2011 AUDI S4 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Four-door sedan
Fuel Economy (claimed): 9.6L/100km, 95RON minimum
Fuel Economy (tested): 13.4L/100km, 95RON
Audi is the master of the niche model, providing something for almost everyone, with a huge choice in body styles and drivetrains.
It’s a tough gig, but it’s charged with the hard task of splitting the difference at the sharp end of the Audi range.
Quality: Always a strong point for Audi, the build quality of this car is superb. From identical-width shut lines between all panels, to a solid ‘thunk’ when the doors close, it is one of the best in its class.
Comfort: Audi has some of the best seats in the business, and the sports-oriented optional buckets of our S4 test model are no exception.
Doors swing wide both front and rear for easy entry and egress. There are no creature comforts missing; style is typical Germanic restraint – premium leather with contrasting hard surfaces.
It's only a shame that the ride comfort doesn’t correspond, particularly on skinny-wrapped 18-inch rims.
Equipment: As a luxury GT, equipment levels are expectedly high: dual-zone air-con (with solar sensor), a six-stack 10-speaker stereo with every conceivable plug-and-play; also Bluetooth and voice activation.
There are also front and rear parking sensors and an electric park-brake.
The list of options is unfortunately pricey, with such luxuries as hill-hold assist, sunroof, adaptive high-beams and adaptive cruise control, carbon or wood inlays, 19-inch rims, and ‘sports pack’ adaptive dampers and steering on the list.
Storage: Split-fold rear seats open up the big boot to 1430 litres from 490 litres - made larger by an inflatable space-saver tyre. A ski port is an optional extra.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The difference you feel at the wheel in the new S4 compared to its predecessor is palpable: and a marked improvement.
Where the old car ran a 253kW 4.2 litre V8, the current car packs a more advanced 245kW 3.0-litre supercharged V6 that loses nothing in performance, despite the lower output figure.
It’s matched to a seven-speed clutchless automatic (DSG) transmission and Audi’s quattro AWD system. The result is a very quick sprint to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds; not bad for a 1685kg sedan and faster than its predecessor.
Refinement: While it may have lost some kilowatts and decibels, the true advantage of the supercharged six is a refined and tractable powerplant that offers a fuel saving of 26 percent over its predecessor. Combined fuel consumption is a claimed 9.6 l/100km.
If you push the car though, it will drink accordingly (we averaged 13.4 l/100km).
Suspension: Audi still hasn’t found the sweet spot in its sporting sedans and hatches when it comes to Australian roads.
Again, it’s better than the last S4, which threatened to rattle molars from clenched jaws, but the ride is still overly firm on corrugations and uneven surfaces.
Put the current S4 on a winding road though, and it will atone for its rough around-town ride: the large four-door sitting neutral on cambered corners, its 18-inch 245/40s gripping tenaciously at the edge of traction.
The cashed-up enthusiast can solve some of these issues with a $6700 sports pack. This adds a rear limited-slip differential (LSD), adjustable suspension damping, sharper steering, and quicker gearbox shifts at the touch of a console-mounted button. (But it already has the S badge; the S button should really be a standard fixture.)
Braking: An uprated disc package fills out the 18-inch alloys, producing great hauling power with little fade after repeated use.
ANCAP rating: 5 stars
Safety features: Front, side and curtain airbags, front load limiter/pretensioner seatbelts, rear pretensioner seatbelts, active headrests, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, traction control, and electronic stability control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3yr + roadside assist
Service costs: TBC
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 335i ($110,000) – The BMW could be called the lesser car: less weight, less fuel consumption, less driven wheels (but masses of grip), less power at 225kW, and, yes, costs $10K less. So less is more… (see 3 Series reviews)
Lexus IS F ($126,800) – An impressive 5.0-litre V8 and matching throaty vocals, but some still can’t shell out this amount for a close cousin of Toyota, no matter how good it is. (see Lexus IS reviews)
Audi S5 (from $138,900) – A 4.2 litre V8 offering a roaring 260kW at a free-revving 7000rpm peak. But the rear seat is cramped.
It also comes in a manual and in a coupe bodystyle (the Sportback), whereas you’re stuck with one body and one polarizing dual-clutch tranny with the S4.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As the niche within a niche, the S4 is very well executed.
It’s fast, makes wonderful noises and is superbly built. But, ultimately, the S4 is an Autobahn-touring master that most will find too firm and uncompromising for our potholed city roads and lumpy byways.
However, step up with the adaptive damper package and you have a more polished ride in the rough, and a diamond on the open road.