6-speeds of manual goodness | The seats are superb, the steering wheel is perfectly shaped (flat-bottomed, of course), and the driving position is fantastic.
The first luxury sports sedan I reviewed after starting DoubleClutch.ca was an Audi S4. At that time, I fell in love with the car and found it hard to find any flaws at all with it. Since then, we have tested all of its competitors, and I found that my heart still longed for the supercharged 6-cylinder in the S4. I grabbed the keys to a 2015 Audi S4 with no more than break-in mileage to see if this car is still the king of sport sedans.
Last year, we gave our sports sedan award to a pair of wonderful new vehicles; the Infiniti Q50S and the Lexus IS350 F-Sport. Both of these cars came from a history of nice but rather uninvolving driving experiences, so the latest redesigns were real game changers. The Audi has not been significantly overhauled in over 5 years now, and the base A4 is beginning to show its age. However, the S4 still puts a ridiculously goofy smile on my face with every passing mile. It’s also the only car in its class that is supercharged; the Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Infiniti are naturally aspirated, while the BMW and Volvo are turbocharged.
Yes, you read correctly. Despite the “V6T” badge on the side, a supercharged 3.0L V6 engine powers the Audi S4. Audi does this for nostalgic reasons. It has 333 horsepower and 324 lb-ft of torque. Even though I regularly drive more powerful cars, it’s this motor that hits my proverbial sweet spot. It’s just so svelte; power delivery is impeccable and the noise it produces is insane. The factory exhaust is quiet enough for day-to-day commuting, and comes alive when the Audi Drive Select is put into “Dynamic”. I spent a good portion of my test week in this mode, and the car produces a daily commuting experience like no other.
The car I fell in love with a couple years ago had the superb 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a 6-speed manual on this test car. Some manuals on the market these days are a bit notchy and imprecise, but this one is like operating a magic wand. The clutch is perfect, and the shifter is so predictable it’s impossible to mis-shift. We are at that inevitable point where no human can match the lightning-quick shifts of the dual-clutch gearbox, but those don’t quite deliver the level of driver involvement that a proper manual does.
Steering on the S4 is nothing short of a performance car. It’s light enough to navigate parking lots and other low-speed maneuvers without struggling, and it provides the right amount of feedback at speed to make the car feel incredibly nimble. Plus, with Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, this thing is virtually unstoppable in any sort of inclement weather. The Audi Quattro Sport Differential ($1,500) makes all the difference, and it’s a must-have option.
Even sitting in gridlock is pleasurable with the S4. The seats are superb, the steering wheel is perfectly shaped (flat-bottomed, of course), and the driving position is fantastic. The Bang & Olufsen sound system on my tester made traffic that much less irritating. I actually had this car during the week of the Honda Indy, and I live just blocks from all the chaos. Getting out of my condo complex and onto the highway is usually a ~5 minute affair, but it took over an hour during the Indy. Typically, I’d be annoyed, especially if I had to work a heavy clutch in all of this. Surprisingly, there wasn’t even a moment where I was annoyed with the S4. Thanks for the comfort there, Audi.
The MSRP on the base Audi S4 starts right around the $55,000 mark. My tester was literally fully loaded, with an as-tested price in the region of $66,450. Starting with the Glacier White Metallic paint (I personally would opt for black), the car was loaded with adaptive damping suspension, black Beaufort inlays, dynamic steering, a rear comfort package, the sport differential, and the Titanium Package. All toys I appreciate the presence of, but inevitably, most buyers will opt out of the majority of these.
Audi’s MMI system is incredibly intuitive. It’s not that it’s the highest-resolution in the industry or that it has a ton of innovative features; it’s the simplicity that makes it something I enjoy so much. For instance, the volume control knob is located directly beside the shifter so that it’s never a far reach. This knob also doubles as the audio mute, and can be tilted from side to side to seek between tracks on media. Browsing through playlists on my iPod is a breeze, even if I do have to use the Audi-branded proprietary iPod cable.
Okay, so this review is pretty positive. It has to be – even after I’ve driven every other car in this class, I’m still infatuated with the Audi S4. After a week’s worth of driving, I observed 11.0L/100km on 91-octane premium, and I wasn’t the least bit upset. I may be a bit of a fuel miser, but a car like this yields no negative emotions. It barely has any flaws at all, and it’s still one of my favourite four-doors on the road. I was asked numerous questions about how I liked the S4 during my time with it, and each time, my answer was the same: if I didn’t have a new test car every week, this is the one car I would own and drive year-round.
2015 Audi S4 Premium Gallery