Overview & Reviews
With its line of S models, Audi has built a reputation for delivering understated luxury along with a healthy dose of performance. Supporting the foundation of this reputation is the Audi S4, which is a sportier variant of the already-proficient A4 entry-level luxury sedan. As such, both of these Audis benefit from handsome styling, excellent interior design and materials, cosseting comfort and superior road-holding thanks to all-wheel-drive traction.
Where the S4 and A4 differ is in performance. Throughout its run, the S4 has boasted higher power output, sharper handling and impressive braking capabilities. Shoppers seeking a used S4 may, depending on the model year, have several body styles from which to choose. On the downside, the S4 has typically lacked the crisp handling performance offered by some of its rivals. Overall, though, we hold the Audi S4 in high regard.
Current Audi S4
Unlike previous generations, the current fifth-generation Audi S4 is only available as a sedan. The convertible version has been replaced by the S5 Cabriolet. The S4 is powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. A standard six-speed manual or optional seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual (S tronic) sends power to Audi's rear-biased "Quattro" all-wheel-drive system.
Inside, you'll find (in true Audi tradition) one of the finest cabins in the sport sedan class. The overall design is demure but classy, and although the center console is rather button-happy, Audi's updated MMI electronics interface is now much friendlier to use than before. The seats are supremely comfortable in the front, offering plenty of support through corners and over distances. Like the A4, the S4 offers a reasonably large backseat should your sport sedan be called on for family duty.
The S4 comes with an ample list of standard luxury features like xenon headlights, selectable driving settings (known as Audi Drive Select), tri-zone climate control and leather/faux-suede upholstery. Upgrades include bigger wheels, an adaptive suspension, a rear limited-slip differential, keyless ignition and entry, navigation and a premium Bang & Olufsen stereo.
The S4 shines thanks to its strong supercharged V6, sharp handling and a forgiving nature made possible by Quattro and that optional limited-slip rear differential. Even driven aggressively, the S4 imparts confidence to the driver. Grip is tenacious and the chassis is communicative. Even so, ride comfort is commendable and cabin noise is pleasantly hushed.
Used Audi S4 Models
The current Audi S4 represents the fifth generation in the model's lineage, debuting in 2010. An optional rearview camera and blind-spot warning system were made available the following year. For 2013, the S4 received a slight styling update (with more angular grille/headlights) and a revised MMI control interface. That year also saw the switch to electric-assisted steering. Apart from lacking Audi Drive Select as standard (it was optional though), these latter S4s are similar to today's version.
The previous, fourth-generation Audi S4 was available in a variety of body styles. The sedan and wagon (Avant) were sold from 2006-'08, while the convertible (cabriolet) lasted from 2007-'09. Relative to third-generation S4s, the fourth generation offered refreshed styling, a revised chassis and a more sport-biased Quattro system, though these changes represented more of a revitalization effort rather than a complete redesign.
Under this S4's hood was a 4.2-liter V8 that generated 340 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. Power was sent to the Quattro all-wheel-drive system through either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. As with today's S4, this generation model had additional performance-oriented modifications, including a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels with high-performance tires and more powerful brakes.
Inside, front occupants were treated to a comfortable and functional cockpit. The backseat was more cramped than in the current car, and the electronics systems may seem a bit dated now. The electronics interface, in particular, could be quite frustrating to use with the optional navigation system installed. Leather seating was standard, and interior trim, lighting and controls were all of high quality.
The similar third-generation S4 was offered for 2004 and '05. This was the model that introduced the 340-hp V8 engine and expanded S4 availability to the sedan, wagon and convertible body styles. As with the fourth-gen S4, transmission choices were either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. At the time, the installation of such a powerful V8 in a small car raised some eyebrows, and indeed it boasted more power than BMW's contemporary M3 or Mercedes' C32.
In reviews of the third- and fourth-generation S4, we commented favorably about the car's broad power band, multiple body styles and high-quality interior. Downsides were a cramped backseat and handling that wasn't as razor-sharp as the M3's. The fact that the current S4 no longer has the V8 engine should make these generations a more novel, collectible choice in coming years.
Previous to these newer S4s, there were two other generations of the Audi S4 -- a second-generation vehicle, available from the 2000-'02 model years, and a first generation, available from 1992-'94.
The second-generation model was based on the A4 sedan and wagon of its day, and it came equipped with a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 engine rated at 250 hp. Quattro was standard, and Audi offered either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic. In Edmunds' S4 road tests at the time, we found the car very enjoyable to drive, as it struck an ideal balance between outright performance and everyday comfort. Our main complaint about this model was the familiar lack of rear-seat room.
The first-generation Audi S4 was a performance variant of the Audi 100 sedan (later A6) sold from 1992-'94. These S4s came with a turbocharged inline five-cylinder engine capable of 227 hp. Quattro was again standard, and these cars were equipped with a five-speed manual transmission only. After 1994, they became known as the S6. First-generation S4s are a relatively rare find today.
User Reviews:Showing 1 through 10 of 444.00
Time to debunk the Audi S4! - 2005 Audi S4
By kevin raynard - November 4 - 5:03 pm
Time to debunk some myths about this car that previous owners seem starstruck over 1/ The engine....well yes its ok but thats it, after all 340hp in a 3700lb body is NOT going to set the world on fire! For comparison the then new C5 vette in 1997 made 345hp and weighed 3400lb. So WHY does the S4 feel so lively? Very simple, its all in the gearing! It is running the equivalent of a 4.11 final drive which as any gearhead knows will give you blinding acceleration and instant thrust through the gears at the expense of fuel economy. Which brings me to.. 2. Fuel economy...TBH I do not find it to be awful, I average 19-20mpg and given the facts on the gearing is about right. Now if we were to swap the gearing to similar to a 1997 vette came with( 2.87, 3.23 or 3.42 if memory serves) you would see a large increase in average mpg, probably 5 to 6 mpg more. But then your highly rewarding impetus would be diminshed, oh well. Please do not get me wrong, I am NOT critical of the car at all, but it is not a miracle motor some claim, just a good old fashioned combination of sound engineering and gearing. Moreover Audi are to be praised for having the corporate balls to build this the way they did although in the mid 2000,s the economic rug if you like had not been pulled out from under the vast majority of Americans. Drive and enjoy, prepare for high maintenance cost and so so fuel economy.
