Power for the 2016 model year S4 comes from a new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 engine. Known by the internal codename EA838, it is the first in a new range of modular V6 and V8 engines developed jointly between Audi and Porsche and set to appear in various models in the not-to-distant future.
The 60-deg unit replaces the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 used in the old S4, bringing a 14kg reduction in weight, at 172kg. It features Audi’s patented valve lift system with a constantly adjustable camshaft and a highly touted combustion process with centre mounted spark plugs for what Ingolstadt engineers describe as vastly improved combustion efficiency among other improvements.
With 349bhp, the EA383 kicks out 21bhp more than the EA387 unit. More significant, though, is the lift in torque, which has risen by 45lb, providing the new S4 with 369lb ft on a 600rpm wider band of revs than before - between 1370 and 4500rpm.
Exhaust gas turbocharging isn’t the only new driveline development. Audi has also replaced the outgoing S4’s seven-speed dual clutch S tronic gearbox with an eight-speed torque converter automatic in a bid to improve step-off acceleration. The ZF produced unit comes with a Tiptronic shifting function and steering wheel mounted shift paddles as standard.
As tradition dictates, drive is sent to all four wheels via a Torsen torque sensing four-wheel drive system. Under normal conditions, 40% goes to the front wheels and the remaining 60% to the rear. Depending on prevailing grip, up to 70% of the engine’s reserves can now be sent to the front or up to 85% to the rear. A sport differential, which constantly varies the amount of drive to each of the rear wheels, is also available as an option.
What's it like?
To look at, somewhat disappointing. This latest S4 is more understated than ever. If you weren’t aware of the extent of the changes that have taken place beneath its spectacularly unexciting exterior, you could easily mistake it for a highly specified A4, which in essence is exactly what it is.
It’s a similar story inside, too. But that’s no bad thing – the quality of the interior fittings and overall attention to the detailing is quite superb. What’s more, the driving position, aided by a generous amount of steering wheel and seat adjustment, is easily tailored, making the S4 a pleasing place to be for longer journeys.
The standard sport seats are fabulously supportive, the standard flat-bottom steering wheel a delight to hold and, with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit providing high definition instruments in one of three themes as well as the latest evolution of Audi MMI infotainment system placing an 8.3in screen in your light of sight and the very latest in internet connectivity, there’s also a pleasingly contemporary air to the driving environment, provided you’re prepared to pay for the more worthwhile options.
From the off, the S4’s turbocharged V6 offers plenty of low-end flexibility and its delivery is satisfyingly smooth. With an additional 45lb of torque arriving some 1530rpm earlier than before and a broader spread of ratios to exploit, there is near-to-instantaneous urge. At almost any revs and in almost any gear, the S4 surges forward with proper authority.
The throttle response is both quick and reliable, allowing you to easily take advantage of empty spaces in traffic around town and fleeting overtaking opportunities out on the road. Throughout the rev range, there is an earnest but hardly entertaining exhaust note, which undergoes various changes in timbre as you near the 6500rpm cut-out, but sadly never really fulfils its aural potential in the way some rivals manage.