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RE: Audi S4 Avant: Review

Tuesday 7th February 2017

Audi S4 Avant: Review

We're living with this very S4 for six months, so what's it actually like? Time to find out!



Recently added to the PH Fleet, the 354hp S4 Avant is very much Audi in its comfort zone. There are alternatives - the six-cylinder 3 Series Touring models among them - and the influence has clearly rubbed off on rivals, BMW adding Quattro-rivalling xDrive to much of the range. The 326hp 340i M Sport Touring is still rear-driven though and is a useful four grand cheaper (near as) while the 367hp Volvo V60 Polestar we also ran as a long-termer has lost a couple of cylinders but still punches above its weight.

No surprise to find a nice interior...
No surprise to find a nice interior...
New to the field is the 367hp Mercedes-AMG C43, part of the new four-wheel drive, turbo V6 powered 'junior' AMG line-up and a tad more expensive than the £45,400 Audi at £46,255. Low speed steering chunter aside we liked the Mercedes when we drove it last year but, at this price and performance point, the S4 Avant is very much the car to beat. And if you don't need an estate you can have it as a saloon for £1,400 less.

What's new?
As you're probably aware by now the S4, like the S5, uses a new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 with 354hp and 369lb ft. It's 21hp and 44lb ft up on the previous supercharged V6 but weighs 14kg less too - welcome given its traditionally Audi positioning ahead of the front axle. The S Tronic dual-clutch has been replaced with an eight-speed auto and the whole car is 75kg lighter than its predecessor.

It's a handsome thing too. Yes, A4s are a regular sight on British roads, especially ones decked out in S Line trim. So equipped there's little to set an S4 apart from a regular car - you can even put these optional (and rather tasty) 19-inch wheels on a 2.0 TDI if you so wish - but the chrome mirrors and quad exhausts are subtle reminders to your Audi brethren of where you sit in the fast lane pecking order. If the shape is conservative and familiar to a fault it's also subtly attractive, understated sculpting to the flanks giving it quiet poise and Ingolstadt cool against the fussier styling of the 3 Series and C43.

Same inside too. The unique to the S4 S Super Sport seats feel as good as they look and - whaddya know - the cabin combines crisp design with excellent ergonomics and lots of gadgets and gizmos. Where Mercedes is currently in one of its chintzy phases the S4 continues to refine the modernist minimalism so beloved by Audi fans.

... pleasant surprise to find a decent drive!
... pleasant surprise to find a decent drive!
Hit the road
All S4s run the 23mm lower Sport suspension over regular A4s, our long-termer also getting the £900 Adaptive S Sport Suspension (a 'civilian' version of the same is available for non-S4 models) you can set up via the modes in the Audi Drive Select. Revelations are few and far between in the conservative world of Audi but here's one - the S4 rides really rather nicely. As we know, there are good fast Audis and there are bad ones; the combination of float, flow and body control in the S4 is the first sign it might be one of the good'ns. Nor does it lose the plot in the sportier settings either, only harder edged bumps thumping through and upsetting the calm.

Those familiar with the previous model will know the importance of ticking the box for the optional and fully active Sport Differential too; thankfully ours has it! While the standard car will do the usual brake-nibbling stuff to help the car into the corners the optional diff adds proper torque vectoring to the rear axle and a real sense of this influencing the car's attitude on or off the power. It's no Focus RS but the man from GKN we spoke to and helped develop the Ford's Twinster system rates the Audi set-up and, indeed, runs an S4 as his daily. As such the more assertively you drive the S4 the more it gives back, subtly rotating into the turns on the power and helping offset that traditional nose-heavy balance.

Good job it's stylish, we'll see lots of it!
Good job it's stylish, we'll see lots of it!
You'll sense the 'but' coming and, inevitably, it's the steering. Flaccid, gloopy, inert - there are many adjectives you can throw at it, none of them especially flattering. It's clearly an Audi 'thing' (gifted to Audi-owned Lamborghini too if the Huracan LP580-2 we drove recently is anything to go by) but the standard set-up is undergeared and over-assisted, giving you nothing to lean against just when you want to make the most of that diff. Could be worse - could be the £950 Dynamic Steering option...

The eight-speed auto doesn't seem quite as crisp as the previous S Tronic either or, indeed, as responsive as it is in other applications, most notably BMW's. It's slick in auto mode but frustratingly ponderous in manual, even in its Dynamic mode. Worse still it can spontaneously downshift several ratios when you only asked for one, going from fourth to first on a rolling approach to a clear roundabout on one occasion. It's clearly another Audi 'thing', depressingly familiar from A1 through to R8.

One step forward...
These niggles are amplified by the fact the rest of the package is so sweetly judged. Like the C43 the S4 is a 'making progress' kind of car, be that on motorway or back road. But for an Audi it feels unusually well balanced, those kilos they stripped out of the old car clearly removed from helpful areas.

