Vital Stats

Engine:
Supercharged 3.0L V6
Power:
329 HP / 325 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
4.9 Seconds
Top Speed:
155 MPH (limited)
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Seating:
2+3
A Standalone Sleeper Sport Sedan That Still Keeps Us Awake At Night



The always-bustling Audi stand at next month's Detroit Auto Show figures to be cluttered with a full range of eighth-generation A4 models, all of which arrive in the States sometime between June and July. The line's real marquee model is, of course, the RS4, but that Rennsport ingredient will not be seen on the stand in Cobo just yet. (So let's change that to almost full range, and some sources are saying that there will not even be an RS4 this go-round.) The sauciest A4 present will be this model, the new S4, considered by many – this reviewer included – to be the real gem of the range, especially in comparison to the seriously costly RS4.

It's best to call this the "latest" S4, because it is definitely not all-new. However, it does partake of the mid-cycle changes to the "B8" eighth-generation, some of which we recently addressed in a first drive of the A4 and A4 Allroad Quattro. For now, though, we really don't need big changes – we'll be happy if the S4 remains our lower-volume secret.
Aesthetically speaking, the S4 plays off the changes we saw in the A4. The hood is curved more to add presence, the whole face looks stronger and wider due to accentuation of the horizontal lines and the addition of larger intakes at the bottom corners. The standard-fit bi-xenon lights are new, as are the fog lamps in those redesigned lower intakes. The S4's now signature single-frame grille receives the folded upper corners like the rest of the range, adding a bit of visual edge. Overall, the S4 doesn't shout about its performance credentials, it's much more muted than something one might expect from the performance arms of other German automakers.

2013 Audi S4 side view2013 Audi S4 front view2013 Audi S4 rear view

Still brandishing 329 horsepower between 5,500 and 6,500 rpm and 325 pound-feet of torque from 2,900 to 5,300 rpm, the S4's 3.0-liter supercharged and direct-injected V6 has been a big crowd pleaser ever since it started showing up in hotter Audis (and other VW Group products) a few years back. 0 to 60 estimates remain at 4.9 seconds, though we've seen 4.7 seconds out of the departing model. And, of course, rather than electronically limiting this hotter A4 to the usual 130 mph, the S4 receives a 155-mph v-max.

While the Audi Quattro GmbH folks have warned us to prepare ourselves for a vastly improved track experience with all upcoming RS models, they tend to believe that this S4 is one of the finest sport sedans for the street. Over the course of many miles we drove on coastal Portuguese roads in a mambo red six-speed manual example [The example seen in our gallery has the optional seven-speed S tronic - forgive the momentary lapse into inconsistency.], it was reaffirmed that Audi has it right. Attacking squirrelly country two-lanes, the S4 shines as a special everyday driver that could make a much costlier RS4 unnecessary for many – unless you have big, police-free straightaways and serpentine bits of tarmac in your backyard.

2013 Audi S4 engine

The closest C-Class that Mercedes-Benz has to match this tweener S4 is the European-market 302-hp C350 4Matic that will supposedly arrive in the States for the first quarter of 2012. (Why is there nothing between it and the 451-hp C63 AMG?) In the case of BMW, there's the 302-hp 335i xDrive sedan, but what looks like the best competitor on paper is the Infiniti G37x AWD with 328 hp and naturally aspirated 269 lb-ft of torque, since the Acura TL SH-AWD (like the other Germans) comes up just a tick short at 305 hp. Then again, it would be great just to get all of these volume sportsters together with the coming Cadillac ATS and its 323-hp V6 and unconfirmed (as yet) all-wheel drive.

While visions of all of what could be dance through our heads, our drive proves that the Audi S4 is a very well balanced affair, and occasional vicious moments have been made possible by the S-Line package that snugs the S4 1.2 inches closer to the ground than the A4. Along with a change in stance, the S4 has been given a sportier suspension with more rigid dampers and springs. As with the civilian A4s, the S4 also has a modified mounting point for the rear control arms that makes the tail end of the car seem to follow more willingly and not just hang off the back.

2013 Audi S4 lower grille2013 Audi S4 wheel detail2013 Audi S4 badge2013 Audi S4 badge

If you're keen to get the best S4 drive experience possible, the $1,100 optional sport differential with Audi Drive Select is a must-have addition to the $48,000 Premium Plus trim car you see here. If you have no intention of going for this option, there's really no spectacularly convincing reason to buy the S4 unless you're addicted to having at least six cylinders under the hood. This setup gives you the full-featured version of ADS for calibrating the adaptive suspension, dynamic steering, engine and throttle responses (along with shift points if you opt for the seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch). In addition, the ADS menu offers the Individual mode that includes the sport differential setup for making the rear-axle side-to-side torque play as invasive (or unobtrusive) as you like between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic settings.

