Drool-worthy performance wagon makes us wish for its arrival in America

Audi promised a significant redesign of the A4 and, like clockwork, that promise finally materialized with the debut of the 2020 A4. The German automaker didn’t just stop with the new A4, either. The entire family of models attached to the luxury sedan also arrived, including the S4 Avant, the high-performance wagon that has remained a forbidden fruit for customers in the U.S. Just like the A4, the S4 Avant is arriving in style. It still traces its roots to the current B9 generation of the A4 that dates back to 2016, but you wouldn’t know it once you get a good look at it. Most of the changes are cosmetic, though there are also a handful of technological updates that gives the punchy wagon an all-new model vibe. Unless Audi has a change of heart, it doesn’t look like we’ll get to see the updated S4 Avant in the U.S. anytime soon. Years have passed, and the S4 Avant is still out of their reach.

  • 2020 Audi S4 Avant
  • Year:
    2020
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    342 @ 3850
  • Torque @ RPM:
    516 @ 2500
  • Displacement:
    3.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    4.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Exterior

  • New headlight design
  • Flatter front grille
  • Low-slung stance
  • More aggressive look
  • New character lines
  • Two quad exhaust tips
2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839678
The 2020 Audi S4 Avant benefits from new cosmetic features that come as a result of significant updates to key sections of the exterior.

The obvious changes are on the exterior of the performance wagon, specifically the front fascia. There’s no need for a magnifying glass, either. The updates are clear and visible for everyone to see. Let’s start with the new headlamps. The shape remains largely the same, though the small upward notches on the lower-inner corners are now gone. The overall shape is now uninterrupted, but the slight redesign — it’s a bit more angular now — isn’t that significant to really change the whole face of the S4 Avant. The big change lies in the actual lighting setup. The LED lamps that run along the borders of the headlight casings are now gone, replaced, at least the ones on top, by what I can only describe as LED eyebrows. Yes, the A4 family, including the S4 Avant, now has eyebrows. I know headlamp eyelids are big aftermarket pieces sold the world over, but the new S4 Avant has no need for such trivial aesthetic shenanigans. It looks unique enough with its LED eyebrows. Certainly, the new design treatment creates a more menacing visual, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s exactly what Audi wanted to establish. Notice how the S4 Avant’s hexagonal grille is now wider and flatter than its predecessor?

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839681

It’s another one of Audi’s visual tricks, but the flatter grille means the hood of the performance wagon slopes downward at a steeper angle than it once did, creating a sporty, low-slung look. The sharp cut lines of the hood follow a similar path, but they no longer touch the upper edge of the grille. Either Audi took a page out of Hyundai’s design playbook — go look at the 2020 Hyundai Elantra — or it wanted to make the S4 Avant look sportier. Whatever it is, the plan worked.

The 2020 Audi S4 Avant looks more like a natural performance model than its predecessor.

Even the design of the intakes — the vertical struts add more teeth to the proceedings — and the sharp creases just above them exude edginess all around. It’s just too bad that the vents on those intakes are actually closed. Fake vents for everyone, I suppose. In any event, that doesn’t take away from the more aggressive front profile of the S4 Avant. If this is the look Audi was going for, consider it a job well-done.

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The side profile of the 2020 S4 Avant also paints a picture of a sportier design compared to its predecessor without any of heavy design changes. This is the beauty — and influence — of well-placed body lines.

The previous S4 Avant featured a shoulder line that ran horizontally from the tip of the headlamp to the tip of the taillamp.

This is a smart use of a shoulder line if you want your car to look stern, focused, and upright. But its clear in the design of the 2020 S4 Avant that Audi decided to switch things up in this regard. There are now three separate shoulder lines running the length of the S4 Avant, including one in the middle that’s placed a few inches lower than the shoulder lines that stretch from opposite ends of the wagon. There’s depth to this kind of design approach that you don’t see in the previous S4 Avant. It’s edgier because each line flows freely, independent from the other two. At the very least, it’s consistent with the visual styling elements in the front.

left right

The rear section features similar updates as the front, at least as far as the taillights are concerned. While not exactly on the level of eyebrows, the upper section of the taillights features black design trim that creates the visual of small red clusters. It’s certainly a different look from the taillights on the outgoing model, even though it’s not exactly a brand new lighting signature. We see something similar in the new Audi A6. The rear bumper is also redesigned.

The thin brake lights seem longer than they used to be, and they’re now integrated into the black section of the bumper, flanking a thin mesh grille that’s hard to notice at first glance.
2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839679

The shape of the exhaust pipes is another interesting design cue. Whereas the sedan version of the S4 continues with the quad exhaust setup with the four round pipes, both the Audi S4 Avant and the S4 Allroad have ditched that setup in favor of a pair of rectangular exhaust tips. Look closely, too, and you’ll notice that the lower bumper is wrapped in black trim. It’s hard to make it out from the photos, but it’s something similar to the chrome trim that you can see in the S4 sedan. Overall, the rear section offers the right amount of changes that complement the more aggressive updates in the front. I like this new presentation because, at the very least, Audi’s not sitting around on its butt waiting for its designs to grow stale. There aren’t wholesale updates, but there are details here and there that give the S4 Avant a fresher look. At the end of the day, that’s all that we want as customers.

