Audi’s ‘S’ cars have always been understated but blink-and-you’ll-miss-them-fast ways of getting around, and here’s Ingolstadt’s latest one – the S4 Avant. Powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine, it produces 349bhp and – get this – a staggering 500Nm torque. Of course, no fast Audi is complete without Quattro all-wheel-drive technology, and the S4 is no exception. It means that it’s not only fast, but capable on the most British of roads.
Inside, it gets Audi’s latest infotainment systems, and our test car came with the excellent ‘Virtual Cockpit’, which sits in the place of the car’s traditional analogue dials. Elsewhere, the cabin is a masterclass in how to make cockpits feel well put together, but special too. But then it should, considering the S4 Avant costs upwards of £44,000.
Looks and image
Cars within the ‘S’ range never shout about their performance. They’re all about being quick but understated, never drawing too much attention to themselves but beating almost any other car on the road off the mark. The S4 Avant is just the same, with only the trademark silver wing mirror caps giving any indication that this ain’t no ordinary diesel.
The four exhaust pipes at the rear also protrude menacingly, but apart from these there’s no real way of distinguishing the S4 Avant from a normal A4. It’s true that the subtleness may not be for everyone, but in our eyes the S4 Avant looks pretty much spot-on.
Space and practicality
As an estate, it’ll come as no surprise that the S4 Avant is a really practical option too. The boot is 505 litres, rising to 1,510 litres with the rear seats lowered. For comparison, the Mercedes C43 Estate’s boot sits at 490 litres with the rear seats up, and 1,510 with them down meaning that the Audi is pretty much on-par with its rivals.
Elsewhere, space is reasonable. In the back, passengers are treated to good amounts of legroom, though because the S4 Avant is more of a compact estate, there’s not acres of space. Up front, the cabin feels wide and spacious which makes it a relaxing place to be.
Behind the wheel
Fast Audis of old tended to be just that – fast, and not much else. Now however, things have change. The new S4 Avant certainly has handling sharp enough to match its acceleration, attacking corners with real bite. The throttle response can be a little delayed at times – not enough to be annoying, but it just means that you don’t get that immediate acceleration, especially when rolling.
Our car came on standard suspension, though adaptive dampers are available as an optional extra. On standard springs, the ride is certainly on the firm side, especially around town. Travelling quicker does make the extra firmness worth it though, with the S4 Avant exhibiting little body roll through corners. The addition of Quattro all-wheel-drive also inspires a huge amount of confidence, with only the traditional Audi understeer coming in to spoil the fun. You do have to driving pretty hard for this to happen, though.
The steering is surprisingly light, but you soon get used to it. Extra heft can be added to it through Audi’s Drive Select, which is accompanied by sharper throttle response and a louder exhaust note. That final aspect is certainly worth mentioning – the S4’s exhaust makes a genuinely sporting noise, but in just the right way. Plant the throttle, and it’ll be accompanied by a rasping, quality sound – but it’s quick to settle down at motorway speeds.
Value for money
The base price for the Audi S4 Avant is £44,415. Our car, fitted with extras such as a Bang and Olufsen stereo, sports differential and the ‘Parking Assistance Pack’, came in at £52,270. In truth, although that is a fair amount of cash to part with, it appears a pretty good deal for us. You get a wealth of accessible performance, a practical and well-finished cabin and a level of understated charm that few can match. The interior of the car is absolutely spot-on, and the materials used are all of a premium quality. It’ll also hold its value exceptionally well, making that initial price tag a little bit easier to bear.
Who would buy one?
The Audi S4 Avant is ideal for people who want to travel quickly with a lot of luggage while remaining well under the radar. It may be too subtle for some, but for those who are in the market for a fast, smartly designed estate car it’s hard to beat.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Audi S4 Avant
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed tiptronic
Performance: 0 – 60mph in 4.7 seconds, 155mph top speed
Economy: 37.7mpg (combined cycle)
Emissions: 171g/km CO2