There was a time when the S4 was the most exciting Audi offered in the United States. What a difference 10 years can make. The S4 is now joined by the S5 , RS5 , S6 and R8 sports models with more appearing on the horizon every year. In the face of the new lineup, the S4 looks pretty tame by comparison.
The looks are deceiving, however. The S4 may have lost its shouty atmospheric V-8 engine for this generation, but replaces it with a supercharged V-6 that weights nearly 200 pounds less and delivers acceleration sprints in the mid 4’s all day long. The $50,000 S4 offers a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic or a rare six-speed manual.
The 2014 S4 faces a mild identity crisis in the face of the increasingly expensive BMW M3 that has long been its arch nemesis. Audi makes sure that even the speedy 335Xi model cannot keep up with the S4 in a straight line. Otherwise, S4 the package stays pretty similar to the core A4 style and value proposition. In fact, the S4 is basically just an engine and handling package over the base A4 that is only offered in 2.0-liter form.
How does it stack up versus the 335Xi and the 2014 Cadillac CTS Vsport ? All three sedans are offered with AWD and run extra-powerful V-6 engines that use forced induction to increase power while maintaining decent efficiency stats.
Click past the jump for the full review of the S4 with highlights on the new features and equipment for 2014.
The S4 is starting to look very old, despite a 2012 refresh that brought new grille, lamp and bumper designs to the model. In the red color of these images, distinguishing between the S4 and the S3 sedan concept is virtually impossible. They both seem too narrow and too stubby to convincingly wear the same arcing window-line as the larger A6 models.
Aside from the new pinched headlights and some halogen cornering lights in the lower bumper, there is little groundbreaking design on the S4. The car does not look as unhappy as the pouting 3 series BMW from the front and does look more current than the Mercedes-Benz C350 that is about to be replaced. Still, for a car as special and fast as the S4, the exterior styling just is not interesting enough.
The key features that mark the S4 over the A4 include the grille that uses chrome horizontal slats instead of a wide crosshatch pattern, a bumper with functional rectangular air vents, the aluminum door mirrors and the quad exhaust with diffuser in back. 3.0T badges also grace the front fenders to scare off drag-racing teenagers.
As with nearly all current Audi ’s, the most exciting color is the red seen here and the wheels all look virtually identical. There are three equally-dull red colors available.
Audi’s fast models desperately need some Porsche GT3 -style oranges, greens, blues and yellow color options. Without them, the car is just another vanilla Audi sedan painted a variety of silver-ish hues.
2014 Audi S4 Exterior Dimensions:
|Overall length||185.7 in.|
|Overall width||71.9 in.|
|Overall height||55.4 in.|
|Track (front/rear)||61.1/ 60.6 in.|
2014 Audi S4 Exterior Features:
- Audi Single-frame grille in Platinum Gray with horizontal chrome bars
- Automatic headlights
- LED taillights
- LED perimeter lights in exterior mirrors, activated when door unlocked and dark outside – controlled by the light sensor
- Automatic light switch controlled by light sensor, coming home/leaving home function
- Three blink touch-to-pass lane change feature in turn signal
- Power-adjustable heated side mirrors
- Alu-optic outside mirrors; heated with LED turn signal repeaters with fiber optic technology
- Heated windshield washer nozzles
- Audi xenon plus headlights with automatic self-leveling and LED daytime running lights
- Quad exhaust with finished tips (S4 Exclusive)
2014 Audi S4 Exterior Options:
- Metallic/pearl/crystal effect paint (Varies: $475 - $1200)
- 19-inch wheels with Five-segment-spoke design
- 19-inch titanium-colored RS blade wheels
- Black optics package for gloss black grille, black window trims and color-coded mirrors
The interior of the S4 gets some major updates for this year to integrate the newly available adaptive cruise control and blind-spot assist systems. Otherwise, it is par for the course. Excellent materials are used all around and the level of perceived quality is beyond reproach both front and back.
The hooded instrument binnacle up front continues for 2014 and wraps the entire dash top with really expensive soft-touch plastic. The S4 comes standard with branding everywhere to make sure you do not forget the name of your car. The sills, gauges and MMI all offer S4-specific graphics on the welcome screens.
Audi’s gorgeous “S4 S sport” 12-way power seats continue to be some of the most adjustable and supportive racing buckets available at any price. They look great with a contrasting leather color that also decorates the doors and stitching elsewhere. The S4’s standard flat-bottom steering wheel looks nice and purposeful but lacks aluminum trims or the detailing seen elsewhere on this R8-style wheel.
The car is loaded with push-button start, via the advanced key, and Google Earth satellite maps when equipped with the pricey nav option. Audi also offers adjustable settings, including the dampers on the S4, as part of the Audi Drive Select that is not offered on base A4 models.
