by Sebastian Cenizo
Luxury sports sedans are a big market these days, but one of the original contenders in this arena is the venerable Audi S4, a car that meets every need and offers some thrills too. However, as rivals like the BMW M340i and Alfa Romeo Giulia demonstrate, those thrills should not be limited just to straight-line speed. Nevertheless, as fun as those alternatives can be, the S4 has lots going for it too. A 3.0-liter V6, which is turbocharged to produce 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, powers all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Inside, a simple yet stunning cabin greets you, but is all that enough? Let's see what we can learn about the new model.
Last year saw the 2020 Audi S4 get a new design in the USA and a new infotainment system, but the engine was unchanged. The updates for the new version of the B8 shape are similarly restrained, with just the addition of wireless Apple CarPlay as standard, along with lane departure warning and a new integrated toll module. The Convenience package now adds a heated steering wheel and parking sensors, while the Premium Plus trim gains adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and a surround-view camera while the top trim gets heated rear seats.
It's pretty much impossible to determine that you're looking at the 2021 model if you're trying to find changes for the new Audi S4 B8, but that's no bad thing. LED headlights with integrated DRLs are standard along with a power sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and LED taillights. Various aluminum-look accents set the S4 apart from the A4 models, while a unique Singleframe grille with subtle vents above it also helps the new model stand out. At the rear, a subtle faux diffuser houses a quad-exit exhaust arrangement while an integrated trunk spoiler adds some sportiness. 19-inch wheels and a package with gloss black accents are optional. Sadly there's no Avant wagon model available unless you go for the A4 allroad.
Another area in which the new Audi S4 is unchanged is its dimensions. The whole car measures 187.5 inches in length from nose to tail with a wheelbase of 111 inches. Height is 56.2 inches while the width with the mirrors included measures 79.6 inches. Curb weight is also unchanged at 3,847 pounds, making it a little heavier than the Mercedes-AMG C43.
No new colors are offered for the 2021 model year, so you're stuck with Ibis White or Quantum Gray if you are not wanting to spend extra on paint. If you're after something more vibrant, however, one of the best choices is Turbo Blue. Other options include Daytona Gray pearl and metallic options like Glacier White, Mythos Black, Navarra Blue, and Tango Red. All of these cost $595 each across all trim levels.
All versions of the S4 feature the same engine with the same output. The Audi S4 has a turbo strapped to a 3.0-liter V6 and produces 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, all of which is harnessed with the aid of a quattro all-wheel-drive system and an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic perfotransmission - no manual is available, and Audi doesn't have a switchable AWD system like its rivals. Still, it's an impressive machine, with the Audi S4's performance promising 0-60 mph times of 4.4 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. These figures are pretty good, and the Audi S4 sedan will return them time and time again. However, most Audi S4 reviews will concede that the car seems a little docile and a little unassuming. For impressive performance in the suit of a sleeper, the S4 is good, but it certainly won't set your hair on fire the way a Giulia can.
The S4 is fitted with a turbocharged 3.0-liter TFSI engine with 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque across all trim levels. All models also feature an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, and it's very, very good - but it's not quite the greatest. Sure, it changes up quickly and smoothly, with little hesitation, but it's that hint of hesitation that keeps it from being among the absolute best. Still, it's not offensive at all, and you'll find that it can be left to its own devices without frustrating you. Switch to manual mode, and it's more engaging, with sharp changes and an almost indiscernible pause between shifts. The engine is good too, but the quiet cabin of the S4 further muffles the characterless motor, especially if you opt for the top trim as it comes with dual-pane acoustic glass for the front windows. At least the engine is a strong one, with minimal turbo lag and quick responses to the inputs of your right foot. That said, it lacks the excitement of the old B5 with its twin-turbo 2.7 V6 or the addictive grumble of the RS4's V8.
Neither the B6 nor the B7 generations of the S4 had outstanding handling, but the current B8 has grip for days. There's little that flusters the Audi S4's quattro all-wheel-drive system, even on the most difficult roads. Sure, you can't slide this thing like you would a Giulia or M340i, but the S4's uncompromising commitment to going around corners fast can be just as rewarding. The steering is incredibly accurate, and although not as great as older hydraulic setups, it still gives a decent level of feedback. In addition, it combines this impressive performance with a surprisingly supple chassis that offers impeccable ride comfort, even on broken or corrugated asphalt. If you want an even better experience, an adaptive damping suspension offering is available, but you do have to spend extra on either the mid-range or top trim for this to become available. When it comes to braking, the S4 falls behind a bit. The brakes are strong, but at city speeds, they can feel a little too sharp, while harder driving returns a softer pedal feel. If Audi could reverse these two experiences, the S4 would be near-perfect.
