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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
April 5, 2016

The looks may not break new ground, but the 2017 Audi S4 promises incremental improvements in power and refinement, and a big weight loss should really improve handling.

In the growing world of sport sedans, the Audi S4 is sort of a "tweener" model between the mainstream A4 and the track-oriented RS4. It competes with similar models like the BMW 340i, Mercedes-AMG C43, and Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400.

The S4 is all-new for 2017, but you can hardly tell at first glance. The styling doesn't venture too far from the outgoing model or the less-powerful A4. The basic outline carries over, with some crisper lines and a slightly more squared off look. The "singleframe" grille has sharper corners, the side mirrors are aluminum, and the car has more of a wedge shape.

The interior is rendered in black, and a horizontal dashboard gives the cabin a greater feel of width. LEDs illuminate the doors and controls at night, and the trim is matte brushed aluminum. Large screens are found in the instrument panel and on the center stack.

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The S4's body employs "intelligent composite construction," which we take to mean a combination of steel and aluminum. Audi says it is stiffer and lighter. In fact, the car weighs in at 3593 pounds, down 342 pounds from the outgoing model.  

The new engine, called 3.0TFSI, trades a supercharger for a turbocharger. It's a direct injected 3.0-liter V-6 that produces 354 hp and 369 pound-feet of torque. That's up from 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. The wide torque band makes maximum torque available from 1,300 to 4,500 rpm. Audi says the S4 can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, 0.2 second quicker than the outgoing car, and the top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph. Despite the increase in power, the new engine is more efficient, though EPA fuel economy estimates are not yet available.

The 3.0TFSI sends its power through a new 8-speed automatic transmission that allows free-wheeling when possible to conserve fuel. The 8-speed replaces a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, and the 6-speed manual does not return.

Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard. It usually runs with a 40/60 front/rear torque split, but can send up to 70 percent of the available torque to the front axle or up to 85 percent to the rear. Brake-based torque vectoring is also standard. It applies the brakes to the inside wheels in a turn to help the car rotate.

Five-link suspensions are found at both axles and the suspension is lowered 0.9 inch versus the A4. Active dampers, which Audi calls Continuous Damping Control, are optional. They, along with the engine, steering, transmission, and torque vectoring, can be adjusted in the Audi Drive Select system.

The S4 comes standard with 18-inch wheels, and 19s are optional.

Audi has been known as the benchmark for interior quality, but Mercedes has moved to the head of the class in recent years. Audi claims best-in-class cabin isolation this year, and the materials appear to be top notch. The standard S sport seats are upholstered in Nappa leather and alcantara, and they come with a pneumatic massage function. The trunk has a spacious 17.0 cubic feet of cargo space.

The interior's tech features include the Audi Virtual Cockpit as an option. It is a digital instrument cluster with a 12.3-inch screen and a choice of three screen layouts.  Audi's MMI operating system returns. It comes with an 8.3-inch center screen, a rotating knob, and a touchpad. Hardware is also included to provide a WiFi hotspot. A tablet is available for rear seat entertainment, and all occupants can be entertained by the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system.

S4 buyers can opt for numerous active safety systems, including lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitors, park assist, rear cross traffic alerts, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and a warning system that pings if you open a door into oncoming traffic. The adaptive cruise control has stop-and-follow capability up to 40 mph; it will even steer the car. There is also camera-based traffic sign recognition system.

Standard equipment will be extensive, though it is not yet available. Notable options not already mentioned include a head-up display and a navigation system.

The 2017 Audi S4 hits dealer showrooms later this year. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.

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