On the right road the S4 can really entertain, but if you’re not in the mood, it won’t beat you up

Our Verdict

Audi S4
The Audi S4 is based on the eighth-generation A4

Audi's S4 packs a supercharged 328bhp punch, but it's not the most engaging high-performance saloon on the market

  • First Drive

    Audi S4

    On the right road the S4 can really entertain, but if you’re not in the mood, it won’t beat you up
  • First Drive

    Audi S4

    Practical, rapid and more dynamic than its predecessor
5 December 2011

What is it?

With the launch of the eighth generation of the Audi A4 range, the newest S4 takes its place as the top-dog model – at least until the next RS4 arrives later in the model cycle.

You’ll need to be something of a keen Audi spotter, though, because the visual changes to the latest S4 are really very subtle. The headlights have been restyled with a new-look treatment for the LED running lights. The front bumper has also been mildly revised, as have the front air intakes. At the back, LED tail-lights echo the shape of the headlights. The whole effect is more elegant and a bit less brash than before.

Likewise, there have been no major cosmetic changes to the S4’s cabin; there’s now an optional flat-bottomed steering wheel and the instruments have grey dials with white needles and aluminium-look hubs. Very classy.

What's it like?

The S4’s interior remains a terrific place to spend time, with fabulously supportive seats and that deep sense of quality, regardless of which surface you’re touching. For the first time, the S4, along with its siblings, can be ordered with Audi’s navigation system incorporating Google Earth, which gives 3D satellite and aerial photographs; it works brilliantly. The S4’s Bluetooth system also enables a Wi-Fi hotspot.

All good, but if you want to surf the net and fool with your Facebook status, you should be inside a Starbucks, not a 328bhp supercharged nutter-mobile. This car is still a totally convincing driver’s tool. And the fact that the latest S4 carries over the previous version’s powertrain is no bad thing at all.

Teamed with Audi’s seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox (seamless shifts in a few hundredths of a second), the performance on offer is utterly addictive. For the record, 0-62mph comes up in just 5.0sec and top whack is limited to 155mph (and you’ll get there rather quickly).

While that performance isn’t totally gobsmacking in modern terms, it’s the character that the S4 brings to the way it goes down the road that is so affecting. That supercharged V6 sounds much better than you might think, evidenced by how many times you’ll visit the redline just for the noise. And then there’s that delicious, woolly ‘distant thunder’ rumble between upshifts.

You can get the S4 to flow beautifully on a twisting stretch of mountain road, and steering feedback is particularly good. The driver can select Comfort, Auto or Dynamic suspension modes, as before. I left the S4 in Auto most of the time, since Dynamic is just a bit too unforgiving over rough surfaces. It could be quite amusing on a track day, though.

The ride quality (when not in Dynamic) is pretty good. That should make the S4 particularly easy to live with. You can waft down the motorway as well as go slightly mental on your favourite stretch of road. And a gently driven (as if) S4 will return just under 35mpg, giving it a potential range of nearly 400 miles on a fill.

Should I buy one?

In the end, the latest S4 is a beautifully made piece that isn’t too ‘shouty’ about its performance (although I’ve never been mad about the alloy-look door mirrors). It feels, in the end, like a grown-up’s hot rod. And that’s a good thing.

Gavin Conway

Audi S4

Price: £38,665; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 5.0sec; Economy: 34.9mpg (combined); CO2: 190g/km; Kerb weight: 1705kg; Engine: V6, 2995cc, supercharged, petrol; Power: 328bhp at 5500-6500rpm; Torque: 324lb ft at 2900-5300rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch auto

Join the debate

Comments
29

DKW

7 December 2011

When I were a nipper, hooning about in a car was quite possible. Now that's a rare and limited privilege, and motoring journalists need to review cars accordingly, even performance cars. So tell us how it goes when pushed hard, but please mainly tell us how it is when driven with the restraint we all have to show to keep our licences. What's it like on part throttle and low revs? How's the transmission in town? Most driving is done in busy areas and times, not deserted Welsh roads. That's why deserted roads are empty and towns and motorways have a lot of cars on the road ...

