What is it?
Audi labels this car the ninth generation S4, which is a little sneaky given it has counted both new and facelifted models launched since its inception back in 1991 in that figure.
With increased dimensions, a new turbocharged engine with added firepower and greater levels of standard equipment than before, it takes its place at the top of the latest A4 line-up – at least until the new RS4 hits UK showrooms in 2017, offering the choice of both saloon and estate, or as Audi likes to say, Avant, bodystyles.
Pricing is yet to be revealed, although officials suggest the saloon model tested here will not deviate too much from the £39,310 of the old model.
You’ll need to look carefully to spot the new S4, though. The styling changes over the A4 are typically subtle and easy to miss at glance. Up front, there’s a slightly more structured bumper, lightly reworked single frame grille with double slats in matt aluminium look and altered headlamps graphics; all of which gives it a slightly more focused appearance.
They’re combined with aluminium-look exterior mirror housings, chrome window trims, wider sills and a uniquely styled rear bumper with an aluminium look panel and integral diffuser housing twin oval tail pipes.
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.