In the 2018 Audi S4, nothing is too much or not enough. That’s a hard thing to get right. This is a premium compact sport sedan based on the regular A4, a new generation of which launched last year. Refinement is in its "bones." On top of this, Audi brings an excellent engine, some cool technology, control, comfort and a fantastic Bang & Olufsen Surround Sound system as standard.
The S4 is a driver’s car, no doubt about it, but not to the exclusion of other aspects. That’s what makes it such a pleasure.
What’s New for 2018?
The S4 is all-new for this model year.
What We Like
Well-considered amounts of power, equipment, luxury touches and suspension tuning; typically polished Audi styling
What We Don’t
Only the top trim level is eligible for the optional driver-assistance package
A turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 endows the S4 with 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission (with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles) sends that drive to all four wheels.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Audi S4 premium compact sport sedan is available in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
The Premium Plus ($52,375) has 18-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, full LED lighting, rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, heated windshield-washer nozzles, keyless entry/ignition, a hands-free trunk release, a rearview camera, parking sensors front and rear, selectable driving modes, tri-zone automatic climate control, ambient LED cabin lighting, a self-dimming rearview mirror, forward-collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, Audi Exit Assist, leather/Alcantara (simulated suede) upholstery, 12-way power-adjustable/heated/massaging front seats with self-inflating bolster cushions and driver’s-side memory settings, a 7-in display for the infotainment system, Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker 755-watt audio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, HD Radio, two SD card slots and two USB ports.
The Prestige ($56,775) adds navigation with an 8.3-in screen, handwriting recognition for controlling the infotainment system, a head-up display, Wi-Fi and the Virtual Cockpit (12.3-in configurable driver information display).
Options include ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, 19-in wheels, a sport suspension, a sport rear differential, Nappa leather upholstery and variable-ratio steering.
The Prestige trim is eligible for a driver-assistance package that includes adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist (a partially autonomous system that steers and brakes in stop-and-go conditions), active lane keeping, automatic high beams and traffic-sign recognition.
Trunk space is 13 cu ft., enough for three sets of golf clubs.
Standard safety equipment includes stability control, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and eight airbags (front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional.
The S4 variant has not been crash-tested by any North American agencies, but the regular A4 won the full five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with four out of five stars for both front- and side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) made the A4 a Top Sfety Pick after it aced all the major crash-test categories.
Behind the Wheel
The S4 is powerful enough to make the eyes widen and get the blood pumping. But it’s not so crazy it becomes a liability. The chassis, all-wheel drive, tires and traction-control system all contribute to channeling that power in the desired direction, making every drive a thrilling occasion
In most conditions, the all-wheel-drive system has 60 percent of the power going to the rear wheels for a sporty feel. If circumstances dictate, up to 85 percent can be sent to either end within milliseconds. The optional sport differential can even split that torque between wheels on the same axle, lending more support to get around a corner.
Body control is superb — the car takes fast turns without leaning this way and that. Step on the brakes and the S4 decelerates in a confident, calm and composed manner. If there was one little gripe, it’s that the steering could be more tactile.
Everything is hushed and business-like in the cabin, where only a muted bark from high engine revs might make a driver momentarily forget the high quality of the surrounding materials. Passenger space, meanwhile, is perfectly adequate.
The digital Virtual Cockpit screen replaces the usual driver’s gauges with a choice of data, such as navigation information, and requires little time and effort to learn how to use. It’s well worth having.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400 — Slightly more powerful than the S4, with 400 hp, but otherwise not in the same league in terms of quality, equipment, handling or youth.
2018 Jaguar XE S — A supercharged V6 makes 340 hp. The rest of the car is similarly wonderful, except the cabin isn’t at Audi’s level.
2018 Mercedes-AMG C 43 — With 362 hp and all-wheel drive as standard, this version of the C-Class is the most direct S4 competitor.
There are elements of reward and indulgence when buying a car like this, so why not go for the Prestige trim and enjoy all the extra equipment? In the medium-to-high-performance compact sport sedan class, the S4 is a top choice.