2014 Audi S4 Interior Dimensions:
|Headroom With Sunroof (Front/Rear)||40.0/37.5 in.|
|Headroom With Sun Shade (Front/Rear)||38.6/37.5 in.|
|Legroom (Front/Rear)||41.3/35.2 in.|
|Shoulder Room (Front/Rear)||55.5/54.3 in.|
|EPA Cargo Volume||12.4 cubic-feet|
|EPA Cargo Volume (Rear Seats Folded)||34.0 cubic-feet|
2014 Audi S4 Interior Features:
- Interior decorative inlays (see decorative inlays page for more detail)
- Aluminum “S4” door sill inlays
- Alu-optic surrounding of air vents, window and seating switchgear, and vent controls
- Aluminum inlays on door panel interior beltline, center console and passenger side dashboard
- Leather seating surfaces (see interior fabrics page for more detail)
- Leather shift knob
- 40:60 split folding rear seat with pass-through and armrest, release mechanisms accessed from rear seats
- Audi concert system with one CD player (MP3 capable), AM/FM radio, auxiliary input jack, SD card slot for MP3 files
- Audi MMI Radio plus system for controlling Infotainment / Climate / Car Setup (with 6.5-inch color screen)
- Audi premium sound system with ten speakers and single CD player with MP3 playback capability
- Voice control system (controls cellular phone, CD, radio and navigation), includes speech-to-text engine
- Twelve-way power front sport seats including four-way power lumbar adjustment and adjustable thigh support
- Two-position driver side memory for seat and mirror adjustments (located on driver’s door)
- Bluetooth wireless technology preparation for mobile phone
2014 Audi S4 Interior Options:
- Carbon interior trim
- Stainless steel and piano black interior trim
- Audi MMI Navigation plus system: with TFT color, WVGA, seven-inch display screen, control knob w/ joystick and buttons in center console. Operates climate control, central locking, instrument cluster, vehicle diagnostics, cellular phone, navigation, CD and radio functions. (CD/DVD player)
- Audi connect with six-month trial subscription with Audi MMI Navigation plus only
- Audi music interface with iPod integration includes one cable for iPod connection
- Bang and Olufsen Sound System with 14 speakers and 505 watts (includes Dolby Digital 5.1 and noise compensation)
- Bluetooth streaming audio with Audi MMI Navigation plus only
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
The S4 runs the new 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine that produces 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque for an official 0-to-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. The manual car is slightly slower in all but an expert’s hands because it is more difficult to launch than the S-tronic DSG. All S4’s run permanent four-wheel-drive that splits the torque 40:60 front to rear.
The engine in the S4 produces eight more horsepower and 15 more pound-feet of torque than it does in A6 3.0T specification thanks to a slightly higher 11.6 psi of max boost.
Car tuners will always say that stock supercharged engines can easily be cranked up to 15 psi without triggering electronic problems. For every tick up the boost meter, the car will produce approximately 20 extra horsepower. So, with a 10-minute ECU re-flash, the S4 could make 388 horsepower and closer to 350 pound-feet of torque.
The engine is fast and responsive even in factory specification, thanks to the always-on power delivery of superchargers paired with excellent gearboxes. There are very few cars in the segment that continue to offer a manual, so that makes it a unique choice for drivers who like to shift for themselves.
During the recent refresh, the S4 also received the quattro sport rear diff with mechanical limited-slip and torque vectoring, via a crown gear. Unlike many current S and RS models, there is no optional sports exhaust.
A common belief about superchargers is that they all whine like some Mustang ’s thanks to a belt-driven design that making a ‘whirring’ noise under power. The Audi supercharger is chain-driven and lives within the V-6’s engine block for zero belt whine.
2014 Audi S4 Mechanical Details:
|Engine Size and Type||3.0-liter Supercharged 24-valve V-6 with TFSI Direct Injection and Chain-driven DOHC|
|Peak power||333 horsepower|
|Peak torque||325 pound-feet|
|Transmission||6-Speed Manual, 7-speed S-tronic Dual Clutch Optional|
|0-to-60 mph||4.7 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
|EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)||19/28/22|
The Audi S4 is a very safe car with many high-tech safety systems in place to ensure crashes are survivable. Due to the S4’s shared structure with the Audi A4, the A4’s results from IIHS and NHTSA crash tests can be reliably extended to the S4.
The A4 aced the traditional crash tests from IIHS and the NHTSA for a 2013 Top Safety Pick credit from IIHS. This is visible in the NHTSA’s full-frontal collision in which the A4 performs exceptionally well.
