When you shove the key into the Audi S4, crank the

supercharged 333-horsepower engine and mat the pedal, you should be prepared for a very serious response. Head, meet headrest. Without getting too technical, all we can say is…DANG!

The S4 is the performance version of Audi’s A4 sedan, and performance is exactly what the S4 delivers.

Powered by a sweet sounding 3.0-liter

supercharged V6 that kicks out 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft. of torque, our test S4 made easy work of

local streets with

exhilarating acceleration, excellent

handling and on-

center steering.

In the corners, our S4 stuck to the road like Flick’s tongue to the frozen flagpole in “A Christmas Story” after the triple-dog-dare from Ralphie’s friend Schwartz. As a young boy in the

movie, Ralphie wanted Santa to bring him a Red Ryder BB gun, the kind he’d need if bad guys started invading his back yard. But

today, as a grownup no longer needing to dispatch backyard marauders,

Ralphie should forget the Red Ryder and put the Audi S4 on his Christmas wish list.

As a performance car, the S4 comes standard with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive and a 6-speed manual transmission. With a 40/60 split of torque front to back, the AWD system creates a nicely balanced vehicle. The 6-speed manual makes the S4 fun as all get-out to drive.

Sophisticated time trails – me counting in my head while flooring the pedal – showed the S4 can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 4.9 seconds. Tests by Audi engineers confirmed my results.

Inside the cabin, the S4 has Audi style and craftsmanship – which is to say top notch. The S4 gets a new flat-bottom three-spoke steering wheel with redundant controls. Fit and finish is excellent, with soft materials in all the right places. Nappa leather is available, as are inlays of Beaufort Oak and steel mesh.

Interior space is at a premium in this 5-seat sport sedan, with 40 inches of headroom in front and 37.5 inches in back. Legroom is a decent 41.3 inches in front, but is 35.2 inches in back. Luggage capacity is 12.4 cubic feet.

The S4 has lots of buttons and switchgear, all acting in

concert with Audi’s not-so-intuitive MMI

system. The MMI controller is on the

center console, right behind the gear shifter. There are at least 11 buttons

surrounding the controller knob, with a separate knob for audio volume.

The navigation system, though, has a nice 7-inch diameter screen that

displays maps and vehicle functions with great clarity at the top of the dash . Sport pedals and red-on-black heated and bolstered sport seats completed our S4 interior package.

EPA mileage figures for the 2013 S4 are 17 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The 16.1-gallon fuel tank wants premium unleaded fuel, and it will deliver a highway range of a little more than 400 miles if you’re easy on the pedal.

Besides AWD, which we think is the best safety feature on the market, the S4 has a full complement of airbags

including side curtains, stability and traction control systems and excellent anti-lock brakes. In the government’s tougher safety tests for new models, the S4 earns an impressive five stars across the board in front and side crashes, as well as rollovers.

The 2013 3.0 S4 quattro with the 6-speed manual starts at $47,600. Our test car was outfitted with the $3,050 MMI Navigation Plus package and

other options, bringing the bottom line to more than $54-grand, including freight.

If you’re looking for a fun, fast, safe ride, the S4 is totally worth heading down to the Audi shop for a test drive. A word of caution though: If you test drive one, you’re going to have a hard time leaving it on the lot.

But go ahead and drive one anyway.

I triple-dog-dare you.

2013 Audi S4 quattro manual

  • Engine: 3.0-liter supercharged V6
  • Horsepower: 333
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual
  • Test model base price: $47,600 ($54,520 as tested)
  • EPA mileage rating: 17 mpg city / 26 mpg highway