Gas mileage figures for the S4 have been estimated by the EPA as 20/28/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 15.3-gallon gas tank, that will mean you should achieve around 352 miles of range with mixed driving. The Merc C43 has a bigger tank and will thus return greater range, but it achieves slightly worse figures of 19/27/22 mpg.
The Audi S4 has a simple, functional, yet attractive cabin that is near perfect. It looks good and feels roomy, and standard equipment like heated and massaging 12-way power-adjustable front seats enhance the comfortable ambiance. Speaking of ambiance, you get mood lighting as standard, along with a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display, but it's worth noting that you need to get at least the mid-level Premium Plus trim for the 12.3-inch configurable driver info display as standard. Still, the leather and Alcantara upholstery are attractive enough that you may still settle for the standard seven-inch display.
The S4 seats five without much hassle, thanks to large door openings that make ingress and egress easy. Once inside, the seats are comfortable and are suitable even for taller individuals confined to the back. In the front, those 12-way power-adjustable seats offer a great balance between comfort and support, even if you're of a larger frame. The side bolsters aren't too aggressive and can be adjusted too, while headroom and legroom are similarly impressive. A car that offers good comfort and room for both rows of passengers is a rare thing, but Audi's mission with the S4 seems to have been perfecting the basics, and for the most part, Ingolstadt has done so brilliantly.
All models of the S4 come with a mix of leather and Alcantara inside, with the seats especially notable for their diamond-stitched quilting pattern. This comes in Black with Rock Gray stitching or Rotor Gray with Anthracite stitching. Brushed aluminum interior inlays are standard too. On all trims but the base, the center console and door armrests also feature a leatherette upholstery finish. These higher trims also get access to Nappa leather in the same color schemes as the base model or Magma Red with Magma Red and Granite Gray stitching. These high-quality options cost $1,000 each. Carbon Atlas decorative inlays are also available in place of aluminum on these trims, but they cost an extra 500 bucks.
The S4's 12 cubic-foot trunk is below average and is one of the smallest in the segment, but it's still enough for three large suitcases and some sundries. A cool feature that makes packing the trunk easier is that the arms of the trunk lid move away from the opening. In addition, the rear seats drop at the press of a button in a 40/20/40 split. A hands-free trunk lid is an added layer of convenience, but it is optional on the base model.
In the cabin, four cupholders are provided along with center armrest storage and a spot in the front for your phone. There are also reasonable door pockets and a decently-sized glovebox.
As standard, there's plenty fitted to even the base S4. Equipment includes automatic LED headlights with auto high beams, a rearview camera, 12-way heated and massaging power-adjustable front seats, lane departure warning, forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, keyless ignition, and rain-sensing wipers. You also get a power sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, LED ambient lighting, and power-folding heated wing mirrors. Available features include a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display, keyless entry, a hands-free trunk, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning, parking sensors, park assist, lane keep assist, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and ventilated front seats. Also available are specs like rear sunshades, adaptive dampers, a sport rear diff, dynamic steering, traffic sign recognition, a head-up display, and Matrix-design LED headlights with animation.
All 2021 Audi S4 models come with a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, Bluetooth, and two USB ports. A ten-speaker sound system is also standard. The system responds quickly to inputs and is easy to navigate, but some may find that reaching the far corners of the screen from the pilot's position will require some leaning if you don't want to use the steering controls. Available enhancements include SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation, wireless charging, two rear USB ports for charging, and a 19-speaker 3D sound system from Bang & Olufsen.
Thus far, neither the 2020 nor the 2021 Audi S4 have suffered any recalls whatsoever.
Should something uncharacteristically go wrong, the S4 gets coverage in the form of a limited and powertrain warranty that protects you for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. One year or 10,000 miles of complimentary scheduled maintenance is included too.
Thus far, the 2021 S4 has not been comprehensively rated by the NHTSA, but the 2020 version did achieve a full five stars for rollover safety. Over at the IIHS, no recent safety evaluations have taken place with the last test conducted by the agency applying to the old 2011 model. However, the similar 2020 Audi A4's safety review resulted in a spread of Good ratings for all major crashworthiness tests, so the S4 should prove equally safe.
If the above safety ratings (or lack thereof) concern you, rest easy. Standard equipment includes LED headlights with auto high beams, rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, lane departure warning, and forward collision detection with autonomous emergency braking. Six airbags for frontal, side-impact, and curtain protection are also included. Rear side-impact airbags are optional, as are features like lane keep assist, a surround-view camera, parking sensors, a head-up display, park assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and vehicle exit warning, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, and traffic sign recognition. Matrix-design LED headlights are also available. Moving up to the mid-range Premium Plus adds many of these features by default, such as vehicle exit warning and adaptive cruise control.
