaching 60 mph in less than 7.5 seconds and hitting a top speed of 140 mph, while the convertible is slightly slower. The diesel's standout stats don't come from performance, but efficiency. Both coupe and convertible average more than 42 mpg.

Due to the engine's torque output, all diesel TTs will come equipped with Audi's Quattro four-wheel-drive system. In normal operation, it sends 85 percent of the power to the front wheels, but is capable of diverting all power to either the front or the rear axle. Sales of the TT 2.0 TDI are currently only planned for Europe.

What this means to you: Audi creates a new niche with sports-car style and subcompact efficiency. — Eric Tingwall, Correspondent.
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