The Car Connection Audi S4 Overview
The Audi S4 is a spin-off of the Audi A4 line of luxury compact vehicles. A higher-performance version, called the RS 4, has joined the S4 at points through its 15-year history.
The S4 is one of Audi's family of "S" sport vehicles—S3, S5, S6, S7, and S8 included. With the S4, Audi has a rival for the BMW M3 and M4, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Lexus RC F, and Cadillac ATS-V.
The S4 received a significant update alongside the related A4. While the car's exterior hasn't changed much, the car is lighter and more powerful—all to the benefit of performance. Its tame exterior belies its technological upgrades, including an advanced cockpit with a large display.
MORE: Read our 2018 Audi S4 review
The new Audi S4
Audi introduced a new S4 for the 2018 model year, based off the automaker's new A4. Like before, the S4 receives a bigger engine than the A4; this time a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6. The engine produces 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a standard 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, the S4 sprints up to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 mph. For the first time, Audi made available a sport rear differential to shuffle power along the rear axle and adaptive suspension to firm the dampers for sportier driving.
A new body wraps around the engine for a sleeker, honed shape this time around. The S4 is more serious than the cars that came before it; styling elements cut a sharper tone—no more Skittles-colored cars. The S4 carries four in relative comfort inside, awash in leather and Alcantara. Audi offers more tech in the S4 this year, including an optional "Virtual Cockpit" that replaces traditional gauges with a 12.3-inch display for the driver.
The S4 isn't the only four-door, small S model anymore, however. For the first time in the U.S., Audi offers the S5 Sportback four-door model stateside.
Audi S4 history
Though Audi offered an earlier model named S4 that was based on the former Audi 100 sedan, the modern-day S4 is something 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 hp. With a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive, this S4 was capable of 0-60 mph times of less than six seconds and a top speed that was 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 standard again, and there was a choice of either a 6-speed automatic or 6-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 (convertible) 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 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque. 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, although Audi has added a row-your-own 6-speed manual transmission to the S4 since.
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 available: an optional navigation system that incorporates Google Earth and Google Street View data, displayed on a gorgeous LCD screen.