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- Highs Sharp handling, punchy turbocharged V-6, deluxe cabin.
- Lows Driving experience is a little too light on drama, exhaust could sound punchier, infotainment display looks tacked on.
- Verdict As the performance variant of the A4 sedan, the S4 dials in more power and handling prowess but is missing the emotion of the top sports sedan.
The S4 is a well-balanced sports sedan, with sophisticated style and tremendous performance. Based on the fantastic Audi A4, this version satisfies enthusiasts with increased power, standard all-wheel drive, and a sport-tuned suspension. Like the standard A4 sedan, it is graced with an exquisitely crafted interior and a sleek exterior that’s more classy than flashy. Too bad its engine lacks aural character, and that a manual transmission is unavailable. The S4 is enjoyable to drive rather than overtly exciting, and its subdued appearance and stoic personality dilute an otherwise extraordinary example of four-door fun.
What's New for 2018?
After Audi released an all-new A4 in 2017, the company followed up with the corresponding S model for 2018. While its exterior styling is similar to the previous generation S4’s, its powertrain is not. A new 354-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 replaces the old 333-hp supercharged version, and an eight-speed automatic transmission stands in for its seven-speed dual-clutch predecessor. Unfortunately, the old model’s manual gearbox is now sidelined. Audi also redesigned the interior with both futuristic and retro elements that uphold the company’s high-quality cred. Likewise, the S4 adds the latest tech, including a fully digital gauge cluster, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and additional active-safety features.
- Premium Plus: $54,975
- Prestige: $56,775
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
All S4s ship with a 354-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that syncs with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. While this setup is quicker than most rivals, the engine response and exhaust sound—both hugely important characteristics of a sports sedan—were less visceral than expected. Despite its subdued engine character, the V-6 delivered substantial thrust on demand, seamlessly transitioning between relaxed and responsive. While we prefer the Mercedes-AMG C43’s snorty exhaust note and the BMW 340i’s smooth power delivery, the Audi clocked the second-fastest sprints from zero to 60 mph and from a stop to the quarter-mile mark. The S4 is most exciting in Dynamic mode with the transmission set to S. This quickened throttle responses and sharpened the automatic’s reactions. Set to Auto or Comfort mode, the Audi was respectfully quiet and composed. The S4’s chassis is its greatest strength. Its tautly controlled body motions and compliant damping made it equal parts sport and luxury sedan. The S4 is very precise and easy to control; its accurate steering, excellent cornering stability, and tenacious grip on the tarmac boosted our confidence to torpedo on-ramps—but it also cruised calmly around town. While its strong powertrain and rear-biased all-wheel-drive system provide impressive acceleration, the experience lacks the emotion and sharp handling responses of top rivals.
EPA fuel economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest and most accurate fuel economy numbers on current and older vehicles, we use the U.S. Department of Energy's fueleconomy.gov website. Under the heading "Find & Compare Cars" click on the Compare Side-by-Side tool to find the EPA ratings for the make, model, and year you're interested in.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Audi is a benchmark of interior quality, and the S4 is further evidence. Every S4 cabin is stuffed with marvelous materials and standard features such as diamond-stitched sports seats with massage features. Along with impeccable fit and finish, the interior is racy and luxurious. The standard brushed-aluminum trim traces the dash, doors, and center console. Likewise, the standard leather seats have intricate stitching and suede-like inserts that can be swapped for premium leather surfaces—for extra coin, of course. While the S4 has many standard features, add-ons such as heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel are affordable upgrades. Our test car also was fitted with the digital gauge cluster that Audi calls the Virtual Cockpit. The beautiful display is customizable and looks better than the digital dash in the Jaguar XE. While we have few complaints about the interior, the fixed center screen disrupts the design and the ventilated front seats are only available with the Warm Weather package, which drops the diamond seat pattern and adopts a perforated leather design.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Even when the standard 7.0-inch infotainment screen is replaced with the optional 8.3-inch version, we wish it looked better atop the dash. While it’s within the driver’s line of sight, we prefer the retractable version on other Audi products. Thankfully, the rotary knob on the center console is easy to operate and makes the deep menus easier to navigate. That aside, the MMI system is affable and has multiple control methods, including an optional touchpad that transcribes spelling inputs for navigation. Those who want the full suite of options can buy the top Prestige trim or the Navigation package. Along with the fully digital gauge cluster and larger screen, it features a six-month membership to Audi Connect Prime and Plus online services. These include real-time weather and traffic information, a 4G mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, and the ability to remotely control vehicle functions and receive alerts.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.