Quick, capable, comfortable. The Audi S4 is one of those cars that does exactly what it says on the tin. Powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, the all-wheel-drive luxury sports sedan produces 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. As is the trend, no manual gearbox is available, but you do get the ability to manually shift the excellent eight-speed automatic transmission. With a sumptuous leather and Alcantara interior as standard, as well as a number of standard and available luxury features, the S4 is the last car you'll ever need. Or is it? Rivals like the Alfa Romeo Guilia are determined to convince buyers that a car needs soul and passion to be truly great, and as good as the S4 is, it lacks emotion. In terms of cons, that's not the worst thing someone can say about your car, but when rivals also include the BMW M340i and Mercedes-AMG C43, Audi can't afford to rest on its laurels.
The most obvious changes for the 2020 model year are aesthetic. A new exterior design that falls in line with the updated language for Audi brings the new S4 into 2020 and allows the connection to other models to shine through. New wheel designs also add some flair, but the powertrain is unchanged from that of the 2019 model. If it ain't broke… On the inside, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a new 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system are the most notable highlights.
The Audi S4 is available in three variants, with the cheapest being the Premium. This model starts at $49,900 before a destination charge of $995. The mid-level Premium Plus model starts at $52,400 while the top trim, the Prestige, costs $58,350. Fully loaded with options and flashy appearance add-ons, and the S4 is a $68,000 car.
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Gone are the days of Audi being the only all-wheel-drive sports sedan. Despite this, the quattro all-wheel-drive system isn't what most people would call engaging. With decades of experience, you may want to flay Audi for not creating a more engaging and fun all-wheel-drive system, but before you disregard the S4 as a vehicle devoid of any emotion, it should be noted that this car is nevertheless the culmination of constant refinement. The result is a car that sticks like glue.
Turn in at speed with your right foot applying pressure to the gas pedal and the S4 whips itself around corners with alarming accuracy and nonchalance. The steering provides a reasonable level of response and the chassis just stays level and eats corners up with ease. When you want to take it slow or need to traverse broken pavement, the S4 is surprisingly compliant, with a ride that could well be mistaken for a far less performance-oriented vehicle. Optionally available is an adaptive damping setup that allows for more firmness when you need to further reduce body roll and more comfort when you want the road to fade beneath you. One aspect of the S4's drive that lets it down slightly is the braking system. Although it's highly responsive and effective, the pedal is a little grabby at lower speeds.
The Audi S4 is arguably one of the most underrated vehicles in this segment. Its balance between a composed and comfortable ride and vicious acceleration with physics-defying cornering ability are truly remarkable. In addition, the spacious interior that boasts heated seats with massaging in front as standard is a case study in simplicity and elegance. The S4 doesn't shout about its abilities, and it takes wringing the engine out for you to hear the kinds of noises that likely drew you to fast cars in the first place, but for the individual who wants a sleeper sedan off the showroom floor, there's little that can accelerate like this thing. Coupled with a brilliant chassis that is both sharp and comfortable, and the S4 is a highly attractive option. Add to that an impressively long list of standard features and numerous available options that include a range of wheel designs and interior upholstery finishes, and there is no reason not to buy the brilliant but boring S4. Unless you like having fun.
All versions of the S4 perform equally well, and all feature leather and a good number of convenience and comfort features. But our pick would be the mid-level Premium Plus model. It gains the larger and more visually stunning 12.3-inch driver info display. In addition, this model gains SiriusXM satellite radio, the Audi phone box with wireless charging and a signal booster, rear-seat USB ports, and keyless entry. In addition, you get parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning, power-folding mirrors, and memory for the driver's seat. More options are also available than on the base variant, but as is, the Premium Plus is well equipped and relatively affordable.
The Mercedes-AMG rivalry with Audi Sport is often overlooked, as most comparisons compare BMW's M division to either of these brands, but these cars are remarkably similar in size and performance. The Merc is the pricier of the two, starting at a base cost of $55,950. It too is powered by a 3.0-liter V6, albeit with two turbochargers, resulting in 385 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque versus 349 and 369 respectively in the Audi. It also offers options like a head-up display, adaptive LED headlights, and a 12.3-inch driver info display, but it lags in the infotainment department where its system is unintuitive and finicky. Yet despite being fitted with an all-wheel-drive system just like in the Audi, the C43 is a much more fun and engaging car, even allowing experienced drivers to kick the tail out thanks to a rearward torque bias. Despite this, we'd give our vote to the Audi. It's more economical, faster, much more modern inside, and is arguably fresher on the outside too. It also isn't marred by bone-shaking suspension like the C43 is. Audi 1, Mercedes 0.
The Audi S5 Sportback is the S4's bigger brother. It's more spacious and practical thanks to a cargo area that features a hatchback type liftgate and at least 21.8 cubic feet of volume, almost 10 more than you get in the S4. Despite being considerably larger, the base price is only $2,000 higher and you get the same engine and drivetrain with the same output. Despite its increased weight, the S5 is just one-tenth sleepier in the sprint from 0-60 mph. Many of the same features and options are available and interior space is surprisingly good, despite the sloping roofline. In terms of appearance, the S4 is a more traditional yet arguably more handsome looking thing, while the S5 appears a little bloated. Nevertheless, for those who are looking for more practicality, the S5 is a good buy. If you don't need the extra space, stick with the cheaper and just as good S4.
The most popular competitors of 2020 Audi S4 Sedan: