Audi Q-cars have always been the masters of cloaking high performance in an unassuming exterior, and the current S4 is still a fine example of that tried and proven formula.
The S4 story goes back a long way. While I was very much aware of the now sought-after B5 edition (especially the S4 Avant) with its sophisticated 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 that pumped out as much as 195kW and 400Nm, my own seat time behind the wheel of an Audi S4 within the business kicked off with the fourth-generation B7, which packed a silky-smooth 4.2-litre, naturally aspirated V8 with 253kW and 410Nm.
This was a car I genuinely lusted over back in the day with extra press car bookings whenever I could get them.
The current-generation (B9) Audi S4 has already been around a few years, receiving a mild facelift towards the end of 2020 with some fresh panels and newer touchscreen screen technology inside to make it feel contemporary despite the latest Audi cabin design appearing in the just-launched RS3.
I got plenty of enthusiastic head swivels during my week testing the S4 Sedan, especially in its spectacular Navarra Blue Metallic paint and 19-inch alloy wheels. I’d still call it understated, but there are a few highlights apart from the quad exhaust tips and badging, like the pronounced spoiler and polished metal mirror caps. It looks the business without trying too hard.
Even though the sedan is the least expensive way to into S4 ownership, it still equates to a massive premium over the A4 Sedan 45 TFSI quattro S line – no less than $30,600, given it trades the widely-used 2.0-litre turbo-four for a twin-scroll turbo six, as well as a lot more kit.
How much does the Audi S4 Sedan cost?
Audi tends to bundle its S4 and S5 model ranges together, given all five variants use the same V6 turbo petrol drivetrain. The S4 Sedan is the entry point ($99,500 plus on-roads), and the only variant priced under six figures.
For those who want more versatility, the S4 Avant (Wagon) is $102,000, or the five-door S5 Sportback is $106,500. There’s also the S5 Coupe at the same price point. Sun lovers will likely choose the S5 Cabriolet that wears a $120,000 list price.
The Audi’s natural-born rivals include BMW’s all-wheel drive M340i xDrive ($111,900), and the Mercedes-AMG C43 ($113,700). The S4 is the value pick in the segment, even if it’s down on power by comparison.
If you like carbon-fibre throughout your S4, and knowing Audi does it better than most, there’s a Carbon and Black Package ($3770) available for the Sedan, which includes black exterior ornamentation in place of brushed alloy, inlays in carbon twill, carbon mirror caps, and a carbon spoiler.
Our tester was equipped with a quattro sport differential, 19-inch alloy wheels in 5-V-spoke wheels in contrasting grey and Metallic paint, the latter two being no-cost options.
What do you get?
The S4 gets plenty of standard kit, including:
- 19-inch alloy wheels in a choice of two styles
- Choice between 11 premium paints
- Audi Drive Select with five drive modes
- Red brake calipers with ‘S’ logo
- Adaptive suspension with Comfort and Sport settings
- Space-saver spare wheel
- 360-degree camera view
- Adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
- Auto lights and wipers
- Full LED headlights (high and low beam) and tail lights
- Front and rear dynamic indicator lights
- High gloss package with window surrounds in anodised aluminium
- Keyless entry and start
- Heated, power-folding power mirrors with auto dimming, kerbside dipping and memory
- Alloy-look exterior mirror caps
- Rear privacy glass
- Heated Sport front seats
- Electric front seat adjustment with drive memory
- Fine Nappa leather upholstery
- Brushed matte aluminium inlays
- Three-zone climate control
- Frameless auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Ambient lighting with 30 colours and three profiles
- Black headliner
- Flat-bottomed Sport leather steering wheel
- Stainless steel pedals and footrest
- Extended leather trim for dash and doors
- Storage package including boot nets and hooks
- 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit driver instrument display
- 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display
- Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (wired)
- Wireless phone charging
- 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, 755 watts
- DAB+ digital radio
- Head-up display showing speed, navigation and assistance info
Further options include Matrix LED headlights ($1365) and an electric tild/slide sunroof ($2500).
Is the Audi S4 safe?
The S4 has not been crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, though both vehicle safety bodies gave the A4 range a five-star rating when the model first went hit the market in 2019.
Note, the crash-test ratings were based on the four-cylinder versions of the A4 only, where the S4 is powered by a V6.
The A4 scored 89 per cent for adult occupant protection, 87 per cent for child occupant protection, a 75 per cent score for vulnerable road users, and 75 per cent for safety assist.
The S4 is also equipped with an extensive suite of safety systems, including:
- Eight airbags
- Active lane assist
- Autonomous emergency braking (all-speed)
- Adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist
- Forward-collision warning
- Blind-spot monitor
- Rear-cross traffic alert
- Lane-keep assist
- High-beam assist
- Turn assist
- Driver attention monitoring
- Tyre-pressure monitor
- Exit warning (cyclists and cars)
What is the Audi S4 Sedan like on the inside?
It’s a pity the Audi press department wasn’t a tad more adventurous when choosing interiors. Rather than ordering the more vibrant Magma Red upholstery, our S4 tester featured the demure Rotor Grey leather.
The front Sport seats are superb, both for their total-body comfort and quilted-style stitch pattern with striking matte brushed aluminium inlays on each side.
So too is the flat-bottomed Sport steering wheel with perforated grips that feels perfectly contoured to the touch. I’d much prefer the carbon twill inlays to more brushed aluminium, although the latter looks and feels like a perfect match for the S4’s status in the range.
