Audi S4 review 2021

The S4 is a sporty saloon and estate car based on Audi’s executive A4 model

£24,249
Average price
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2
Out of 5

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Well-built interior
  • Spacious interior

Cons

  • Expensive to buy
  • Automatic gearbox isn’t the best
  • Some may find styling too subtle
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

Audi’s ‘S’ models have always aimed to be performance cars that you can truly use every day, combining a swift and sporty drive with useful practicality. That’s always been the case for the Audi S4 – an appealing saloon and estate car that’s combined the roominess of the regular A4 with a bigger engine, more power and also the firm’s famed quattro all-wheel-drive system. 

The S4 has been around since 1991, and we’re now in the model’s sixth generation, which is often known as the B9. Arriving in 2017, this latest generation featured a new 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol initially, as well as more modern styling and a high tech interior that felt a big upgrade from its predecessor.

Latest model

For 2019, Audi updated the S4 alongside its A4 sibling. The biggest difference actually concerned what’s under the bonnet, with Audi swapping the model’s 3.0-litre petrol for a new mild-hybrid diesel of the same capacity. It was a controversial move for the firm, especially at a time when diesel was falling out of favour with buyers, not least in a performance car. 

Inside, it gained a reworked 10.1-inch touchscreen running on the brand’s latest operating system, while design changes included a larger Singleframe grille, revised bumpers and also a fancy new LED light signature that helps to differentiate the S4 from its predecessor. 

Value for money

With the S4 being a powerful sporty estate car, it’s no surprise that prices for it are quite steep, with a brand-new version costing from £48,960, or £50,360 for the Avant estate model. While quite pricey on paper, you do get plenty of pace and equipment as standard – including heated and leather sports seats, digital dials and a large touchscreen. Prices rise to nearly £60,000 for the top-spec Vorsprung, though that gets loads of equipment – including adaptive sports suspension, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and a panoramic sunroof to name just a few features. 

You’ll still need around £7,000 to get behind the wheel of an old S4, though used versions of the latest generation start from around £24,000, with another few thousand pounds needed for the more desirable Avant models. There are some great discounts off nearly-new versions, too. We saw various six month old S4s from around £38,000, which represents a significant five-figure saving over the list price. 

Looks and image

The S4 is a perfect example of how subtle a performance car can look, as despite slightly tweaked bumpers and badging – and the four-exit exhaust system at the rear – there aren’t many cues to set it aside from the A4. That’s all part of the S4’s appeal, though, in contrast to the noticeably sportier-looking RS4 that sits above this model. 

Inside, the S4 is a perfect blend of up-to-date technology and quality, with its cabin arguably being one of the best in Audi’s current range. All versions come with an excellent digital dial screen and large touchscreen, both of which offer super-sharp graphics and are very easy to use. High quality materials also appear throughout, while standard-fit leather sports seats add to the luxurious feel of the cabin. 

Behind the wheel, the S4’s performance will leave you wanting for little. While a diesel engine might put some buyers off, this engine feels every bit as rapid as a petrol, yet doesn’t feel anywhere near as ‘diesely’ as you might expect, helped by a sportier-sounding exhaust system. While smooth, rapid and comfortable, it’s never especially exciting to drive, and the automatic gearbox can be frustratingly hesitant, particularly at slower speeds. 

Space and practicality

With a clear choice between the Saloon and Avant estate, there are two body styles to suit buyers, with models remaining just as practical as the standard A4. 

Both versions offer plenty of rear seat space for passengers, though the main difference concerns the boot. The Saloon offers a generous 480 litres, though the narrow opening makes it a bit less practical. So while the Avant’s 505 litres might not sound much more, the more useful hatchback opening makes it far more useful - especially for loading larger items, or if you have a dog, for example. 

Engines

If you’re looking at an S4 registered from the middle of 2019 onwards, under the bonnet you’ll find a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel engine. Producing 336bhp and a huge 700Nm of torque, the S4 can sprint from 0-60mph in just 4.7 seconds and reach a top speed of 155mph. An eight-speed S tronic automatic gearbox is used, with drive being sent to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro system. 

If you buy a current-generation model registered before that date, it will instead be a petrol – a 349bhp 3.0-litre V6 unit. Its performance figures are exactly the same as the diesel, though, with a 0-60mph time of 4.7 seconds and 155mph top speed. 

Running costs

One of the key advantages of choosing the diesel S4 is its efficiency, with Audi claiming it will return 40mpg, with CO2 emissions of 190g/km, which are both impressive figures considering the performance on offer. Petrol models will likely prove far thirstier to run, especially on smaller jaunts. 

The only other running cost to be aware of is road tax, which will be quite steep for the S4 when it’s between two and six years old, which is when ‘premium’ cars costing more than £40,000 are stung with an additional £325 charge. 

Things to look out for

Though a small number of owners report one-off issues with their A4, there’s no real glaring problems to be aware of here. As with any performance model, check for signs of neglect, and make sure the service and maintenance history is thorough. 

Rivals

In terms of diesel sports saloons, the S4’s only real rival is the BMW M340d, which offers similar performance. If you’re happy to have petrol, look for the BMW M340i, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Mercedes-AMG C43. You could even consider a plug-in hybrid – including the Volvo S/V60 T8 and Peugeot 508 PSE. 

Depreciation

Despite being a desirable Audi S model, the S4 is still hit by steep initial depreciation – especially in that first year, where it could lose up to £10,000 off their original list price. A nearly-new car could be a better option for that reason.  

Trims explained

Three trim levels are available on the S4, with equipment highlights and pricing as follows.

S4

All S4 models come with a generous amount of equipment, with the standard version coming with 19-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, LED headlights with high beam assists and heated Nappa leather sports seats. It also comes with LED interior lighting, an electric boot, 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital dial system and a 10.1-inch touchscreen with smartphone mirroring and satellite navigation. It also gets wireless smartphone charging, a 10-speaker sound system, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and keyless start.

From £48,960

Black Edition

Upgrading to the Black Edition brings larger 20-inch black alloy wheels and a full gloss black styling kit, including a darkened grille, bumper treatment, door mirrors and tinted lights to give the model a more menacing look.

From £50,460

Vorsprung

At the top of the range, the Vorsprung gets a whole manner of standard equipment, including matt titanium 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive sports suspension, a sports differential, a panoramic sunroof and heated front and rear seats. It also comes with a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, a multi-coloured LED interior lighting pack and keyless entry. In terms of standard equipment, it also gains adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, a 360-degree camera system, park assist and a head-up display.

From £58,560

Summary

  1. Sporty saloon and estate
  2. Subtle styling…
  3. But strong performance
  4. Rivals are more entertaining to drive
  5. Generous standard kit
  6. Roomy interior
  7. High-quality cabin
  8. Switched to diesel power in 2019
  9. Expensive to buy new
  10. Very fast and upmarket model, but not the most fun

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