Know what? It's probably better than you think
Know what? It's probably better than you think
And the engine is good, the 'inside out' twin-scroll turbo spooling up briskly after an initial softness to the pedal and pulling hard from just 1,350rpm. It doesn't feel shy of revving out either and sounds enthusiastic, offering just enough sense of occasion to make you feel smug about upgrading from a four-cylinder A4 like the 252hp 2.0 TFSI. If there's one disappointment it's in the economy - a steady motorway cruise barely gets you into the 30s, which is some way off the advertised 37.7mpg official combined figure. Make progress and you're high 20s at best, the 58-litre tank meaning range isn't spectacular either.

So, good fast Audi or bad fast Audi? In the way of things the S models typically offer an 'all you'd really need' sensible pants alternative to the RS models with just enough extra sparkle to put some distance between you and the TDI driving masses. So it is with the new S4 and its strong response to the twin-pronged attack on its home turf from the 340i and C43. There's little to alienate the fans, but that it comes a dropped ball or two from fully converting the doubters is a frustration.


AUDI S4 AVANT
Engine
: 2,995cc, V6 TFSI
Transmission: 8-speed tiptronic, Quattro all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 354@5,400-6,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 368@1,370-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 4.9 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,750kg (EU with 75kg driver)
MPG: 37.7 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 171g/km
Price: £44,415 (As tested £49,770 comprising Misano Red paint for £645, Quattro sport with Sport Differential for £1,200, 19-inch diamond cut wheels for £550, Light and Vision pack for £750, Adaptive S Sport suspension with damping control for £900, Audi phonebox with wireless charging for £325 and on the road costs of £985) 







[Photos: Chris Teagles]


Author
Discussion

Grantstown

Original Poster:

70 posts

12 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
When you can get hold of a 335d x-drive touring as a pre-registered car for 10 grand less than this, does the S4 make that much sense. The 10 grand could be put towards the weekend car fund. If there was still a manual gearbox and a V8 then there'd be a point of difference from the fast 4wd diesel. Am i wrong?

Dr_Rick

1,392 posts

173 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Wow, quick play with the configurator and it doesn't take much to get the car above £50k. Surely that's going to put it up against some stiff opposition.

daveco

3,402 posts

132 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
How do Audi continue to get away with such inert steering?

Is it that their prospective market couldn't give a toss about feedback, even in something as rapid as this?

Dave Hedgehog

9,794 posts

129 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Grantstown said:
When you can get hold of a 335d x-drive touring as a pre-registered car for 10 grand less than this, does the S4 make that much sense. The 10 grand could be put towards the weekend car fund. If there was still a manual gearbox and a V8 then there'd be a point of difference from the fast 4wd diesel. Am i wrong?
you are very wrong, i wouldst pay £1 for an oil burner, its just not comparable IMO

you are comparing used to new

i would still buy the merc and get the C63 biggrin

Dave Hedgehog

9,794 posts

129 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
daveco said:
How do Audi continue to get away with such inert steering?

Is it that their prospective market couldn't give a toss about feedback, even in something as rapid as this?
because 99% of buyers do not care


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mylesmcd

1,822 posts

144 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Grantstown said:
When you can get hold of a 335d x-drive touring as a pre-registered car for 10 grand less than this, does the S4 make that much sense. The 10 grand could be put towards the weekend car fund. If there was still a manual gearbox and a V8 then there'd be a point of difference from the fast 4wd diesel. Am i wrong?
Nope, I don't think you are.

beerexpressman

85 posts

62 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
What has happened to Sepang Blue - my favourite Audi colour?

HighwayStar

1,460 posts

69 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Dave Hedgehog said:
daveco said:
How do Audi continue to get away with such inert steering?

Is it that their prospective market couldn't give a toss about feedback, even in something as rapid as this?
because 99% of buyers do not care
Exactly this - The end.

daveco

3,402 posts

132 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
HighwayStar said:
Dave Hedgehog said:
daveco said:
How do Audi continue to get away with such inert steering?

Is it that their prospective market couldn't give a toss about feedback, even in something as rapid as this?
because 99% of buyers do not care
Exactly this - The end.
Surely this is something the competition should highlight, i.e. "test drive our competitor to this Audi and then see what you think of the Audi"? Merc/Jag/BMW must be ahead of them in terms of driving dynamics so it's just a matter of making the consumer aware of how half arsed Audi's approach is to this sort of thing scratchchin

Steven_RW

809 posts

127 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
What is an 'inside out' twin-scroll turbo?

I know what a twin scroll is but not the 'inside out' part?

Thanks,
Steven

ayman82

659 posts

106 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Would there be much point in getting this over the Golf Estate R?
Except from the gearbox and Audi interior, I can't see a compelling reason.

Roma101

434 posts

72 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
I know the engine is still tight, but I am surprised by those mpg stats. I can nearly get into the 40s on a steady motorway run in my 340i Touring. Heck, even an M3 would easily get into the 30s on a steady motorway run!

