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Audi A4 Avant S4 S-tronic review

Flexible engine is responsive and sounds good

May 2009

picture of car from the front picture of car from the rear picture of car interior picture of car detail

Overall rating

4 out of 5 stars

Likes:

  • Flexible engine is responsive and sounds good
  • Suspension strikes an excellent compromise between ride and handling
  • Interior is smart and well constructed
  • Seats offer a high degree of support

Gripes:

  • Upgraded Drive select system needed for optimum performance
  • Steering can feel over-assisted at times
  • Looks only subtly different to standard car
  • Insurance costs remain high

Having already introduced a new A4 range to critical acclaim, Audi is filling in the gaps with the introduction of the S4. With increased performance, optimised ride and handling and the kind of visual muscle expected from the German manufacturer, the S4 also promises better emissions and reduced fuel consumption to boot.

From the outside the S4 is a clear step above lesser A4 models. At the front it gets piercing LED headlamps and a deep front bumper, with a pair of large air intakes at either side. Large alloy wheels are standard, with a lower ride height to match, and discreet badges make it clear that the S4 is a different machine.

Mechanical changes are centred around the engine. The 4.2-litre V8 of the outgoing model has been replaced by a supercharged V6 of 3.0-litre capacity. Despite the significant change in capacity, the new engine delivers almost identical outputs, but is considerably more efficient in doing so. Audi claims improvements of more than 30 per cent in both economy and emissions.

This is transmitted to the road via a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox and into the Quattro four-wheel drive system. In this installation the four-wheel drive system is split in a ratio of 40/60 front to rear. In addition, the optional Drive Select system allows the driver to alter steering ratio, throttle response, damper settings and gearshift points (with the dual-clutch gearbox). A further additional option includes a sports rear differential for tailored driving characteristics.

Inside the S4 gets stylish and supportive electric sports seats, three-zone climate control, and an enhanced stereo system which increases the sense of luxury and sportiness in the cabin. In Avant guise as tested here, there are additional features such as an integrated dog guard and a roof-mounted rear spoiler.

Our verdict on the Audi A4 Avant S4 S-tronic

The S4 manages the remarkable feat of being more fun to drive than its predecessor yet also has better economy and reduced emissions. Whilst still requiring a fair financial commitment to purchase and run, the S4 is a useable performance car that can entertain and comfort in equal measures. Getting the best from it may require careful selections from the options list, but as a car for all seasons it is more than capable.