The times are changing, and if you don’t believe that, look no further than the Audi S4. While S4’s of yore were powered by V-8 engines, the current S4 makes due with a supercharged V-6. Sure, there is a lot to be said about shoehorning a V-8 in a mid-size sedan, but in the interest of emissions and fuel economy, can Audi keep the excitement alive in the S4 running on two fewer cylinders? Read on to find out.
For starters, Audi has again managed to design an extremely handsome sport sedan. Our test car, finished in a gorgeous Phantom Black pearl paint effect with sexy 19″ alloys and aluminum capped sideview mirrors all added up for one elegant and subtly aggressive package. Contemporary A4s looked dowdy next to the drop-dead serious S4. Without a shadow of a doubt, the S4 is one of the best looking premium sport sedans available today, bar none.
Audi has earned a reputation for constructing some of the finest interiors available, and the S4 is no exception. The quality of materials is exceptional, and the workmanship cannot be faulted. Despite the fact our heavily optioned S4 was loaded with extras, controls were fairly intuitive. Using Audi’s MMI (Multi-Media Interface) is easier than BMW’s iDrive, and I never had to drag out the owner’s manual. Our test car’s black and red leather interior hinted at the level of performance on tap. The sport seats offered excellent support, and the leather-lined, red stitched steering wheel was a joy to hold.
Our S4 was pressed into duty for a weekend trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to celebrate my son’s sixth birthday with my in-laws. And sadly, this is where the S4 sort of falls short. For a two night stay with a family of three, the S4’s trunk was fully loaded. Returning home with birthday gifts, the trunk was ready to burst and half the back seat was loaded with what would not fit in the trunk. With a booster seat and two adults seated in the rear, it was way too close for comfort, and my passengers were incredulous at how a car of this size could offer such cramped quarters. Driving the S4 is a thrill, but knowing your passengers are miserable takes away a lot of the fun.
But let’s get back to the fun. Yes, the V-8 engine is gone, replaced with a 3.0L supercharged V-6 rated at 333hp. All S4’s are all-wheel drive Quattros, paired with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual clutch automated manual. Our test car was blessed with the six-speed manual, which was a joy to shift. The S4 offers explosive acceleration off the line, and exceptional passing power. The supercharger is seamless in operation. Passing on the highway rarely calls for a downshift-the power is right there when you want it. The S4 is a model for the definitive German sport sedan with a firm but surprisingly forgiving ride. The car just inhaled the miles at rapid pace without ever breaking a sweat.
The Audi S4 starts at $47,300USD. Standard equipment includes a power moonroof, xenon and LED lighting, leather and alcantara interior, heated/power front seats, brushed aluminum trim, three-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth and satellite radio. Our S4 tester added the Prestige package, which includes 19″ alloys, adaptive lighting, a superb Bang & Olufsen sound system, Nappa leather, parking sensors and navigation, and adaptive cruise control. Including delivery, our Audi S4 rings in at $60,300. And that is near the entry price of a BMW M3, the Holy Grail of all sports sedans.
So where does that leave the S4? Make no mistake, the combination of a sophisticated exterior and interior design coupled with an utterly fantastic engine, the S4 looks like a no-brainer. But the tiny trunk and the S4’s inability to comfortably seat five passengers was a huge turn-off. It’s tough to enjoy a car that is as fun to drive as an S4 when you know your passengers are uncomfortable, and in a car with a $60,000 sticker price, I find that hard to accept.