My S4 Experience - 2013 Audi S4
By Steve Bryant - October 21 - 6:07 pm
If you want a cushy car, this isn't it. This car is designed for performance and the experience of driving. You will find quieter and cushier cars in this category, but the S4 gives you a "feel of the road" that you won't find in other cars at this level.
Read before you buy - 2014 Audi S4
By scratchgolfer2 - June 10 - 2:58 pm
I bought this car new last year, for the first year I loved the car, every aspect of it with small somewhat irritating problems. Wind blowing throw the windows on the highway right off the lot will drive you insane if you are listening to talk radio. My S4 came with the Upgraded Summer Tire package with the Continental Conti Contact 3s. These are the Worst tires in the world, the tread pattern wore out "unusually" after 7K miles, seriously...That is a like 2k option, what a waste, if you car has these tires make them change them before you buy.
Great car, except for the lemon thermostat. - 2011 Audi S4
By audis - May 4 - 8:30 pm
Beware: The thermostat in the 2011 Audi S4 is a very well documented faulty part. Google it. Audi finally agreed to cover 10% of the $1200 repair as I was slightly over the 50K mile warranty. If you're okay with that, buy one. It's a great looking fun car.
Puts a smile on your face every time you drive it - 2001 Audi S4
By stefanv - April 18 - 6:32 pm
I bought this car about 7 months ago and I have loved every minute of it. The car sticks to the road around turns and has that awesome acceleration! It is so responsive that it feels almost like a go kart. A lot of people talk about how expensive the repairs are on this car, which is true. My oil pan cracked about a month ago. The dealership charged about $1,000 to replace the oil pan, and replace the cam shaft tensioner valves. I am a car enthusiast, so in my eyes this car is worth the extra money for repairs. As some say you have to pay to play!
First week of my new love - 2015 Audi S4
By carguy211 - March 28 - 9:20 am
Now I have to say I am a car guy and like fast sporty cars. Did a bunch of research in my price range and lean more towards sport that comfort. Traded in a 2009 G37 that I had really liked but I am already in love and over that. This is my first German car and after looking at dealer inventory and not seeing exact features I wanted I looked at it and ordered it from factory my way. I couldn't be happier with the way my exterior, interior and sport options turned out. This car rocks literally with Bang Olfsun and rides like its on rails. The acceleration and drive handling are superb and it's just fun to drive. I keep it in dynamic mode because it's responsive and fast. Awesome car.
2015 s4 Stronic what a kick! - 2015 Audi S4
By jygesq - February 5 - 10:10 am
this car is fast, THIS CAR IS FAST, this car is fun!! The S tronic tranny makes this car a pleasure to drive.Acts like a MT without all the hassle.You can stay is D mode for all a round economy or pull down gear shift to go into S mode. In S the shift points are raised . You can also make car settings for steering, engine sounds, power, sport differential through MIMI.It can be reasonably tame or like a muscle car in disguise. The sport differential cost an additional $1100 ORDER it . It significantly changes for the better the way the car handles, and you can program it for different driving situations. Amazing sleeper car. Down side,the plastic trim on window frames scratches easily.
A German muscle car, sleeper division - 2014 Audi S4
By smerdyakov - January 3 - 1:53 pm
This car represents a Teutonic variation on the classic American muscle car: take a mid-size car (the A4, in this case) and install a larger, more powerful engine. There is more to the S4 than that, of course, but that is the essence of it. The only way of distinguishing it from an A4, at a glance, is the presence of small S4 badges front and rear, and the V6T badges on the front fenders. The S4 gives excellent acceleration with superb handling and ride quality, combined with reasonable fuel economy. It is not inexpensive (especially in Prestige trim), but I cannot think of a car with its combination of virtues available at a lower price from any other manufacturer.
GREAT BMW ALTERNATIVE, FAIR PRICING - 2014 Audi S4
By rudycassap - December 21 - 6:57 pm
I do not like how soft BMW cars have become - like American muscle cars of the past with lots of power but they just cannot handle (turn) well. I sold a 2013 128i M Sport after just 9 months. I drove the 2015 M235i and M3 sedans all day long at the BMW Car Control event. I am very unimpressed with the new M3. Poor seating position, turbo lag is prevalent, and it actually has too much torque to be fun. I have had VW and Audi in the past and they all were unreliable. Decided to look at the S4 on a whim - did not really even cross my mind, but maybe that's a good thing. It looks like a "regular" A4. The 6-speed manual shift action is smooth and the clutch actually has feel - BMW is too soft.
Joy Ride - 2004 Audi S4
By 04b6jc22 - August 28 - 10:28 am
What an apsolute joy to drive one of these. I have an 04 with suspension, brakes, RS4 wheels, Milltek exhaust addons. Simple bolt ons, but i wouldnt put this kind of money into something i didn't think was worth it. I am a total nerd/gear head when it comes to cars and this is only one of a few affordable cars i drool over. It's not the fastest car. If a 911 turbo pulls up besides you, dont waste the fuel. But if one of those chump Mustangs try to pull the same crap (again. Dont waste your time and fuel), but be assure that if he's dumb enough to challenge, you'll take the cake. Rides like it's on rails and screams through the corners. It makes a rumble that will cause earth quakes!