Also, 'fussy' is not the adjective I would use to describe a 3er Touring! Quite the opposite!

I know it is a bit more chintzy, but I think that if I wanted to change to get 4 wheel drive, I would go for the C43 over the S4. (BTW, the xDrive options on the 3er range are poor. It is basically the 320i, 320d (not very PHs) or the six cylinder diesels.)

Dan Trent

1,807 posts

93 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Steven_RW said:
What is an 'inside out' twin-scroll turbo?

I know what a twin scroll is but not the 'inside out' part?

Thanks,
Steven
Sorry!

It's where the exhaust ports and turbo(s) are positioned within the vee of the cylinder banks with the induction side on the outside in the reverse of the traditional configuration. Faster spool-up for the turbos, quicker warm-up for emissions tests and improved packaging all claimed as benefits and increasingly popular. Audi (and the Porsches, Bentleys, etc... that share their V6/V8 engines), BMW M and AMG all using variations on this theme.

Cheers,

Dan

HighwayStar

1,460 posts

69 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
daveco said:
HighwayStar said:
Dave Hedgehog said:
daveco said:
How do Audi continue to get away with such inert steering?

Is it that their prospective market couldn't give a toss about feedback, even in something as rapid as this?
because 99% of buyers do not care
Exactly this - The end.
Surely this is something the competition should highlight, i.e. "test drive our competitor to this Audi and then see what you think of the Audi"? Merc/Jag/BMW must be ahead of them in terms of driving dynamics so it's just a matter of making the consumer aware of how half arsed Audi's approach is to this sort of thing scratchchin
You would think so... A friend of mine as an A5 convertible. She acknowledges it's no fun to drive and not great in the corners but... she loves the thing. I mention BMW to her... oh it's rear wheel drive, I wouldn't know what to do!
One evening she stops at the lights, the next car doesn't. She gets a 3 series as a courtesy car and it was very impressed with how it drove. Back in her Audi though, it's about the presentation and the brand... She's bought into the whole thing. As much as it's boring to drive... she'd have another. As Dave H says... 99% just don't care.

urquattroGus

673 posts

115 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
So bland that you might as well buy the cooking version, or stretch to an RS.

I think the C43 AMG has this spot better nailed.

Bryans69

17 posts

57 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
ayman82 said:
Would there be much point in getting this over the Golf Estate R?
Except from the gearbox and Audi interior, I can't see a compelling reason.
Pretty much agree. Fast petrol estate next on the shopping list. I like the idea of this, but it's 15k more than the R, and that even comes with the Active Display now. And doesn't have an iPad style satnav. Only thing about the golf is it still isn't the prettiest thing.

tonker

53,406 posts

173 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
I can help a bit on golf r estate versus current shape a4 avant. Refinement (road and wind noise) is much much better suppressed in A4. The a4 does have a smallish load area (if that is important to you). Ride in R estate is much firmer than I remember in the hatch - I think that is to do with the springs for the estate. But it's pitter patter and in all honesty isn't brilliant.

There is no way at all I would commit to an R if an S4 Is also on my list without comparing the two for a decent amount of time on varying roads.

(And I have made clear I don't rate the DSG anyway....)

Onehp

312 posts

208 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Golf R (estate) discussion again...

The new R estate has the new 7-speed dsg, so no difference there.

With the S4 you get:
- Interior quality
- V6
- MLB evo platform instead of MQB
- Better looks (most would agree?)
- Badge

Golf now also comes in Seat flavour, Leon ST Cupra 300 4drive (6 speed DSG).

Roger Irrelevant

852 posts

38 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Dr_Rick said:
Wow, quick play with the configurator and it doesn't take much to get the car above £50k. Surely that's going to put it up against some stiff opposition.
I've been round this loop a few times when considering whether a new Audi could be my next car: Base price seems ok, reviews sound ok, so go to configurator. Realise that if I want the stuff that I'm bound to want if I'm buying a £40k+ car, it'll cost a lot more. Decide it's now a bit too expensive so consider getting one a couple of years old. Consider whether I'd want one if warranty runs out in little more than a year. Decide that no I don't. Start looking at BMWs.

ayman82

659 posts

106 months

Tuesday 7th February 2017
quotequote all
Onehp said:
Golf R (estate) discussion again...

The new R estate has the new 7-speed dsg, so no difference there.

With the S4 you get:
- Interior quality
- V6
- MLB evo platform instead of MQB
- Better looks (most would agree?)
- Badge

Golf now also comes in Seat flavour, Leon ST Cupra 300 4drive (6 speed DSG).
Does the Audi not have the 8 speed gearbox?
I just think for the extra cost for the S4, the Golf seems to be a better proposition. The Cupra is now down on power against the Mk7.5 Golf Estate R.

I am biased, but I prefer the looks of the Golf over this. And the £12k less price tag.