New & Used Audi S4: In Depth
2013 Audi S4Enlarge Photo
Shopping for a new Audi S4? MSRP: $47,600 - $49,000
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The Audi S4 is the higher-performance version of Audi's entry-level luxury sedan--at least until a new A3 sedan and its inevitable S3 upgrade arrive in the U.S., sometime in 2015. It competes with the likes of the BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG, and the Infiniti Q50. The Audi S4 has, at times, throughout its long history, been accompanied by a higher-performance RS 4 edition.
Though an early "S4" model had been based on the former Audi 100 sedan, the modern-day S4 arrived shortly after the entire Audi lineup changed its nomenclature, and after its 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; it 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, and a choice of a racy Avant station wagon model.
A redesign in the 2002 model year brought a new A4, but the S4 would carry over in its old body style until the 2004 model year, when it returned with a 340-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine. With a choice of six-speed manual or automatic and standard all-wheel drive, performance improved slightly; this S4 was offered first in sedan and wagon forms, and later as a Cabriolet convertible.
The Audi A4 was completely redesigned for 2009, and the Cabriolet was shifted over to a new A5 / S5 designation. The S4 would not return until the 2010 model year, now fitted with a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 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 wider, 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.