Of course, the best setup on Portugal's great roads was Dynamic mode, and we made the most of the chassis and its tuning by taking several laps of a 20-mile loop that was more like an amusement park. Overtaking in Dynamic mode was a cinch – the additional supercharged power and torque place the S4 in a sweet spot all by itself. It's while out dicing around on these loveable routes that one wonders why more haven't discovered the S4. Paying upwards of $55k to get an example just as we'd like might seem a bit steep, but for those who need their all-wheel-drive sport sedan to be just so – i.e. a bit more premium and agile than the others – then it's tough not to choose the S4. At least, that is, until we get a go in an AWD ATS in the near future. This is what you're shootin' at, Cadillac.

2013 Audi S4 interior2013 Audi S4 front seats2013 Audi S4 tachometer2013 Audi S4 shifter

All A4/S4 models now come with electric power steering. While this move raised brows on the latest BMW 3 Series, it's not really a cause of great upset here. Audi Quattro models have always felt like heavier cars through the curves, so there's not really a significant change in this steering action. What the new system does provide is greater efficiency overall, since the assistance seamlessly deactivates whenever it is not needed. Together with faster fluid heating after cold starts and reduced mechanical friction between moving parts in the supercharged V6, Audi engineers tell us that such peripheral improvements help the car achieve around eight percent more miles per tank. Besides, on the car we tested, with its sport differential and full suite of ADS modes in action, much of the understeer present in lesser A4 models has been done away with anyhow. The steering feel in corners of all descriptions has been greatly improved thanks to these upgrades. To repeat: If you buy this car, get this setup.

Another excellent addition to the S4 for dry weather frolics is the 19-inch $800 optional wheel/tire set. The car driven here came with the stock Premium Plus 18-inch wheels and 245/40 Bridgestone Potenza all-season treads (understandable given the season), but in these bone-dry conditions with the sun-warmed tarmac, we figure the 19-inch 255/35 tires would have made a difference in the bends. While you're at it, the $1,000 Titanium exterior trim package looks great, too. But should you go for the seven-speed S-tronic? It's the favorite Audi transmission when looking to eliminate the clutch pedal from the foot well, but our six-speed manual was great. You'll be fine no matter which you choose.

2013 Audi S4 rear 3/4 view

Three changes in the interior worth noting are the simpler Multi Media Interface (MMI) analogue controller on the console with four buttons instead of eight, a volume knob that also now toggles left and right to skip tracks, and an available wifi hotspot and 3D Google sat-nav graphics via Bluetooth. It really starts to sound more and more like an A8, doesn't it?

