by Sebastian Cenizo
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.
Audi's new design language is more of an evolution than a renaissance, but the S4 required an update anyway and the new look is satisfyingly "2020". Newly standard LED headlights in a fresh design feature along with a new grille and a front fascia that includes a subtle triple intake slot below the hood. The usual Audi Sport features like aluminum-look mirrors and accents also feature, while the rear has new taillights and a trunk spoiler. A quad-exit exhaust and a more prominent diffuser round off the exterior styling along with 18-inch wheels, with 19-inch rims optional. A Black Optic package adds gloss black window trim, mirror caps, and other accents, while sun-worshippers will be happy to know that a power sunroof is standard.
The S4 is not Audi's smallest sedan, but it is relatively compact and well-proportioned. Overall length measures 187.5 inches from end to end with a wheelbase between the hubs of 111 inches on the dot. Height is quoted at 56.2 inches and the width measurement, which includes the mirrors, is 79.6 inches. Curb weight starts at 3,847 lbs, 22 lbs heavier than the Mercedes-AMG C43 sedan.
The S4 gives you two no-cost paint options: Ibis White and Quantum Gray. However, we'd be inclined to splash out on one of the other six options at $595. These include Turbo Blue, a color that really makes the S4 look more youthful. Other options include metallic finishes like Glacier White, Mythos Black, Navarra Blue, and the joyfully named Tango Red. A pearl finish is also available in Daytona Gray. Pricing for the colors and availability of colors is the same across the S4's three trims, so no one will be able to tell if you skimped and got the cheapest model just by looking at the paint.
Regardless of which trim level you opt for, all variations of the S4 are equally good performers. 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque from the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 is sent to all four wheels. This makes the sports sedan capable of a 0-60 mph sprint that takes just 4.4 seconds. Keep your right foot buried in the firewall and the S4 keeps pulling until 155 mph - electronically limited. Competitors like Mercedes-AMG have clearly seen the benefit of all-wheel-drive and how it makes breathtaking performance more accessible to the masses, and their C43 also employs a system that powers each wheel. Despite having more power and more torque, that car gets to 60 mph a tenth slower than the S4, with the same top speed limitation provided you've fitted summer tires. The S4 is, despite its Sport styling upgrades over the A4, an unassuming vehicle that can up and go at the drop of a hat yet remain composed enough to use every day in comfort. That kind of appeal is undeniable.
The Audi S4's engine is carried over from last year, but we have no complaints about that. The 3.0-liter TFSI V6 engine produces 349 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, with an eight-speed automatic transmission controlling outputs. At lower revs, the engine feels a little lethargic, but a split-second later, a wave of torque and acceleration propels you towards the horizon in style. Leave the transmission to do its thing and each gearshift comes at just the right time, almost negating the need for paddles on the straights. In the corners, downshifts are smooth, sharp, and sublimely timed too. Naturally, keen drivers may want to take over gearshift control, and such individuals will be happily obliged by a responsive gearbox that reacts to commands as and when you make them. Whether in auto or manual mode, the acceleration is strong from the line and in gear on the freeway, but the engine lacks character. In terms of vocals, the exhaust note is notably muffled. This means that progress seems brisk until you check your speed and realize that you're in triple digits and ought to back off. On the top Prestige model with its dual-pane front windows, the absence of noise leaves an even bigger hole. On the plus side, when you want to just cruise, the S4 becomes a perfectly quiet companion.
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 S4 has respectable EPA estimates of 20/27/23 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Coupled with a 15.3-gallon gas tank, expected range with mixed driving can be estimated at around 352 miles. By comparison, the Mercedes-AMG C43 returns 19/27/22 mpg on the same cycles. However, it has a larger 17.4-gallon gas tank, thus offering a mixed range of approximately 382 miles between fillups.
As always, Audi's interior design is equally balanced between minimalism and cutting-edge advances. The fit and finish are exemplary, and the interior trimming specialists haven't been shy with the use of leather and Alcantara. 12-way power-adjustable seats in front boast massaging and heating as standard too, and the interior is not cramped, even for the three passengers that can be seated in the back. The 10.1-inch infotainment system, a new addition to the standard equipment list for 2020, is also a vast improvement over the old system. Numerous options are also available, including a 12.3-inch driver info display and a head-up display.
The S4 officially seats five. Accessing the seats comes via large door openings that make clambering in and out easy. Once seated, the driver has 12 seating adjustments to play with that include height, reclining degree, and lumbar support. The passenger gets the same treatment, and both have a great view out of all windows. Headroom and legroom are impressively accommodating, even for those with a larger frame. In the back, three adults will sit close together but are not crammed like sardines and six-footers sitting behind someone of similar stature will still be able to wiggle their legs.
As standard, the S4's diamond-stitched sport seats are trimmed in leather with Alcantara centers. The leather comes in black with Rock Gray stitching, or in Rotor Gray with Anthracite stitching. The decorative inlays that feature on the dash and doors come in a brushed aluminum finish as standard with carbon fiber available at $500, but not on the base model. If you want to spend double that amount, Nappa leather can be optioned in the same colors as the standard setup, or in a more daring Magma Red with Magma Red and Granite Gray stitching. The Premium Plus trim adds a leatherette to the center console and door armrests too.
