The best of the best
The S4 is quite possibly the best everyday car money can buy right now.
In the same way that some cars are better than others, some car classes are more entertaining than others. Recently, when I drove the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Sport, I stated that the entry-level luxury sport sedan class is one of my favourites. This is because every single car in the class is very, very good. The 2013 Audi S4, however, is better than all the others. In fact, this Audi is one of my absolute favourite vehicles on the road today. It’s not the quickest car on the road, nor is it the most luxurious. The S4 provides a level of balance that no other car on the road can match.
Despite having a “V6T” badge on the front fender, the current S4 is powered by a 3.0L supercharged V6 engine. Simply put, this supercharged-six is a menace. With 333 horsepower and 324 lb-ft of torque, a quick plant of the throttle makes the Audi shoot like a bat out of hell no matter where in the powerband it is. These power numbers are also absurdly underrated. When I drove the S4 last fall, I was taken aback by just how good the S-tronic double-clutch gearbox was. This one was equipped with the purist’s choice, a conventional 6-speed manual with a real third pedal. While no driver can match the “bang, bang, bang” lightning-quick shifts of the S-tronic, few gearboxes are as satisfying as the traditional manual. The clutch is extremely forgiving, and it’s surprisingly easy to rev-match downshifts. The sound coming out of this car is simply breathtaking.
The Audi S4 is already known for its raw, brute power. Still, enthusiasts in North America pine for the return of the even-quicker RS4. I can’t help but wonder if these so-called “Audiphiles” have actually driven the current S4 before begging for more. Not even once during my week with this car did I ever wish I had even a few more foot-pounds of torque. The beauty of the S4’s behaviour is in how modest it is. The power is there exactly when you need it, but when you don’t, the car is smooth as butter. It may as well be powered by whipped cream rather than premium fuel. Speaking of fuel, I managed a lovely 8.8L/100km on the highway and a modest 11.3L/100km when driving hard. Of course, the S4 practically begs to be pushed harder with every passing second.
Handling is typical for an Audi. In Comfort mode (using Drive Mode Select), the steering feels almost as artificial as a Playstation controller. In Dynamic, it tightens up but doesn’t really give me the satisfaction that the previous-generation (E90) BMW 3-series did. There is a little bit of understeer during hard cornering. However, the electronically-controlled sport differential planted a huge smile on my face when bouncing around my favourite driving roads. Additionally, Quattro all-wheel-drive means I would not hesitate to drive the S4 everywhere year-round.
My tester came with a pretty hefty equipment list on it. Where the standard S4 comes pretty well-equipped already, mine had essentially every single option box ticked off. Things I would want included Audi Drive Select with the electronically-controlled sport differential ($4,000) and the Bang & Olufsen sound system (which I’ll get into shortly). The Audi Drive Select allows the driver to toggle between settings for the engine/transmission, the engine sound, and the suspension. Naturally, being what I would consider a true driver, I left everything in the most “Dynamic” setting and went on my merry way. My particular S4 also came with the sportier 19” wheels, a premium paint job in Monsoon Grey Metallic, and two-tone Nappa leather seats. After factoring in the other options on the car, the sticker is right in the $70,000 region.
Audi’s MMI is already great (I personally prefer it to BMW iDrive) – the Bang & Olufsen sound system only emphasizes a wonderful experience. There exists the perfect balance between treble, bass, and midrange sound. This one isn’t just because of the name, music really does become theatrical in the S4. The navigation interface is great to use too, the 3D display of major buildings looks great in the display. One noteworthy point is that Audi definitely wins the award for the best placement of a volume knob. Rather than a huge contraption in the middle of the dashboard, ‘ze Germans’ have conveniently put the volume knob (which also skips between audio tracks) right beside the shifter.
If I had to choose one car for daily commuting, with no set price ceiling, it would be this one. Dependent on what type of driving I would be doing, I may skip the three-pedal model and opt for the brilliant S-tronic, but the Audi S4 is the correct choice regardless of transmission. This thing is the perfect size for parking in the sprawling urban metropolis that is Toronto, and the quick steering makes for simple maneuvering around oblivious drivers.
The BMW 335i is a pretty great car, but after spending a week with it, I didn’t think it was could be described as incredible. The new Lexus IS350 F-Sport is awesome too, but it’s not exactly indescribable. Out of all the cars we had tested in 2012, the S4 was my favourite. One year and hundreds of cars later, I still have the same amount of love for this Audi, and I’d be hard-pressed to find something I would enjoy more with every passing day.
2013 Audi S4 Premium Gallery