2018 Audi S4

Featured Photo of 2018 Audi S4

The 2018 Audi S4 is up against it in today's crowded market of crossovers that everyone's gone crazy for. Not helping its case is that it shares showroom space with Audi's SQ5 SUV and the S5 Sportback, which is sleeker and has more room. Still, the S4 is the go-to for those who dig the classic three-box, sports-sedan look and want to go fast without attracting too much attention. But its appeal is fading.

The 2018 Audi S4 is based on the latest-generation Audi A4 sedan and shares much of its makeup with the SQ5 and the S5 Sportback, including its Volkswagen Group MLB Evo platform and a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine coupled with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, with a 40/60 front-to-rear torque bias, though the system can shift up to 70 percent of the power to the front axle or 85 percent to the rear as needed. Compared to the previous S4's 333-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, the new engine produces 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque at 1370 rpm. Regrettably, the six-speed manual transmission has been removed from the order sheet with the new generation S4.

Our S4 test car weighed 89 pounds less than the last S5 Sportback we evaluated, yet still achieved the same 0-60 mph time of 4.3 seconds, as well as a quarter-mile pass of 12.8 seconds at 109 mph - 0.1 second and 1 mph faster than the Sportback. The SQ5, in comparison, took 5.1 and 13.7 seconds, respectively. What's more, the sedan's times are 0.6 seconds faster than the old S4's and faster than all its competitors except the Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic sedan. That one just edges out the Audi, hitting 60 mph in 4.1 seconds and running a quarter-mile in 12.7 at 110 mph.

Equipped with standard 18-inch wheels (19-inch optional) and 245/40R-18 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo2 summer tires, the S4 achieved an impressive 0.99g of lateral grip on the skidpad and a 148-foot stop from 70 mph. Notably, the SQ5, which is 501 pounds heavier, matched its braking performance. The S4's fuel economy of 20 mpg overall and 28 mpg on the 75-mph highway fuel-economy test matched the efficiency of the heavier SUV. The S5 Sportback, which has the same EPA estimates of 21 mpg city, 30 highway, and 24 combined, performed better with 23 mpg overall and 33 mpg on the highway.

The S4 lacks character, making it suitable for a stealthy sleeper but not as much for a driver's machine. It does not provide an exciting driving experience. The previous supercharged V-6 had a snarl in its voice and crisp responses, while the turbo engine, although more powerful and able to rev up to 6750-rpm, has a dulled sound and feel. The eight-speed automatic provides smoother low-speed behavior while still offering quick and coordinated shifts, making it comparable to the old car's seven-speed dual-clutch unit. The paddles on the steering wheel don't respond quite as quickly, though. Pop the shift lever into S and the powertrain comes alive for some aggressive driving, but it can feel a bit too eager to downshift and hold revs if you're not going full throttle.

Our ride had the $1150 variable-ratio Dynamic Steering system from Audi, which gave us super-precise control. But, we could totally live without it. We haven't driven an S4 with the standard fixed-ratio setup, but the Dynamic helm seemed a bit fake and didn't provide the same awesome tactile feedback that we've praised in other sporty sedans like the Alfa Romeo Giulia (which won 10Best Cars!). The S4 offers a harmonious blend of agile body control and a comfortable ride quality on most surfaces, making the standard 18-inch wheels a satisfactory choice. However, it is worth investing in the S Sport package, which includes the torque-vectoring rear Sport differential, red brake calipers and adaptive dampers, for $2,500. The S4's got a bit of understeer, cuz 56.6% of its 3,928 lbs is on the front wheels. But it makes up for it by adjusting torque on the rear axle to keep it tight in and out of corners. AThe Audi Drive Select system offers you extra customizability with its Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual driving modes. These modes can alter the steering, engine, drivetrain, and dampers' firmness. But when driving, it feels just like an A4 that's faster, without any of the S4's features really making it stand out.

The S4's distinct exterior is marked by its model-specific wheel designs, quad tailpipes, and aluminum-look mirror caps. Inside, the S model's quilted front sport seats, upholstered in leather and microsuede, are both beautiful and comfortable. As with all Audis, the S4's cabin boasts impressive build quality and high-tech minimalism. Audi's MMI infotainment system is still the best. Its central knob and shortcut buttons give you easy control without taking your eyes off the road. We don't think it needs to be replaced with touchscreen displays, like Audi plans to do with their 2019 A8 luxury sedan. The S5 Sportback really gives the S4 a run for its money. It's got a super sleek coupelike profile and a 22-cubic-foot cargo bay that you can access with a hatchback, unlike the S4's 13-cube trunk. We managed to fit six carry-on cases in the back of the Sportback, whereas the S4 only had room for five.

At just $52,375 for its base model, the S4 offers a discount of $3,000 compared to the similarly equipped S5 Sportback and $2,900 less than the SQ5 crossover. That entry point also beats the $54,395 Mercedes-AMG C43 sedan, and is even more competitive than the BMW 340i xDrive which starts at $51,945 (and is available with a manual transmission). We would prefer a more subtle paint color than the eye-catching Tango Red Metallic of our test car, even though all the S4's colors aside from black and white come with an additional fee of $575. Our example was packed with a great selection of standard features, plus rear side airbags for just $350 and the Navigation package (12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, navigation, Audi’s MMI Touch controller with handwriting recognition, and six months of all of Audi’s connectivity features) for only $2800. All in all, it was an excellent value at an as-tested sticker of $59,550.

In today's crossover-obsessed world, the S4 is a classic choice - but it doesn't stand out from Audi's other models with similar hardware. Sure, it's fast, powerful and way more fun to drive than an SUV. But the SQ5 can keep up with the S4 in the real world, and apart from its cheaper price tag, the S4 doesn't have much of an edge over the S5 Sportback. We'd pay the extra for the Sportback's better looks and more practicality.

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  • 2018 Audi S4 Test Drive Side View (View 2 of 17)
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  • 2018 Audi S4 Exterior Red Rear And Side (View 14 of 17)
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  • 2018 Audi S4 Exterior Red Front (View 16 of 17)
  • 2018 Audi S4 Exterior Red Metallic (View 17 of 17)

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