New & Used Audi S4: In Depth
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The Audi S4 is part of a large range of S cars—S3, S5, S6, S7, and S8 included. The S4 is a rival to the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, BMW M3, Lexus RC F, and Cadillac ATS-V.
The S4 is the higher-performance version of Audi's A4 luxury sedan. At times in its 15-year history, the S4 has been joined by an even higher-performance RS 4 sedan.
MORE: Read our 2016 Audi S4 review
Though Audi offered an earlier model named S4 that was based on the former Audi 100 sedan, the modern-day S4 is something a bit different. It arrived shortly after the entire Audi lineup changed its nomenclature, and after the brand's compact sedan became the A4. The name change in 1996 turned the 80/90 sedans into the A4; the S4 came to U.S. showrooms in 1999 as a 2000 model. The first edition lasted through the 2002 model year and was equipped with a twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 engine rated at 250 horsepower. With a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive, this S4 was capable of 0–60 mph times of less than 6 seconds and a top speed limited to 155 mph. This generation of the sedan was much smaller than today's car—about the size of a contemporary Toyota Corolla, but with a much more lavish interior, offered in either sedan or Avant wagon models.
While a redesigned A4 arrived for 2002, the S4 carried over the previous body style until 2004. The replacement made use of a 340-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8. Quattro all-wheel drive was again of course standard, and there was a choice of either a six-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmission. The added power and suspension revisions helped improve the S4's performance. This generation was offered here first as a sedan and wagon, with a Cabriolet model added late in its life cycle.
The Audi A4 was completely redesigned for 2009, and the Cabriolet was shifted over to a new A5 / S5 designation along with a coupe model. The S4 would not return until the 2010 model year, this time fitted with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 making 333 horsepower. The standard gearbox was a dual-clutch automatic, and along with all-wheel drive, the S4 was offered with Drive Select, a new system which allowed drivers to change settings for transmission shift speed, steering feel, and throttle quickness--all through Normal, Comfort, and Sport modes. Only the sedan body style is offered in its current form.
This generation of A4 / S4 has grown substantially. The S4 is now about ten inches longer and a few inches wider than at its birth--all to provide a more spacious interior. In this generation, the S4 has added a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors, as well as Audi's latest infotainment and telematics services, including Audi Connect, which turns the car into a mobile hotspot. Also on offer: an optional navigation system that incorporates Google Earth and Google Street View data, displayed on a gorgeous LCD screen, for one of the best GPS experiences available today.
The S4, as a part of the A4 family, has remained one of the safer choices for those who are safety concerned, especially the most recent models, which have earned top five-star federal results and have been IIHS Top Safety Picks. Rear-seat side bags have been optional for many model years.
A new A4 lineup is expected to arrive for the 2017 model year. An S4 should appear shortly after, possibly within a year as has been the case in the past.