2014 Audi S4 Safety Features:
- ABS (Anti-lock Brake System) with EBD (Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution) and Audi brake assist
- ESC (Electronic Stability Control): System includes ABS / EBD / EDL / ASR and off-road mode
- Driver and front passenger advanced dual-stage airbag supplemental restraints
- Driver and front passenger seat-mounted side thorax airbag supplemental restraints
- Sideguard head curtain airbags for both rows of seats
- Electromechanical parking brake
- Front three-point safety belts with automatic pre-tensioning, height adjustable upper mounts and force limiters
- Hydraulic Brake Assist, automatically senses emergency braking and applies maximum available power boost to reduce overall stopping distance
- Impact protection, including reinforced high strength steel/aluminum cross-members, reinforced bumpers and rigid occupant cell
- Integrated child door locks in rear doors, activated using a key in side of door near latch area
- Pinch protection for all windows
- Rear passenger (outboard) side airbag supplemental restraint system (Optional)
The 2014 Audi S4 prices range from $47,600 for the Premium Plus trim up to $53,850 for Prestige trim that includes MMI nav and many other features as standard equipment.
Competition for the Audi S4 comes from the Audi A6 3.0T S-line , the BMW 335Xi and the forthcoming Cadillac CTS Vsport.
Why not the M3 sedan? Primarily because the M3 sedan is on a brief hiatus until its replacement arrives next year. It is also rear-drive only, much more expensive and more powerful. The 335Xi closely matches the S4 on sprint performance and overall appeal. More of the desirable features are optional on the BMW but this does allow it to have a lower base price than the S4.
This competitor might seem unusual until you realize that it runs a twin-turbo V-6 producing 420 horsepower for an estimated 4.4 second sprint to 60 mph. The new CTS is larger than the S4 in every dimension and packs a better back seat. While the next CTS is set to drop its coupe, wagon and manual transmissions, the car still looks extremely promising as a luxurious sport sedan with AWD available.
Gallery Cadillac CTS Sedan
The S4 will get far fewer stares than in the mid-2000s when it was the cream of the Audi crop. In fact, if Audi had kept the silver egg-crate grille for this new S4, few people would be able to differentiate them whatsoever.
The S4 is therefore caught in much the same styling trap as the larger A6 . Paralyzed by the success of the previous designs, the 2014 S4 looks much too similar to the 1994 Audi A4 in proportion and even in the details. A new model is still a few years away but will undoubtedly make the A4 far wider and lower than it currently sits.
Due to the price overlap between the S4 and the A6 3.0T S-line , many buyers might prefer the aluminum-bodied sedan that shares nearly all the A4’s mechanical components but weighs 100 pounds less. The bigger Audi is barely slower and runs a conventional eight-speed automatic that some buyers may also prefer to the S-tronic auto option from the S4.
Where the S4 really shines is on a track where the car’s trim dimensions help impart a sense of eagerness to the chassis. Pairing a manual box with this new engine is really smart and is the first such pairing within the Volkswagen Group, where the engine also powers the Q7, A7 and numerous future models like the Porsche Macan .
With extra performance potential via the untapped safe boost range, the S4 might make more sense that it does now. For drivers looking for a small German performance sedan, the car is still a force of nature. It is extremely powerful and responsive and has much nicer handling balance than the previous V-8 model thanks to the dramatic weight loss.
Until Audi can add some drama to the exterior styling and engine acoustics, the S4 is little more than a rocket-ship engine and interior upgrade.
|Driving||B||Trusty A4 Handling And Dynamics Via Quattro AWD|
|Performance||B||Good Sprint Stats Seem To Leave Too Much Room For Non-Imported RS4|
|Look||C-||The S4 Looks At Least 5 Years Old Despite Being Brand New|
|Value||B||Questionable Value Due To Exterior Dullness And Interior Being Very Tight|
|Overall||B||Needs An Extreme Makeover To Show Off Cool New Tech|
- Rides a full inch lower than other A4 models
- Interior still marvelous despite narrow width
- Supercharged engine plus manual or DSG box options
- Potential tuning power of un-tapped boost
- Super boring to look at; did Audi fire all its designers?
- Overshadowed by A6 3.0T S-Line that is priced the same
- MMI Nav interface showing its age as cutting edge moves to latest iPad-style touchscreens
2014 Audi A4 Model Line
The Audi A4 receives several enhancements for the 2014 Model Year, including a turbocharged 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder engine with horsepower increased to 220. The Convenience package – which includes Bluetooth, Homelink, Audi music interface and driver information system – is standard on the Premium model. It also offers a new attractive S line style package, rear split folding seats in the Cold Weather package, and Audi MMI Navigation.
The Premium Plus and Prestige models feature a standard S line exterior and a new 18-inch 10-spoke exclusive RS-design wheel, giving the A4 a sportier overall appearance. Audi advanced key is offered as part of the Premium Plus package, and Audi drive select is now standard on all S4 models.
New for 2014, both A4 and S4 models offer a Black Optic package with new high gloss black exterior trim and 19-inch Titanium Rotor design wheels.