Ever since the start of the 21st century, Audi has offered high-performance “S” offshoots of some of its “A” models, including the compact A4 sedan. After redesigning the A4 for 2017, Audi continued the two-version strategy by preparing a reworked S4 for the 2018 season. Aside from a fresh look, there's new interior tech and a stronger V6 engine.
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2018 Audi S4 Overview
What's New for 2018
After a year’s absence, the S4 sedan is back in Audi’s lineup, in redesigned form, following the lead of the latest A4 model. Externally, the 2018 S4 gets a more angular version of the A4's grille, fresh headlights, and new taillights, among other modifications. Inside, new seats have more prominent bolstering, and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster – Audi's popular Virtual Cockpit – display screen is available. The new 3.0-liter V6 engine gains 21 horsepower and 44 pound-feet of torque.
Choosing Your Audi S4
Engine displacement hasn’t changed, but the new 3.0-liter V6 generates 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. A new eight-speed automatic transmission has replaced the former seven-speed dual-clutch unit. The new V6 uses a twin-scroll turbocharger, rather than the supercharger installed on the last-generation S4.
As before, Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard. Audi claims a best-in-class sprint to 60 miles per hour of just 4.4 seconds. Fuel economy is estimated by the EPA at 21 miles per gallon city, 30 highway, 24 combined.
Ride height is 0.9-inch lower than the regular A4. An upgraded suspension and speed-sensitive steering promise sharper, more precise handling.
An optional adaptive damping suspension can adjust its function as conditions vary. Also optional is a more aggressive rear differential, which can actively split torque between the left and right wheels at the rear. Both features are included in the $2,500 S Sport Package. Another option, dynamic steering ($1,150), provides a variable steering ratio that changes according to vehicle speed and the drive mode setting.
The standard Audi Drive Select system still offers a choice of four modes: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual. Mode selection lets the driver alter shift points, steering, and throttle response – plus damper control and adaptive cruise control, if installed.
Seating up to four occupants, the S4 features leather and Alcantara seating surfaces with an embossed S4 logo in the backrest. Outside, quad exhaust outlets and trunk-lid lip spoiler are telltale signs of higher performance. Driver-assistance features include forward collision warning with auto emergency braking as standard, while Audi's Pre Sense Rear safety system can anticipate a rear-end collision and take steps to protect the driver and passengers. Bang and Olufsen audio features 3D sound with 19 speakers.
Two trim levels are offered:
The S4's two trims share a number of option groups. Cold ($500) and Hot Weather ($950) packages add climate-appropriate options, ranging from a heated steering wheel to vented seats, while an S Sport Package ($2,500) adds the adaptive damper system and Sport differential, as well as painted brake calipers. Dynamic Steering ($1,150) is also available.
Most compact Audi sedan buyers should be more than satisfied with a regular A4. For enthusiasts, on the other hand, the performance and ride/handling attributes of the S4 are a must. Audi has made quite a few improvements for the latest S4, which went on sale as an early 2018 model. Turning to Prestige trim, for an additional $4,900, adds a couple of safety features and navigation that are nice, but we'd be thrilled with a Premium Plus and the Technology Package's Virtual Cockpit.
2018 Audi S4 Review
The 2018 Audi S4 is the sporty counterpart to the A4 luxury compact sedan, created by injecting a shot of power and performance into the same chassis. With a new turbocharged six-cylinder engine, it can easily outpace its competitors like the BMW 340i and the Mercedes-AMG C43, while still offering a luxurious experience with plenty of technology and features in a subdued but well-styled interior.
The base Premium Plus trim is a great value for the Audi S4. Without spending any extra money, the Premium Plus trim offers diamond-stitched leather and Alcantara 12-way adjustable front sport seats with four-way power lumbar support and massage features for both the driver and passenger, a feature that's often a pricey option on competitors, if offered at all. There's also a Bang and Olufson 19-speaker premium audio system, three-zone automatic climate control, automatic LED headlights, a sunroof, and more. All in all, the base trim is incredibly well equipped, and we're not very tempted by anything gained by spending the extra money on the Prestige trim.
There are a couple of packages we would be sure to choose for our S4. The first is the Navigation Package, which adds Audi's excellent Virtual Cockpit that replaces the instrument panel with a 12.3-inch screen that can be changed up to varied to show whatever information the driver could use, along with an 8.3 inch infotainment screen that's operated by the wheel operated Audi MMI Touch interface. We'd also want the S Sport Package, as it adds a rear differential to put the power down better and adaptive suspension.
