£44,000 Price range
Despite the obvious sporting inclination of this model it’s the interior that will most likely sway you to buy it – fit, finish and material choice are exemplary and not even the classy Mercedes can match the Audi’s ‘hewn from granite’ feel.
Good news doesn’t end there – there’s decent space for passengers and the boot, though the same size as rivals, is more usable thanks to its square shape, helpful nets and tie-down hooks.
The brand-new 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 powering the S4 is another magnet for praise – moving the S4 around at an alarming pace, while also being capable of 39mpg average fuel economy.
The optional dynamic steering works great and the standard four-wheel drive system is rear-biased for a livelier handling, but a BMW 3 Series is still more fun to drive.
The S4 isn’t cheap, not that the standard equipment list reflects this. LED headlights, 18-inch S alloy wheels, front seats upholstered in leather and Alcantara suede and a flat-bottomed steering wheel are standard, but everything else – from the adaptive suspension to the infotainment system with internet access – is reserved for the options list.
The first thing you’ll notice is the sheer quality of the build, the expensive material choice and the surprising attention to detail that comes with any A4 – the S4 is set apart by some S badges, the flat-bottomed steering and carbon fibre or aluminium trim inserts.
The standard seven-inch display mounted on the top of the dash provides crisp graphics and is easy to operate on the move thanks to the rotary wheel mounted in the centre console. Upgrade to the more expensive infotainment system and you get not only a larger eight-inch screen and a touchpad so you can write out postcodes with your finger, but also Google Earth sat-nav maps.
Audi’s optional 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit replaces the dials behind the steering wheel and can display sat-nav maps in huge detail. The S4 gets an S-specific screen that is not too different to that in the R8 supercar.
Audi S4 passenger space
The S4’s standard seats are not too hard as to compromise comfort, but also have plenty of bolstering to hold you in place in fast corners. Optional sports seats come with a massage feature, but take up more interior space.
Not that passenger space is at a premium – two six-foot adults can sit in the rear with plenty of leg and headroom to spare. Things worsen if you go for the panoramic sunroof, which eats into headroom.
Audi S4 boot space
The A4’s 480-litre capacity is an exact match for the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class, but thanks to the square shape of the boot it’s more practical. The rear seats can be folded down easily by pulling a couple of levers in the boot, freeing 965 litres of space, while the middle can double as a ski hatch. If you need a bigger boot then there’s always the S4 Avant estate which can pack between 505 and 1,510 litres.
The S4 is equipped with Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system, which will prove its worth on Britain’s slippery roads. Rivals seem to be taking notes – the previously rear-driven Mercedes-AMG C43 is now four-wheel drive only and it is optional on the BMW 340i.
Audi’s Drive Select is standard on the S4 and allows for a decent range of adjustments for the steering, engine, gearbox, climate control and, if you go for the optional adaptive dampers, the suspension, too. Fit the latter and in Comfort mode, the S4 is no less comfortable than a regular A4 on big wheels, which when combined with the incredibly hushed cabin makes for hours of effortless motorway driving. Switch to Dynamic and the gearbox shifts get quicker, the exhaust sounds louder and you can feel the car’s suspension tense in anticipation of some fast corners.
The 3.0-litre V6 fitted to the S4 might have a familiar capacity and cylinder number to the previous S4, but that’s where the similarities end. It is an entirely new engine developed jointly by Audi and Porsche, and set to find itself fitted to a variety of models.
Turbocharged rather than supercharged (as in the old S4) it pumps out 349hp – up 21hp from the old model. Torque has grown 45lb ft and standing at a hefty 369lb ft and that figure is available at 1,370rpm – barely above idle. That translates to a 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds – one tenth slower than an entry-level Porsche 911.
With help from its slippery body the S4 can average fuel economy of 39mpg and emits 166g/km of CO2 emissions for £210 annual road tax.
The Audi S4 is exactly what an S model should be – quick, inconspicuous, spacious and practical, with an interior that’s well built and luxurious. Until the new RS4 comes, this is the most multi-talented Audi saloon you can buy, and is sure to boost Audi’s performance-model sales, which have steadily grown since the launch of the first S model (the S2 Coupe) in 1990.