7 December 2011

No doubt a very competent sports saloon, as the review outlines.....but:

- the A4 has simply become too large for what is supposed to be a "compact" exec/sports saloon,

- the interior though praised, is from the previous generation, with the new A6 (admittedly from the class above) showing it up somewhat, and

- most importantly, I can't shake off well the feeling that despite its competence it's still not that exciting for a high performance sports saloon. Maybe it's because I found my old A4 company car (only a 2 litre petrol version, I grant you) such a dull drive.

7 December 2011

Very subtle styling, possibly too much so for some. Does make a great Q car though.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

7 December 2011

Impressive economy figures for a car with this sort of performance, but I do doubt that they will be achievable in the world.

7 December 2011

[quote DKW]Most driving is done in busy areas and times, not deserted Welsh roads.[/quote]

I have to say I agree with this. I don't want What Car?, I do want to know what it's like to drive 'in extremis' but I think Autocar need to adjust their focus slightly and give us some more 'normal' and not give the deciding to a car just because it's great when thrashed. With fuel costs as high as they are, motoring costs generally high, surpressed spending power and congestion means most folk just don't drive like that anymore.

Being a Yorkshireman I, of course, hate to spend on consumables (one of my proudest motoring moments was reading that the front brake pads on our CR-V were 'less than 10% worn' after it's first annual service this year) so flinging the thing around corners and diving on the brakes just isn't on my radar.

I do like to put my foot down, though, and I do like a bit of escapism so enjoy some of the Autocar videos but think others are pointless. The recent Radical video was great, seeing how the downforce allowed that little car to fly. A pointless video was seeing a Masearti GranCabrio being needlessly oversteered, why?

Anyway, thread creep, back to the S4. I'd love an S4 Avant, discreet & easy to live with but fast for the occasional time I overtake someone.


7 December 2011

[quote bomb]I'd love an S4 Avant, discreet & easy to live with but fast for the occasional time I overtake someone[/quote]

I ran a friend's one for a week or so, and the turbo lag was terrible. First gear also seemed too tall, so pulling away wasn't as swift as I had expected, especially with the DSG 'box, which for some reason, seemed very reluctant to let me keep it in a lower gear under full throttle.

6 August 2012

Fidji wrote:

bomb wrote:

I'd love an S4 Avant, discreet & easy to live with but fast for the occasional time I overtake someone

I ran a friend's one for a week or so, and the turbo lag was terrible. First gear also seemed too tall, so pulling away wasn't as swift as I had expected, especially with the DSG 'box, which for some reason, seemed very reluctant to let me keep it in a lower gear under full throttle.

Thought it was supercharged !!

7 December 2011

[quote TegTypeR]Does make a great Q car though[/quote]

I feel it is the exact opposite, big, awkward, hard riding, 4wd, turbocharged and incredibly fast Audis ain't a diamond in the rough anymore, they are the norm. They produce a V10 580bhp estate, and a 4,5 secs to 60mph hot hatch and even though S4's styling is relatively subtle its Brand certainly isn't.

There isn't anything even distantly Q-ish about AUDI.

7 December 2011

[quote Autocar]steering feedback is particularly good.[/quote] and [quote Autocar]The ride quality (when not in Dynamic) is pretty good. [/quote] Are we talking about a modern Audi here? Next thing you'll be saying it's nicely adjustable on the throttle. I would love Audi to make a car with great steering feel and let's say the ride quality of a Jag XF, Alpina B3 or even an Evora. If they've done this superb but given most modern cars (and particularly the VAG cars I've driven) seem to have forgotten what steering feel is I'm going to be sceptical until I've driven one.

7 December 2011

[quote PHILBY]

[quote TegTypeR]Does make a great Q car though[/quote]

I feel it is the exact opposite, big, awkward, hard riding, 4wd, turbocharged and incredibly fast Audis ain't a diamond in the rough anymore, they are the norm. They produce a V10 580bhp estate, and a 4,5 secs to 60mph hot hatch and even though S4's styling is relatively subtle its Brand certainly isn't.

There isn't anything even distantly Q-ish about AUDI.

[/quote]

Depends on your definition of Q car.

As I have always understood it, a Q car is a very quick car that doesn't shout it to the world. With this styling and grunt, that is exactly what this car is.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

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