The Audi S4 features a 12 cubic-foot trunk. Although not the biggest in the segment, it's capacious enough for you to fit three large suitcases and some extra carry-on luggage. Aiding practicality is a large trunk opening and trunk lid support arms that stay out of the way of any items by slipping into the walls of the trunk. The rear seats also drop at the push of a button in a 40/20/40 split, and the mid-level Premium Plus trim also adds a hands-free trunk as a bonus.
In the cabin, large cupholders in the front and at the back serve occupants while a central bin and armrest storage are supplemented by a small try for your key or loose change. The door pockets and the glovebox are not the biggest but they're reasonable enough.
As standard, the S4 features 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats with a massaging function, a power sunroof, and tri-zone climate control. You also get a seven-inch driver info display on the base model, while higher trims earn a 12.3-inch configurable digital driver display. Across the range, keyless ignition, rain-sensing wipers, automatic LED headlights with high beam assist, cruise control, and heated mirrors are standard. Ambient lighting is also standard, but the top trim gets an extended ambient lighting package for free. In terms of safety, a rearview camera and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking as standard, while higher trims earn features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, a head-up display, LED Matrix headlights, automatic parking assist, and a surround-view camera. Other optionally available equipment includes power-folding wing mirrors, memory for the driver's seat, adaptive dampers, a sports rear differential, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, rear sunshades, headlight washers, and keyless entry.
All 2020 S4 variants come with a 10.1-inch touchscreen MMI infotainment system. Before we get to its features, we have to mention that the screen looks like a cheap aftermarket add-on rather than a considered factor in the design process and its distance from the driver is a little awkward. It's a blemish on an otherwise lovely interior. Fortunately, steering wheel controls and a central rotary knob can be used for most inputs.
As standard, the system is hooked up to 10 speakers and features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, and a pair of USB ports for connectivity and charging. Further up the trim ladder, options like SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation, USB ports for rear-seat passengers, wireless charging, and a Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker sound system become standard.
The Audi S4 has been impressively reliable over the past couple of years, with the last recall being issued for the 2018 model. The issue at hand was a passenger airbag that may switch off, but since that recall in July of 2019, no further issues have presented themselves.
Should any problems arise, the S4 is backed by a four-year/50,000-mile limited and powertrain warranty. A single complimentary scheduled maintenance visit is covered over the first year or first 10,000 miles of ownership too.
The IIHS last crash-tested an Audi S4 when the 2011 model was a new thing and the NHTSA has also not tested the 2020 model fully. In the rollover test that the NHTSA did conduct, however, a full five stars out of five were awarded.
As standard, the S4's focus is more on luxury and performance features than on maximizing safety. However, you still get the obligatory rearview camera plus six airbags (frontal, side-impact, and curtain), and forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking. Further up the range, features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and a vehicle exit warning, parking sensors, a surround-view camera, and lane-keep assist become standard. Adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, adaptive LED Matrix headlights, automatic parking assistance, and traffic-sign recognition are also available. Rear side airbags are also available as an option, taking the total to eight.
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.
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.
The 2020 Audi S4 is currently available in three trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige.
All are powered by the same 349-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 369 lb-ft of torque, and all are exclusively available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and quattro all-wheel-drive.
The base model comes with LED headlights, heated S Sport seats with massage functionality, a sunroof, tri-zone climate control, a seven-inch driver info display, and a leather and Alcantara upholstery finish. The infotainment system is a 10.1-inch MMI touch display with Apple and Android connectivity, HD Radio, a pair of USB ports, and a 10-speaker sound system. Ambient lighting, heated mirrors, and cruise control also feature.
The Premium Plus builds on the base model by adding a 12.3-inch driver info display, SiriusXM satellite radio, wireless charging and smartphone signal boosting, keyless entry, a hands-free trunk, and a number of safety features that include parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring.
The top trim is the Prestige and this adds to the Premium Plus with features like navigation, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, adaptive LED Matrix headlights with washers, extended ambient lighting, park assist, and a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The base model has access to the Convenience package for $1,500. This adds keyless entry, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, memory for the driver's seat, and SiriusXM satellite radio. On the mid-level and top trims, the Black optic package is opened up as an option. It costs $1,400 and adds unique 19-inch wheels, gloss black mirrors housings, and gloss black window trim. These more expensive models also have access to the S Sport package for $2,500. This package adds red brake calipers, adaptive damping suspension, and a sport rear differential. Other packages available here are the Cold Weather package ($500) with its heated rear seats and heated steering wheel and the Warm Weather package ($650) with ventilated front seats and rear-window sunshades. However, if you spec this last package, you lose the diamond-stitched upholstery and massaging functions.
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.
Check out some informative Audi S4 Sedan video reviews below.