Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
FEB 20th 2017
The Goodwood Test: Audi S4 Avant
Fast, understated four-wheel drive estate cars are something of an Audi speciality and the 'S' lineage stretches back to the S2 Avant of 1992. Sure, there have been RS models from this time too. But the S models have a strong following among those looking for strong performance with under-the-radar looks. The S4 that followed in 1997 delivered on that with a 265bhp twin-turbo V6, the 2003 successor switching to a high revving 344bhp V8. The last one went back to V6 power – supercharged in this instance – while the new one gets an all-new 354bhp 'inside out' 3.0-litre turbo V6.
As we all know, Audi's design language is deeply conservative and evolutionary. But it's also highly refined, crisp and packed with subtle detail that suits the understated nature of the car. Only the quad exhausts and chrome mirror housings set the S4 apart from the S Line equipped A4 TDIs that crowd the fast lane of any British motorway. And that need-to-know factor is a big part of the S4's appeal, the interior similarly disciplined, well finished and boasting a couple of S4-specific touches like the smart looking sports seats to set it apart.
The new V6 is usefully 21bhp and 44lb ft more powerful than the supercharged one it replaces. The car is also 75kg lighter as a whole. Now driving through an eight-speed auto rather than the seven-speed dual-clutch of the previous car it manages to feel both more refined and substantial but also more responsive, thanks in part to much-improved ride (in this instance on £900 Adaptive S Sport Suspension) and – again optional – Sport Differential. This adds a subtle degree of rear-biased adjustability and a more playful attitude than you might expect from an Audi. Shame the steering is too vague to make the most of it.
Passion isn't usually a word we'd associate with Audi but we'll credit the S4 with being a sincere and enjoyable expression of corporate values, be they styling, engineering or technological. This is a car you buy with your head but it's got just enough sparkle to make your heart tingle just a little too. It's fast, refined, practical, dependable on slithery winter roads and carries with it that understated status of being rather more special than most other ostensibly similar Audis you see day in, day out. This is very much the brand in its comfort zone and as a result, yes, there's a sense of passion there you don't always see.
Price tag of our car
(£44,500 list plus £5,250 of options)
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