- Heady acceleration from V-6
- Crisp dual-clutch automatic
- Confident, standard all-wheel drive
- Interior trims no longer stand out as rich and trend-setting
- Artificial steering feel (Drive Select)
- Not enough leg room 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 the S4 is more.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, with some added details to set it apart including LED running lights and taillights, a unique grille and rocker panels, a small decklid spoiler, and 18-inch wheels. Within the cabin, the S4's upgrades include aluminum trim pieces throughout, a new steering wheel, and a black headliner.
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 supercharged V-6 with direct injection that produces 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. The S4 rockets up to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with a top speed that's limited to 155 mph.
Audi's all-wheel-drive system, which they call quattro, is standard on the S4 and directs more power to the rear wheels for a sportier feel. An optional Sports Rear Differential can shift power from left to right, which gives the S4 supreme grip and road feel as well as all-weather capability. Audi's Drive Select program can dial in artificial heft to the electric power steering rack, stiffen the suspension, and increase throttle and transmission response, but we've found the base setup works well enough to skip 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, but rear-seat riders may be cramped for space, especially 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 seating surfaces are standard along with keyless ignition, xenon headlights, and Audi's infotainment system, which we think is a slicker system than those found on rivals. Audi Drive Select, a premium sound system, and adaptive cruise control are optional, and Audi's in-car wi-fi system that offers internet access for up to eight devices and Google Earth mapping for navigation requires a separate subscription.
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.