We already loved the revamped Audi A4, and the combination of attributes that the higher-performance S4 assembles is very compelling stuff that no one else quite matches. Optioned right, it's a solid road warrior, particularly for those who need an all-weather sport sedan. Just don't tell anyone – it's our little secret.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 120 Comments
      Monkaroo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Obviously Audi designers don't have to stretch their imagination with each new redesign.
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      Performance aside, it's easily one of the most drab looking sedans I've ever seen. It's one thing to take few chances, it's another thing to do nothing. At least spice it up a LITTLE - I think the A5 is a great example of an Audi that has some performance queues but still isn't loud or overstated. And yes I know the A5 is a two door but you know what I mean. :)
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Carpinions
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just cannot get into this generation of the A4. The interior looks great, but the exterior is just not good enough. Definitely Audi's worst effort in their current lineup. This S4 is no different. Either this car has to be purchased in a different color, or those are the worst wheels they could have devised. They look like stock, plebian 16"s on this car, and there is no aggression whatsoever unless you're view is straight-on the back. Granted, the definition of aggression now sits firmly in the 400+hp range, but even a 335 looks a lot more aggressive than this. I would not pay that kind of money for a car that looks like this.
        rocketmoose
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Carpinions
        Remember that the A4 is the oldest car in the current sedan lineup. It was the that kicked off the LED DRL trend. It's only fitting that it's going to look the most dated; that said, I don't think that it's bad looking -- just older.
        Zcd1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Carpinions
        And yet, I get compliments on my '11 S4 all the time - even from random passers-by. I do agree about those 18" wheels, though - not great. Fortunately, the optional 19s DO look great
      KTM JG
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just picked up a 12 S4 for a very good deal....use it for my commuter, dont plan on going to the track....smooth, fast, comfortable and easy to drive both slow and fast (vs. 2 of my peers that have m3's - which i love but wouldnt want to drive to work every day)....i wanted the new 335i (big bmw fan, wife owns an 11 x5) but price wise it couldnt compete in options/pricing vs. the Prestige Edition which is loaded with everything.....good time for deals on the 12's right now...even got an extra $1k off for being a BMW convert i like idrive better than mmi, advanced key better than bmw's system,....the supercharger is nice as it doesnt need to spool, the bmw sport mode is more agro (good),....DCT better than basic 8spd, B&O stereo kills anything in a 3 series,....pros and cons to both, both great cars that have that Euro magic drivability and put a smile on your face everytime you dirve them..... Cars are a personal choice, no need to be so stuck on one opinion...e.g. i like M16's better than AK47's, but both have their place!
      illnever tell
      • 2 Years Ago
      It didn't hit me looking at the A4 in sliver but it comes out in red. With the way they rounded off the front end, it reminds me how how it looks when a photographer takes a very wide angle lens, and gets up reaaaaally close to you, making your nose look huge and the rest of your face receding into the distance. Still a nice car I wouldn't mind having but I liked the pre-mid-cycle refresh styling better. Both the S4 and the 335 engines are underrated, probably why they put the qualifier "on paper", but like autoblog, I would like to see all those cars rounded up. I wish the 335 had the option of a limited slip differential.
        illnever tell
        • 2 Years Ago
        @illnever tell
        Sadly, there is no 335is sedan and, even sadder, it doesn't have the option of limited slip differential either.
          Ak74
          • 2 Years Ago
          @illnever tell
          335i or 335is doesn't need all that to kick S4 ass ;)
          • 2 Years Ago
          @illnever tell
          [blocked]
        Ak74
        • 2 Years Ago
        @illnever tell
        Thats why BMW has N55 335i and N54 335is
      l.ounanian
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just purchased 2013 S4 with manual trans, prestige plus, and sports differential. . Have had 6 BMW's before, most recently 540i sport. It edged out the 335i (personal opinion) on driving experience- road feel, cornering, throttle response, acceleration and "fun to drive" index. These are very subjective- I decided by test driving the 335i, g37, Cad ATS, high end Camaro, and a few others really not in the game. This is a very satisfying everyday sedan that gives all the enjoyment of an aggressive sports car at any time. Highly recommend with sports differential. I look for any excuse to drive- at least for now......
      Ak74
      • 2 Years Ago
      That red color and S does not help. It still looks boring just like A4 a few articles before this one.
      libertedelacroix
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't believe some of the stupidity/fanboyism here on autoblog. NEITHER 335/S4 "eat each other", even if one does perform better it is by such a minuscule amount it's almost negligible (335 is like 4.8, S4 is 4.6 WHO CARES). If you like the S4 update, go ahead and buy it, if not, get the BMW/Acura/Infiniti. I swear, it seems like half of you have a gun to your head telling you to choose one over the other....
      Jason L.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This refresh looks great! Love the current crop of Audis but when i was shopping around, the price tag on the b8 s4 said "m3 money".
      Mdriftda
      • 2 Years Ago
      Haha you guys supercharged it and it still puts out less power than my Naturally Aspirated G37s. X)
        Zcd1
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mdriftda
        Mrdrifta: You might want to actually look up some performance figures before posting something that proves you don't know what you're talking about. Quoted HP is for barstool arguing. Measured acceleration times and actual side-by-side performance are what proves which is quicker.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mdriftda
        [blocked]
        KaiserWilhelm
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mdriftda
        More Torque says STFU.
        libertedelacroix
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mdriftda
        you might be right...... but once simple ECU tune from Stasis (GIAC) will put it at about 420 hp at the crank and 380 lbft. By the time your engine even get's to redline at 7000 RPM the S4 will be long gone...
        stahlee
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mdriftda
        Your G37 can't even keep up with my 07 S4. It just doesn't have the power beyond 60mph. Just had a fool racing me in his G37 a couple weeks ago, he kept up for a little but after 60 I pulled away hard. Add AWD to the G37 and it's a dog.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        [blocked]
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