With the next-generation car on the horizon, it was extremely important to me to get some seat time in an old favourite. I’ve been tooting the proverbial horn of the Audi S4 for over five years now, ever since I first drove the current-generation model in late 2010. I was fresh out of my undergrad and car hunting, and a friend had insisted I try out this one. At the time, a new one was well out of my budget, and I was wary about reliability costs on a used model. A couple years later, I was given one to evaluate for a week, and the obsession became very real. This very well may be the last time I spend a week or two with a 2015 Audi S4 Technik, so I did my best to make the most of it.
The S4 really has been my unicorn over the past little while. Each and every time I see one, my head turns, and I begin asking myself why I didn’t buy one when I made my last car purchase. In reality, with media test vehicles in my garage every week, I currently have no need for anything remotely practical, so an S4 would just sit and be driven sparingly. However, laying eyes on my Tornado Grey Metallic (an extra $890.00) tester for the first time though, all of my feelings and emotions for this car came rushing back instantly. Audi’s classic and elegant lines still look great, but are showing their age now when compared to the stunning A7, newly-facelifted A6, and cheeky little A3. I’m okay with that though, because the S4 is a car meant to fly under the radar, a job it does very well.
It’s very important to not compare this Audi with the BMW M3, a grave error often seen in the enthusiast world. The M3 and M4 should be compared with the 400+ horsepower RS5. The S4 is a direct rival to the BMW 335i, Lexus IS350 F-Sport, and even the Volvo S60 T6. Each of these cars boasts six cylinders, most with some form of forced induction, and numbers in the vicinity of 300 horsepower. The S4 packs a supercharged 3.0L V6 (annoyingly called 3.0T), good for 333 horsepower at 5500rpm and 325 lb-ft of torque at 2900rpm. This motor goes into my personal hall of fame, and makes a fantastic sound not unlike a kitten’s purr. The go-pedal produces instantaneous power right through the entire powerband and the Audi is always ready to dance.
Audi gives you two transmission options; somewhat of a rare thing nowadays. The seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch is a great little number that shifts faster than you can blink, and makes great noises on both upshifts and downshifts. To my surprise though, our friends at Audi Canada equipped this particular test car with a 6-speed manual gearbox, complete with a real clutch pedal. I have been fortunate enough to drive manual transmission S4s before, and the result makes me squeal like a five-year-old at any given moment. The shifter is as precise as a magic wand, and the clutch pedal has a very prominent grab point. It’s incredibly easy to shift this car well, and I was performing heel-and-toe downshifts within the first hour with it.
Those keen on memorizing spec sheets will observe that the A6 also offers the same supercharged V6 in non-“S” form. In the S4 application, it pumps out 8 additional horses and 15 lb-ft of torque because the supercharger has been tuned for 11.6psi of maximum boost. All S4s are equipped with quattro all-wheel-drive, and the legendary German system splits 60% of torque to the rear. This means that along with being a truly year-round daily driver, the car is boatloads of fun. My S4 tester was also (thankfully) equipped with the quattro sport rear differential, which, thanks to a crown gear, features torque vectoring as well as limited-slip. All true driving enthusiasts will want to opt for this $1400 option.
Dynamic steering is a $1500 addition that livens the car up considerably when hitting the twisties, something many S4 buyers will make into a regular hobby. Using the Audi Drive Select, the weight of the steering wheel can be adjusted between “Comfort”, “Auto”, and “Dynamic”. In the most tempting setting, the heft of the wheel is perfect for higher-speed maneuvers, and the car responds with the utmost precision we have come to expect from the Audi brand. Even still, feedback from the road is minimal and the S4’s steering lacks the amount of “feel” purists so desire. This isn’t the car’s fault though – it’s the way the industry is going. I can’t name a single competitor of this Audi’s that doesn’t feel the same way.
Even in the fuel economy area, I found the S4 quite agreeable. The more spiritedly you drive, the faster the 65L tank tends to drain, but if you’re light footed while moseying around during the daily grind, the supercharged-six can be quite frugal. Over a week of literally taking the car everywhere, and making excuses to go out and drive the car as much as possible, I averaged 10.5L/100km on 91-octane fuel. Driving exclusively in the city will see numbers as high as 13.2L/100km, whereas I observed efficiency in the 9.0L/100km range on highway drives using the adaptive cruise control.
The S4 was last given a facelift for model year 2013, which introduced a new grille design, freshened bumpers as well as new headlights. Key styling cues that differentiate the S4 became evident when I parked this car right beside a close friend’s loaded 2013 A4. Rather than crosshatched patterning, the S4’s grille implements horizontal slats finished in chrome, with an “S4” badge rather than one for “quattro”. The bumper also has (functional!) air vents, the mirrors are finished in aluminum, and there are quad exhaust tips in the rear with a unique diffuser. Again, these differences are intentionally subtle as to help with the S4’s inconspicuous yet classy image.
Adding to the base price of $55,200 for the manual transmission Progressiv Plus model, my tester had the top-level Technik Plus kitting, bringing the base price to $57,600. The Black Optic Package is an additional $700, and blacks out exterior trim bits for that added sporty feel, but it’s something I would personally pass on. An additional $500 adds the Carbon Atlas Inlays, bringing carbon fiber trim to the dashboard and door panels. Sport suspension with damping control is $900 well spent, as is the Bang & Olufsen sound system. Audi MMI with navigation and three-zone automatic climate control is standard, along with the sunroof, heated leather seats, and fog lights front and rear. The total sticker on my 2015 S4 hovered right over the $65,000 mark, a satisfactory value proposition in this class.
The Audi MMI system is still good, and the sound quality from the Bang & Olufsen stereo is great, but I’m well past the point of wanting regular USB ports. I use an older 160GB iPod Classic, and it isn’t compatible with the latest Audi MMI iPod cable, so I’m forced to carry around an old cable I purchased a few years ago to use in test vehicles. Nearly every other manufacturer is fine with the regular white Apple cable. We will undoubtedly be seeing a new version of MMI infotainment in the new A4/S4, rumoured to debut in a few months. I do like the old navigation system though; it’s great in ease-of-use and provides real time traffic updates along with 3D view of local landmarks.
This past year has marked the entry of a new “rival” to the S4. I say that in quotations because the Audi S3 is a whole car class smaller, lacks two cylinders, and is on a completely different platform. The S3 is marginally quicker in a straight line than its bigger brother, even though it packs a turbocharged 4-cylinder as opposed to the supercharged six driven here. I came away from my test of the S3 being head-over-heels in love with it, and it does have its advantages (such as the new MMI system, slightly refreshed interior materials), but the S4 just feels considerably more substantial on the highway. Plus, I’m a sucker for the soundtrack the supercharged V6 provides, and would easily pay a premium for it.
Some may call me a diehard German car fan of sorts, and I won’t go as far as to completely deny it. Varying more frequently than the weather in a tropical storm, my tastes recently tend to gravitate towards the perfect combination of simplicity and elegance. Though not the most pure of drivers’ cars, the S4 delivers an unmatched motoring experience in its segment. The precision it packs, combined with the year-round ease of use and the heritage of the Audi brand speaks to me as a car guy. Despite its flaws and the fact that the current model is getting up there in age, the 2015 Audi S4 is something I could hop into every single day for the rest of my life and still be happy. At the end of it all, isn’t that what being the perfect daily driver is all about?
2015 Audi S4 Technik Gallery