- Strong acceleration from supercharged V-6
- Excellent dual-clutch gearbox
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Interior trims no longer stand out as rich and trend-setting
- Artificial steering feel (Drive Select)
- Not enough legroom in back for adults
The 2016 Audi S4 is the way to go if you like your sport sedans with the emphasis on "sport."
To those who aren't car enthusiasts, the S4 may just be perceived as a particularly good-looking version of the 2016 Audi A4 compact luxury sedan. But this sport sedan is more than that. Compared to the A4, the S4 gets a lot more power, all the equipment and upgrades to make the most of it, and a long roster of features and details that aim right at the wants and needs of those who enjoy driving.
The 2016 S4 shares most of its body with the Audi A4 sedan, but it gets a number of more aggressive and distinctive details, including LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, a revised grille, special side moldings, a small spoiler on the trunk lid, and 18-inch wheels. Inside, S4 additions include a black headliner, a new steering wheel, aluminum trim, and a choice of console and door trims.
A4 shoppers can get most of that look in the A4 S line, however what they can't get is what's under the hood of the 2016 Audi S4: a 3.0-liter V-6 that uses supercharging, intercooling, and direct injection to boost its output to 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. It churns out the usable torque evenly throughout the rev band and in a way that almost disconcertingly erases sensations of speed—although the snarling soundtrack is worth turning down the stereo.
The 3.0-liter V-6 is hooked to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters. We actually like the latter slightly more, as it clicks off quick, precise, clutch-pedal-free gear changes while the manual is a bit notchy. Altogether, the S4 shoots past 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with a limited 155-mph top speed.
Audi's quattro all-wheel drive is always impressive, and it's included in the S4, just as in many A4 models; it has a power split weighted to the rear wheels, and an optional Sports Rear Differential vectors power from side to side, giving the S4 awesome road-holding potential and grippy feel—as well as all-weather ability. With Audi's Drive Select system, you can dial in lots of artificial heft to the electronic power steering, tweak ride comfort, and heighten transmission and throttle response. Audi's base configuration works well enough to avoid the expensive option.
The S4, as with the A4, is by no means a fresh model on the market (it's due to be replaced for 2017). While cabins of rival models—like the C-Class and its performance variant, the C63 AMG—have stepped up their interior materials in recent years, the S4 still stands out for its clean, handsome look throughout. Front seats are firm yet supportive and the control set is straightforward, yet backseat space remains very tight, due to restricted leg room. A couple of years ago, the Audi A4 was considered an excellent performer in all safety tests, but it's been demoted because of its performance in the newest crash test.
There's a solid set of safety equipment here in the S4, and options include a rearview camera, blind-spot and lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, and adaptive rear thorax air bags. Crash-test ratings are great from federal authorities, which scores the A4 family at five stars across the board. The IIHS hasn't officially extended its A4 results to the S4, but the former has been given a "Poor" score in the small overlap frontal test.
The 2016 Audi S4 isn't missing much from its feature set—especially provided you're willing to check a few option boxes. Leather upholstery is standard, along with keyless ignition, xenon headlamps, and Audi's infotainment controller, which operates audio, climate, and navigation functions—and much more intuitively than some rival systems, we might add. Options include Audi dynamic steering, adaptive cruise control, a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, and an Audi Connect system that offers wi-fi for up to eight devices plus Google Earth mapping.
EPA ratings, at 18 mpg city, 28 highway, 21 combined with the dual-clutch or 17/26/20 mpg with the manual, are decent if your comparison set consists of performance cars—but otherwise unimpressive.
See our full review pages on the 2016 Audi A4 family for more details.