- Model: 2018 Audi S4 Premium Plus
- Engine: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6
- Output: 354 hp / 369 lb-ft
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- Fuel Economy: 21 City / 30 Hwy
- Options: Navigation Package ($2,600, Audi Virtual Cockpit, Audi connect PRIME & PLUS, navigation, 8.3-inch infotainment screen), S Sport Package ($2,500, Sport adaptive suspension, sport rear differential, red brake calipers)
- Base Price:$52,375 (including a $975 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $57,475
The 2018 Audi S4 gets a whole new powerplant, with a 3.0-liter V6 with a twin-scroll turbocharger that replaces the previously supercharged V6. This engine gives the S4 an additional 21 horsepower and 44 pound-feet of torque over the outgoing model, increasing the totals up to 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This gives the luxury sport sedan the ability to hit 60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, which is faster than any rival. Like all Audi performance models, the S4 comes standard with quattro all-wheel drive that's biased toward the rear wheels, but like most Audis, it tends to end in controllable understeer if the driver pushes the envelope too hard. Handling is overall quite good, especially when equipped with the optional sport rear differential.
While the new S4 is quicker, it also does make a few compromises. They've traded the fast-shifting dual-clutch transmission for a standard eight-speed automatic, which is competent but clearly focused on saving some gas and the gear shifts aren't nearly as fast. Additionally, the drive settings on the adaptive suspension are a bit cushier than we'd like in the Dynamic setting, while the adaptive steering tends to flop between a comfort-oriented slow ratio or a tight sporty ratio that can feel a bit excited like a puppy that can't believe her luck that you actually came home from work again.
The 2018 Audi S4 follows the same design principles as most Audis. It has a stoic but handsome exterior that makes few boasts about it's performance capabilities. Most design elements are discrete but well placed, adding to the overall look of the car while not distracting from the overall theme. The interior is upscale but minimalist, with nice touches like diamond-stitched seats and upscale, expensive looking materials throughout the cabin.
Compared with some rivals, the S4 is very well equipped even at the base levels. The standard 12-way leather and Alcantara seats with massage and 19-speaker Bang and Olufson audio system are surprising additions to standard features for this class, as they're often expensive options on competing models. The seats are comfortable, and it's possible to put seat full-size adults in the back seat comfortably, which goes to show just how big these "compact" luxury sedans have become in recent years. The addition of Audi's Virtual Cockpit with its 12.3-inch screen that replaces the instruments is a must-have feature, as it can be configured in many ways depending on the driver's needs or desires. If you want to navigate, the Virtual Cockpit can show you navigation, performance information, or many other informational screens.
The Best and Worst Things
The best thing about the S4 is the amount of standard features you get in even the base model. As mentioned above, the addition of massaging seats and premium audio makes the S4 feel like you spent your money well. The turbocharged V6 also offers a great amount of horsepower with very little turbo lag and the quattro AWD system is one of the best in the business.
On the other hand, the new eight-speed transmission isn't as crisp or smart as the previous dual-clutch transmission. The new transmission sacrifices the crisp shifts of the dual-clutch for a more fuel-conscious mindset that'll try to shift to a higher gear even if you don't want it to. Furthermore, some people may find the S4 to be a bit boring. There's very little drama with the S4, with a character that tries to keep your relationship with the car strictly professional.
Right For? Wrong For?
If you want a sedan that's more fun to drive than a standard A4, the S4 is probably what you're looking for. It adds a significant amount of performance without compromising luxury features. This is a great car for commuting on a daily basis, while retaining the ability to put a smile on your face at your choosing.
The S4 isn't the car for someone who wants a nimble sport sedan. Over the past few years, the S4 has grown in size than it used to be, so it's carrying much more weight around with it. Instead, look at the Audi S3 for about $10,000 cheaper or the similarly-priced but super-fast RS3.
The Bottom Line
The 2018 Audi S4 is fast, luxurious, and competent at what it does. The S4 is loaded with features that put other sport sedans to shame while feeling very upscale, and it's a faster sprinter than any of its competitors. While it may be a bit "professional" stylistically, it's still an excellent choice for anyone who wants a sportier alternative to a luxury car for their commutes.