Everything is neat, tidy, and intuitive in here. It’ll also be familiar to anyone who’s recently owned an Audi – testament to its DNA, I suppose.
There aren’t many dials and buttons (fewer with every iteration), but those remaining are knurled as only Audi and Bentley know how to do these days.
There’s a high-end look and feel about this cabin, particularly with the S4’s extended upholstery, which adds suede-like door inserts that sit flush with the metal accents for a thoroughly premium ambiance.
I lament the loss of Audi’s rotary controller and easy-to-access shortcut buttons for the various media functions for a largely more intuitive touchscreen (to have both makes even more sense).
It’s quick to respond to inputs, at least when using my go-to Apple CarPlay.
The 19-speaker B&O sound system is hands-down one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of listening to. It offers absolutely superb clarity and fullness of sound for the both the highs and low notes.
The S4 is more a four-seater than five, due to the large transmission hump in the second row that restricts foot room for anyone unlucky enough to be sitting there.
Moreover, there’s an elaborate centre armrest with handy storage compartment and a couple of tricky cupholders that tuck neatly away when not in use. In addition, there are large air-con vents and climate controls for rear passengers.
As far as boot space goes, the S4 Sedan has 420 litres back there. The standard A4 gets 460L of luggage space, meaning the difference is likely down to structural changes to the car’s suspension.
What’s under the bonnet?
At the heart of the Audi S4 is a 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine with a single twin-scroll turbo located inside the ‘vee’ which ensures less lag at lower revs. It punches out a solid 260kW of power from 5400rpm to 6400rpm and 500Nm of torque between 1350rpm and 4500rpm.
Power is sent to all four wheels thanks to its ’quattro’ all-wheel drive system. It’s hooked up to a traditional eight-speed automatic transmission, enabling the S4 to dash from standstill to 100km/h in a no-nonsense 4.7 seconds.
Top speed is 250km/h if you’re lucky enough to have a crack in Germany on the autobahns in the S4.
Our S4 tester was equipped with the optional quattro sport differential, which can not only direct up to 85 per cent of available torque to the rear axle, but to an individual wheel if grip is lost when pushing hard through the twisty bits.
Claimed combined fuel economy is 8.6 litres per 100km. We were worried we wouldn’t see close to that figure while driving in Dynamic mode for the better part of the test period.
Instead, we saw an average of reading of 9.4L/100km (though climbing as high as 14.7L/100km) which is commendable given the punishment handed out much of the time.
How does the Audi S4 Sedan drive?
Don’t get me wrong, there would be nothing more satisfying than a V8 under the bonnet of the latest S4, but truth be told this thing is still seriously quick.
Just off idle there’s a touch of lag, but once the rev needle nudges 1800rpm it morphs into a satisfying performance car that feels especially potent in the mid-range. The transition from comfortably cruising around town to a full-on assault through your favourite set of bends on the long-way home is seamless.
It’s particularly satisfying as you drive out of the tighter corners thanks to that sport differential. It’s a big step up from the four-pot A4 45 TFSI in terms of pulling power and to be honest, I don’t mind the sound of the six in Dynamic mode.
There’s a raciness to the exhaust note when you’ve got all that torque on-song and a few and crackles when you come off the throttle quickly to inspire the driver in you. You won’t miss the dual-clutch gearbox, as the eight-speed auto is a quick-shifting unit that will surprise you with its performance and smooth character, even in Dynamic.
Auto mode offers the perfect all-road compromise. While the ride skews slightly firm, it’s still pleasantly compliant over those rougher, broken road surfaces. You can definitely feel the adaptive dampers stiffen when shifting over to Dynamic, but ride comfort over larger bumps is still assured.
Chassis balance and composure is a core S4 strength, allowing drivers to push hard in the more challenging bends with utmost confidence.
Even the steering feel is something to be appreciated. Audi has had a mixed reputation for its lack of feel and feedback with its steering and while that might have been true a few years ago, it’s not so these days. At the same time there’s less understeer in hot Audis.
Dollar-for-dollar, pound-for-pound, the Audi S4 ticks all the right boxes for an all-round solid sports sedan that has the ability to excite most anyone including genuine enthusiasts.
It’s fast out of the blocks, pulls strong through the mid-range and offers strong stopping power that won’t fade easily. It’s also the perfect stealth car for those who occasionally feel the need to dial up Dynamic and get a move on.
The S4 can do all of that and more.
How much does the Audi S4 Sedan cost to run?
From January 1, 2022, Audi Australia moved to a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty that’s now in line with the likes of Genesis and Mercedes-Benz, leaving Alfa Romeo and BMW in the three-year club.
Servicing includes the choice upfront packages of $1970 for three years and $2950 for five years of scheduled maintenance, with intervals of 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first.
Bear in mind, a standard A4 costs $1710 and $2720 respectively, so we think the S4 service prices are fair and reasonable given its performance and status in the Audi hierarchy.
CarExpert’s Take on the Audi S4 Sedan
Bang for buck there’s really nothing out there that can touch the S4, even if it’s a few tenths off the pace of the BMW M340i xDrive.
The S4 looks and feels like a well-crafted, well-rounded high-performance sleeper that delivers plenty of thrills but without unwanted attention.
It’s also properly premium, delivering luxury a little bit above that of its closest rivals in our opinion.
Of course, we’d suggest you road test all three German sports sedans back-to-back for proper validation.
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MORE: Everything Audi S4