New Car Review

2016 Audi S4: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 Audi S4 is the sport sedan that doesn't need to shout. It's as civilized as it is swift, as powerful as it is sleek and as well appointed as it is stylish.

But the S4 is also becoming dated. It's based on a generation of the A4 that will replaced for the 2017 model year. There isn't even a USB port. It's still possible to connect an iPhone, but it's done with a proprietary cable that the VW/Audi group insisted on using for a while.

While this A4/S4 generation has been around, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has added a front small-overlap crash test which, admittedly, has proved tricky for many vehicles -- but the A4 received the institute's worst rating in this category.

The upcoming generation should be able to not only fix these kinds of gripes but really set new standards. That's what we expect from premium marques such as Audi. Car makers don't always launch their high-performance variants at the same time as the regular car, so we might have to wait even longer for an all-new S4. In the meantime, there's still a mighty fine machine to enjoy.

What's New for 2016?

The S4 sees no changes for this model year.

What We Like

Exemplary ride/handling balance; strong supercharged V6; upscale cabin; adult-friendly back seat

What We Don't

Engine doesn't sound that special; age is starting to show

How Much?

$50,125-$57,025

Fuel Economy

The S4 has a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard, as is a 6-speed manual transmission. A 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual with paddle shifters is also available.

The Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates with the automatic are 18 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined. With the manual transmission, it's 17 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Audi S4 sport sedan is available in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.

The Premium Plus ($50,125) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps with LED accents, fog lights, quad tailpipes, LED taillights, a sunroof, Audi's drive select system (including a sport rear differential and electronic adjustments for steering, throttle response and automatic-transmission shift programming), keyless entry/start, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, 8-way power heated front sport seats with driver's-side memory settings, leather/Alcantara (faux suede) upholstery, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control (including separate rear temperature controls), Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod integration, the Multi Media Interface (MMI) system with a dash-mounted control knob and 6.5-in display, plus a 10-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input, an SD-card reader and satellite radio.

The Prestige trim ($57,025) upgrades to adaptive xenon headlamps, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and a Technology package that includes rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a blind spot monitoring system, a color trip computer, Bluetooth audio streaming, Audi connect (including mobile Wi-Fi and Google search functions) and MMI Navigation Plus, an upgraded 7-in display and a console-mounted control knob.

These base prices are for versions with the manual transmission; the optional automated manual transmission is an extra $1,000.

The Technology package can be added to the Premium Plus as an option -- so can the Bang & Olufsen setup. A Driver Assist package is offered solely on the Prestige version, adding variable-ratio steering and adaptive cruise control.

Both trim levels are eligible for 19-in alloy wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a torque-vectoring rear differential and Nappa leather upholstery.

At 12.4 cu ft., trunk capacity is about average for a compact sport sedan.

Safety

The Audi S4 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side, full-length side-curtain). Rear-side airbags are optional.

The S4 received a perfect five stars from the government in all categories. It hasn't tested the S4 in particular, but the independent IIHS gave the A4 (which is virtually identical in terms of structure) its highest rating of Good in every category except the front small-overlap test, which earned a Poor score.

Behind the Wheel

The S4's interior is largely shared with the regular A4, which is fine, as the A4 has one of the nicest cabins in its class. Happily, the front sport seats address most criticisms of the A4's standard seats, and lateral support is much improved. The tilt-telescopic steering wheel has a wide range of adjustability, so most drivers should have no trouble achieving their ideal position. However, those with long legs may find their left elbows hanging off the back of the door armrest.

The back seat provides plenty of room for two adults to ride comfortably. Also, the outboard rear seating positions feature unusual side bolsters that emphasize the car's sporty theme. The standard separate temperature controls for rear passengers is another nice touch.

As with the regular A4, the S4's ergonomics are hit-or-miss. For example, trying to adjust the climate control's fan speed is a 2-step process; a dedicated fan knob would make on-the-fly changes much easier.

The supercharged V6 is seriously strong across the rev range, besting even the mighty turbocharged inline-6 of the 2016 BMW 340i. It's also highly refined -- perhaps too refined, as there's not much bark to go with this motor's bite despite those quad tailpipes.

You can't go wrong with either transmission. The conventional manual has satisfyingly precise throws and a forgiving clutch, but the dual-clutch automatic is superb, executing quick upshifts and perfectly rev-matched downshifts on demand.

The S4 is based on a front-wheel-drive platform, but it's at least as capable on a winding road or track as a well-tuned rear-drive car, especially when the sport differential is added. The steering feels artificial yet still remarkably precise, and the supercharged engine's instant responses give you absolute confidence when pressing the throttle. Despite such world-class athleticism, the S4 has a reasonably supple ride in ordinary driving, and road noise is rarely an issue.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 BMW 340i -- A new variant for 2016 with 320 hp to play with, the 3 Series is somewhat softer these days, but it's still a supremely capable sport sedan.

2016 Cadillac ATS -- The ATS is able to run with the Germans, and there's a 3.6-liter V6 version that makes 333 hp.

2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG -- The C450 is not a full-blown AMG car, but it's a successor to the C400 and comes with 362 hp and all-wheel drive as standard.

Used BMW M3 -- The previous M3 generation is a thriller with its high-revving, 414-hp V8 engine, and a certified pre-owned car will have a great warranty.

Autotrader's Advice

A Premium Plus version with the manual transmission and the Technology package ($4,000) would keep the price just below $55,000, which is not unreasonable for this level of performance and luxury -- or you could wait for the next generation.

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2016 Audi S4: New Car Review - Autotrader