2013 AUDI S4 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium Performance Wagon
Price: $123,400 (plus on-roads) | $131,950 (tested)
Engine/trans: 245kW/440Nm 3.0 litre supercharged V6 / seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 8.4 l/100km | tested: 12.5 l/100km
There’s something intrinsically cool about fast Audi station wagons. Other manufacturers have a crack from time to time (AMG C and E 63s anyone?) but Audi did it first, does it most, and has always done it well.
This one here is the S4 Avant.
Starting $26,000 below the V8 RS 4, it lacks the blistered wheelarches and aggressive body treatment of its meaner, muscled-up brother.
But don't be fooled by appearances. The S4 Avant still manages a bullet-quick 5.1 second 0-100km sprint clothed in a body that is near-identical to the regular A4 Avant’s optional ‘S line’ dress-up package.
You also still get the famed 'Quattro' all-wheel drivetrain and seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission, but with a slightly more PC 3.0 litre supercharged V6 under the bonnet.
Our Misano Red tester was optioned up to a $131,950 sticker price, which included 19-inch 5-rotor wheels (part of the $3900 Sports Package) that add a big slab of horn over the standard 18s.
Quality: Little needs to be said of the S4’s interior quality. Audi does interiors well, and the S4’s high-grade blend of aluminium and piano-black trim, with smart leather throughout imparts an unmistakeable feel of solidity, class and durability.
Comfort: Our S4 came with the Sports Package, which includes S sports seats and door-trims in Nappa leather, with the seats offering an excellent balance of comfort and support.
Cabin ergonomics are excellent, though the depth of menus available in the multimedia and trip-computer interfaces can take some getting used to.
Rear seat accommodation is in line with expectations of a mid-sizer, and the centre seat position isn’t overly compromised by the sculpted outboard positions.
Equipment: The S4 comes loaded with plenty of luxury and convenience features, including cruise control, xenon plus headlights, high-beam assist, switchable stop/start, hold assist, proximity key, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, electric tailgate, auto wipers and headlights, three-zone climate-control, heated mirrors, satnav, 20GB multimedia player, and bluetooth telephony and audio.
Our test S4 also came with digital TV reception ($2200) and heated front seats ($800).
Storage: Like all A4 Avants, the S4 has bottle holders in each door, and cupholders front and rear. Cargo volume is 490 litres with the seats-up and 1430 litres seats-down. A spacesaver spare lies beneath the cargo floor while braked tow capacity is a useful 2100kg.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The S4’s 245kW/440Nm supercharged 3.0 V6 offers fuss-free, bullet-quick performance.
Its linear power delivery is free of the off-idle whack of most modern turbo units; it comes on stream more like a large capacity naturally-aspirated V8.
Maximum torque is available from 2900-5300rpm, while max power arrives at 5500rpm.
Paired with the seven-speed S tronic dual clutch auto, this broad torque band, abundance of ratios and willingness to downshift make it easy to keep the S4 on the boil, particularly with Sport mode selected on the gate.
Sport mode makes shifts snappier and delivers satisfying big-rev downshifts under heavy braking. Manual selection is available by the stick or paddle shifters, but S mode will be a match for most drivers.
Even in full auto-mode, the S4 is untroubled by inclines and overtaking is a cinch. Floor the pedal at any speed and the S4 simply gets up and bolts.
But with a kerb weight of 1825kg to haul around, your enthusiasm can come at a price.
The 12.5 l/100km fuel consumption we recorded was well behind the S4’s 8.4 l/100km official combined figure, but we spent plenty of time enjoying what the S4 does best.
Sensible day-to-day driving would likely see consumption drop considerably.
Refinement: Like all modern Audis, the S4 imparts a feeling of being cut from stone. Robust, refined and quiet, at highway speeds the S4 wafts along like any other A4.
Whine from the supercharger is barely detectable, and a subtle V6 snarl is only evident under heavy throttle
Suspension: The standard S4 suspension tune fitted to our tester is tighter and sharper than the standard A4 and S-line setups.
Our S4 was also optioned with Audi’s ‘Drive Select’ with dynamic steering and quattro sports differential ($4700), which enables the driver to choose between efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic, and individual modes.
These modes varied the behaviour of our S4’s transmission, throttle, steering and quattro drivetrain, but we reckon adaptive dampers for a further $2000 would give a true multi-personality experience.
Regardless of mode, we found the electrohydraulic steering to be feather-light at slow carpark speeds, and nicely weighted above about 80km/h.
The S4’s ride is firm but not harsh around town, but on a winding road really comes into its own.
In fact, you soon forget you’re driving a mid-size station wagon. The S4 Avant changes direction like a hot hatch; it's only the odd wiggle from the rear under heavy acceleration that betrays the quattro system’s 60:40 rear torque bias.
Braking: Uprated 345mm front/330mm rear discs provided fade-free performance on test, proving well suited to the S4 Avant’s 1825kg girth.
ANCAP rating: Not tested
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: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Service intervals are set for every 12 months/15,000km. The cost of scheduled servicing can vary, so consult your local Audi dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 535i Touring ($126,300) - In the absence if a F31 335i Touring, the bigger 5 is BMW’s nearest performance wagon to the S4 Avant. RWD only and 0.8s slower to 100km/h but a very rewarding drive.
It's also a whole segment larger for less than $3k more in base trim and returns 7.9l/100km. (see 5 Series reviews)
Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Estate ($156,900) - Starting more than $30k up on the S4, the 1795kg C 63 sprints to 100km 0.6s faster despite being RWD. Its 6.2 litre V8 is unrivalled for character and sound but consumes 12.3 l/100km. (see C-Class reviews)
HSV Clubsport R8 Tourer auto ($74,500) - At the other end of the price scale - and brilliant buying - the 'Clubbie' is a near match for the S4 on raw performance.
The 1887kg RWD HSV offers plenty of space, but, at half the price, it ultimately lacks the finesse of the Germans and drinks 13.9 l/100km. (see HSV reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Audi’s S4 Avant: it's a proper wolf in sheep’s clothing.
A comfortable, practical, and relatively unassuming tourer when you want it to be, Audi's sleeper wagon is nevertheless capable of eye-watering performance at just the flex of your right foot.
In the world of performance wagons, the S4 Avant is a seriously good drive, seriously fast, and equally seriously comfortable. In this, it takes the game up to its RS 4 big brother.
If your budget stretches to its $123,400 starting point and you’re after a mix of performance, pleasure, style, and practicality, go and have a steer for yourself.
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