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.