The new Audi A4 has made a lasting impression in the past 12 months, its understated manner unable to cloak the brilliance beneath the surface. Now, the S4, the first sport variant in the line-up and the first S4 to dip beneath $100,000 is also starting to make its presence felt.
As with the A4, critics more comfortable with sporty cars that scream their worth loud enough to raise a dead man from his slumber, have turned their attention to the S4’s considered demure appearance. Slippery ground that.
I, for one, think it is fabulous and a week behind the wheel merely reinforced that belief. It also reminded me of a quote by Coco Chanel my father has used ad nausea ever since my sister and I first started sneaking out of the house as teenagers. “You don’t need short skirts and tight tops to stand out. In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”
Unassuming but unforgettable is the feeling here. Smooth and sleek, the exterior of the S4 has all those styling cues that have now combined to become that decidedly modern Audi look. A defined bonnet, hexagonal grille and sculpted headlights work well to give the impression of unhurried class, maybe not obvious enough to have heads turning but more than enough that they notice.
The interior, too, is stylish and restrained with a sense of practicality and driver-centric console designed to accommodate with ease.
There is good head and legroom, even for taller backseat passengers, with the larger door openings allowing for easy entry and exit.
The leather seats, heated for the front seat occupants, are supremely comfortable, moulding nicely to the small of the back with enough side bolstering and under thigh support to keep you safely ensconced during more adventurous drives.
Four drinkholders, deepish door bins and net map pockets are among the storage conveniences, helped by good centre console storage and a useful glovebox. The boot, more long than deep, is fairly standard in the mid-size luxury sedan world with its 480-litres tripling in size when you drop the 40:20:40 back seat.
An 8.3-inch colour screen on the top of the dash is the face of Audi’s infotainment system. It feels like it should fold away into the dash when the car is switched off, but disappointingly, it doesn’t. It is controlled by a familiar rotary dial system that sits close to the gear shift and within easy reach of the driver’s left hand.
Colour and graphics are good and the mapping system more than adequate. Bluetooth connectivity is a breeze and you also get Apple
Carplay and Android Auto, as well as DAB+ digital radio which is great if you live in an area where it actually works. Online connectivity and hot-spotting is available through a subscription service.
The infotainment system complements Audi’s virtual cockpit, too, with navigation instruction and driving mode displayed alongside the speedometer should you wish. Sports mode switches the display to a giant digital speed readout and large tacho.
ENGINE AND TRNASMISSION
Audi has replaced the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 from the previous S4 with a lighter all-new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 which can deliver 260kW of power, an increase of 15kW, and a magnificent 500Nm (up 60Nm) of torque. The latter is available from just 1370rpm making the S4 is immediately responsive – 0-100km in 4.7 seconds is a pretty decent gallop.
An excellent eight-speed automatic transmission makes for an able accomplice and features Sport mode too should you be in an energetic mood. Audi’s quattro system, with a 60:40 standard rear-wheel bias, can send up to 85 per cent of the power in either direction as needed.
The S4 boasts an enviable active and passive safety suite. Traction and stability control, eight airbags, reverse camera and sensors and automatic emergency braking are just the tip of the iceberg with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, reverse cross traffic alert, driver inattention detection assist also standard features. Lane turn assist will stop you, at low speeds, from turning across oncoming traffic while the exit warning alarm will alert you if you are opening your door in the path of an approaching car or cyclist.
With effortless acceleration and a deliciously raspy crackle, the Audi S4 is a simply awesome drive.
It is engaging and responsive, well balanced and well-mannered with the engine and silky smooth transmission working in beautiful synergy.
Sound exciting? That’s because it is.
The S4 sticks to the road thanks to its quattro system, erring on the side of nimble it is fleet of foot and remains composed no matter how hard you push. Braking is excellent too with more ability than you will probably ever need in everyday situations.
Standard adaptive dampers means you can choose from Comfort, Auto and Dynamic with the last being our top choice.
Ride quality is a good balance between comfort and performance and steering feel is slightly less involving than the 3-Series equivalent for example, but is easy enough to get used to. It is great over bumps – no wallowing for the S4 – and it retains its composure even if those irregularities coming up suddenly mid-corner with the driver distracted by the view.
The S4 offers up an accomplished fun drive that made our test car hard to give up.
The new engine is touted to be more fuel efficient too with official figures at 7.7L/100km, some 5% down on the outgoing model. To be honest, we were closer to 9.2L/100km, not a steep price to pay for overall satisfaction.
Warranty is three years unlimited kilometres with free roadside assist for that period too. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km and Audi’s three year/45,000km service plan is available at $1620.
Why would you buy an Audi S4? Because quite simply, it is an excellent all-round package. It offers respectable manoeuvrability in city confines doing mundane tasks but is equally willing when you open it up and let it have its head. It is competitively priced, well equipped both with comforts and safety innovations and has class and flair. Most of all, it is super fun to drive. You just can’t argue with that.
Price: from $99,900 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 260kW at 5400 – 6400rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
Fuel use: 7.7L/100km combined
Safety: Five Star ANCAP
What we liked:
What we didn’t like:
Infotainment screen doesn’t retract
Steering can feel a bit artificial