The Audi S4 is impeccably built and is a rather attractive car these days. With leather and Alcantara upholstery as standard in a cabin that boasts a simple layout with a splash of modern tech, it's a great place to be. Sitting behind the wheel is a rewarding experience, too, as the highly capable sports sedan has unbelievable levels of grip, a compliant yet sporty chassis setup, and a powerful engine. There is a comprehensive roster of standard features and the impressive available options also make a good case for the S4. However, the lack of aural stimulation and the rather boring handling characteristics of the Audi may deter some. The small trunk is also a detraction from the car's excellence, and the brakes will take some getting used to. Overall, the S4 does exactly what it's built for, but it does very little to stir the soul. Hence, we'd recommend a test drive of its rivals before signing on the dotted line, but we also wouldn't judge you too harshly if you did pull the trigger. This car is a smart choice, just not an exciting one.
The price of the new Audi S4 sees no changes for the cheapest model, which is on sale for $49,900 before a $995 destination charge. The Premium Plus's price has gone up slightly, and the cost for the mid-level Audi S4 is now $53,500. The top Prestige trim has seen a slight reduction in cost and now goes for $58,200. Fully loaded with options, the S4 will approach the $68,000 mark.
The 2021 S4 is available in three trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. All are powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 with 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox sends power to all four corners via a quattro AWD system.
The base Premium model features LED headlights, 18-inch wheels, a sound system with ten speakers, a seven-inch driver info display, a 10.1-inch infotainment display, diamond-stitched leather and Alcantara upholstery, heated and massaging front seats, and tri-zone climate control.
The mid-level Premium Plus gets a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display, SiriusXM satellite radio capability, wireless charging, keyless entry, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, a hands-free trunk, and a surround-view camera.
At the pinnacle of the lineup is the Prestige trim, which boasts navigation, a Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker sound system, Matrix-design LED headlights with animation, lane keep assist, heated rear seats, traffic sign recognition, park assist, dual-pane acoustic glass on the windows at the front, and extended LED ambient lighting.
Various additional packages are available for the S4, but pricing has not yet been announced. Nevertheless, let's have a look at some of the standout options. 19-inch wheels are available on all trims, but only one decent package is available on the base model, and it's the Convenience package. This equips keyless entry with a hands-free trunk lid, memory for the driver's seat, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Available on the mid-level and top trims is the S sport package. This adds red brake calipers, adaptive sport suspension, and a quattro sport rear differential. The Cold Weather package is also worth considering, adding heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, but keep in mind that you'll lose the flat-bottomed steering wheel with this package.
The base model isn't bad, and the top trim offers a wealth of standard equipment, but our choice has to be the mid-level Premium Plus trim. Not only does this model get access to most of the top trim's features, but it also boasts enough as standard to make it a great daily companion. With a 12.3-inch configurable TFT driver info display, wireless charging, keyless entry, parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, and a better interior thanks to leatherette surfaces in some additional places, this model is attractive, comfortable, and well equipped. You may wish to add some features like navigation and heated rear seats, but even in standard form, this is the pick of the bunch.
The Audi S5 Sportback is a great alternative to the S4 if you're looking for a little more style and practicality. Underneath the skin, both share the same 3.0-liter turbo V6 with quattro AWD and an eight-speed auto, but the S5 offers more usable trunk space thanks to a large rear hatch. However, this shape does impact rear headroom, and the S5 is a good 78 pounds heavier. In addition, the S5 is a couple of grand pricier, with base models starting at $52,500. Inside, the cabin layout is almost identical to that of the S4, and the driving experience isn't much different either. Unless you really need the added practicality of that rear hatch or are totally besotted with the looks of the S5, we'd opt for the cheaper and lighter S4.
If you're after a fun, fast, four-door Audi, may we suggest the S3 sedan? Sure, it doesn't have a V6, but the S4's motor isn't all that spine-tingling in any case. Instead, the S3 comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, although quattro all-wheel-drive remains. This helps it return an average of two mpg more on the EPA's test cycles, and you only have to deal with a loss of two cubic feet of trunk space. In addition, we have to say that the S3 is arguably a far better-looking machine, and its cabin that angles controls towards the driver is far more user-friendly. In addition, it gets to 60 just two tenths slower than the S4 and has the same top speed. With a base price almost seven grand lower than that of its bigger brother, the S3 is simply better all-round.