2015 Audi S4 3.0T quattro - Review, Specs, Prices and Comparisons
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau Having just reviewed the Audi A3 2.0T and criticizing it only for the small door openings and lack of a rear-view camera we now have the next Audi in our lineup with a bit more room and lots more pizzaz – this S4 3.0T Quattro. With neither of those faults I’m wondering if this will be a perfect car. Probably not, but on first impression, including a drive in to the city, it is very good indeed. “S” means upgraded performance in Audi parlance. It means gobs of power, tighter and more responsive handling with race track-like road manners. The “4” refers to the size – compact, but on the larger side of that size designation. It feels a bit bigger than many other compacts and the ingress/egress, to the front seats particularly, is considerably easier than the A3 from last week’s review. Our striking Ibis White S4 was more of a head-turner than I expected. Multiple times this week someone hollered out “nice car” or gestured with thumbs up. Audi’s styling and design follow that brand’s own path favoring smoothly rounded surfaces and gentle character lines over current trends of crisp lines and aggressive angles. One advantage is it has not required styling updates in 6 years and still looks great. Audi pioneered the use of LED lighting as a styling accent and this S4 uses that effectively. The large, black and silver grille with small red and silver “S4” badge and large Audi rings hints at this one’s performance character as does its athletic stance and quad exhaust outlets. The extra-large, 19-inch titanium-finish wheels shod with wide summer tires contribute to the visual character as well. The S4’s interior is beautifully finished with high-quality materials that add that understated, timeless gracefulness to the feel of the car. Stitched materials embellish seats, door panels and shifter but not the dash. A flat-bottom steering wheel is full of functions, most of which are easily managed. While Audi tends to lead the way in technology they’ve been reasonably good at making it all manageable, though we certainly found a learning curve in acclimating to some of its controls, infotainment options and dynamic functions. I only ran into one issue that was annoyingly difficult though. That was the “destination” function within the navigation system seemed to get a location stuck in its craw freezing the map. That happened on two occasions. Of course, I finally figured it out it was my fault, but it was a real struggle finding the error. The S4 seats are firm and comfortable with substantial, but not over-restrictive, bolsters to hold us in place during spirited driving. You can get a two-tone leather interior but ours had the monochromatic black. A small ‘MMI’ knob on the console controls most of the car’s functions. This, too, requires some serious study to determine all of its functions. Rear seat room is good for a compact car and ingress/egress to the rear seems better than most, perhaps because the roofline is not as low as some. The rear seatbacks fold 60/40 nearly flat with well-designed release mechanism opening fully into the decent sized 12.4 cubic-foot trunk. With the seats folded Audi says we have a substantial 34 cubic-feet to accommodate our stuff. This magical powertrain starts out with a 333-horsepower, 3.0-liter V6 making an impressive 325 pound-feet of torque by way of a supercharger and more high-zoot engine technology than I can even begin to understand. In this case we have the 6-speed manual transmission (the quick-shifting 7-speed S tronic® is optional) adding a significant level of fun to our daily driving. The clutch takeup is as smooth and easy as any I’ve driven - more frim than any of the Asian brands, not as heavy as most others. The Quattro symmetrical, full-time all-wheel drive assures poise and control on just about any surface you can imagine. While our driving environment this week was dry, warm and entirely without challenge, I’ll just report that I have driven Quattro-equipped Audi vehicles in some awfully treacherous conditions with complete confidence and without unpleasant outcomes. Our 3,900-pound S4 with manual transmission is rated by the EPA at 17 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway and 20 mpg overall using premium fuel. Premium is recommended, not required. Audi lists a 0-to-60 time of just 4.9 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155. Our experience this week included plenty of jack-rabbit starts but no high-speed testing, very little city driving, mostly freeway and country two-lanes. We were well within those mileage estimates. Only two trim levels make up the S4 line – Premium Plus starting at $48,400 and Prestige starting at $54,300. Our test car is the former. We have the Technology Package adding $2,900 that includes Navigation, upgraded driver information display, parking system with rear-view camera, Audi Connect with 6-month service including on-line services, and a side assist program. We also have a $1,300 Black Optic Package that includes some trim extras and the bigger, fancier wheels and tires. The Bang & Olufsen sound system adds $850 and the Quattro all-wheel drive system costs another $1,100. The bottom line on our sticker shows $55,475. Audi’s new car warranty covers the car and powertrain for 4 years or 50,000 miles. Having spent a week and about 600 miles with the S4 this week I can confidently say this is one of the best cars of its ilk I’ve reviewed. Power is generous and silky even at full throttle to red line. The cabin is comfortable and quiet with good ergonomics though it has some modestly challenging controls and functions. Handling, particularly in Sport mode, would serve us well on a race track. And, though attractively designed and sporty looking, it does not call attention to itself with superfluous visual embellishment. The next Audi on my schedule is the big A8L. Watch for that soon. © Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved
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