Interior

  • Two digital displays
  • Audi Virtual Cockpit
  • Lots of leather and other premium materials
  • Carbon fiber trim options
  • Rotary knob gets the ax
  • Plenty of available options
  • 17 to 54 cubic feet of cargo depending on rear seat configuration
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The interior of the 2020 Audi S4 Avant is largely similar to that of the outgoing model.

Most of the layout is still in place, though a few notable changes are worth noting. Probably the most significant change is the disappearance of the large rotary knob that used to sit in front of the gear shifter on the center tunnel. That’s gone now, and in its place is a digital screen that features audible feedback. Part of me did expect to see the two-screen layout one the updated A6 sedan — the A5 and A7 have them, too — so it was a bit surprising to see Audi keep the status quo in the A4 family, including the S4 Avant. In some ways, the S4 Avant still features two screens; they’re not just where you expect them to be. The other and more distinct 8.3-inch screen still sits atop the dashboard — just above the two air-conditioning vents — and it remains loaded with an armada of features, functioning seamlessly on the back of the MMI operating system. Intelligent free-text search, smartphone integration, and a 4G LTE hotspot? All there. Audi Connect and the MMI connect app for smartphones should also allow the owner to connect to the power wagon from a distance and control a handful of key functions, including the door locks and heating and cooling.

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 841631

Of course, all this tech talk doesn’t end without mentioning Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.

Hardly a surprise that the new S4 Avant also comes with the high-tech digital cluster, providing future owners a fully digital instrument cluster that shows all pertinent information about the wagon.

It’s hard to imagine that the Virtual Cockpit has been around since 2014 — has it been that long? — but it’s a testament to Audi’s tech-savvy that the technology has also evolved since it first showed up on the Audi TT MkIII five years ago.

Another interesting observation about the new S4 Avant is the trim options. We saw the 2020 A4’s interior with what looks like cheap plastic trim on the dash and console, but separate photos of the S4 models show carbon fiber trim in the same areas. Pray to the God of Four Rings that the carbon fiber trim comes standard on all S4 units. It’s hard to imagine Audi’s raunchy rides to comes with something as silly as plastic. Or maybe I just mistook the plastic for brushed aluminum. Let’s hope that’s the case. Either way, the Audi S4 Avant’s interior deserves to be awash in premium goodies. This is, after all, the same interior that comes with no shortage of fine leather upholstery, premium blend Alcantara, and whatever other optional premium bits that Audi can come up with.

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 841632
Speaking of options, prospective customers of the 2020 S4 Avant will have no shortage of options available to them.

The current model is loaded on the front, including heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel. You can also avail of some delectable inlays of the Carbon Atlas or Piano Black varieties. Manual blinds for the rear area? Sure, Audi is also offering that for the current S4 Avant. There’s also the you-have-to-get-it Bang & Olufsen sounds system, which honestly should come standard by now. To be clear, Audi has yet to release the options list for the 2020 S4 Avant. That should arrive close to the power wagon’s production release.

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 841633

Now, let’s talk about space. Since the makeup of the 2020 S4 Avant doesn’t differ greatly from the model, it’s replacing, and it stands to reason that the 2020 S4 Avant will have enough space to make its occupants comfortable. Just as important is the cargo area, where existing owners of the S4 Avant are used to having anywhere from 18 cubic feet to 54 cubic feet of cargo space depending on the rear seats’ orientation. Similar numbers should be expected from the 2020 S4 Avant, though don’t be surprised if there are, well, some surprises in store for us.

Drivetrain

  • 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine
  • 342 horsepower at 3,850 rpm
  • 516 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm
  • 48-volt electrical boost hybrid system
  • 0 to 60 mph Time: 4.9 seconds
  • Top speed: Electronically limited to 155 mph (estimate)
  • Over 37 mpg of range
2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839675

The Audi S4 Avant receives what the Audi SQ5, S6, and S7 have already received: a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine. Mind you; this isn’t your typical six-cylinder diesel unit, either. This is Audi’s signature 3.0-liter turbo diesel engine, considered by many as one of the best diesel engines in the industry today. Even better, this new turbodiesel comes with improved technology that we first saw in the engine of the SQ7 SUV.

First, let’s roll out the numbers.

The 3.0-liter V-6 TDI engine produces 342 horsepower at 3,850 rpm and 516 pound-feet of torque at 2,500 rpm.

The output is the same as the one you’ll get if you buy the SQ5 crossover. The similarities don’t end there, either. The S4 Avant’s turbodiesel engine benefits from an electric-powered compressor that provides quicker power delivery and instantaneous responsiveness. This setup also eliminates turbo lag on the performance wagon. When you hit the gas pedal, you immediately feel that rush of torque coming from the turbocharged engine. Consider how much torque the S4 Avant’s V-6 TDI engine has — 516 pound-feet of torque — and the quick-trigger response you get out of the engine. You’d want to hold on for dear life, too.

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839673

The V-6 TDI’s unique engine isn’t all about the new compressor, either. As integral as it is, it doesn’t function without the help of a 48-volt electrical system and a compact, air-cooled 0.5 kWh lithium-ion battery that tie the performance wagon’s mild-hybrid system together. The 48-volt electrical system is a huge boost to the S4 Avant, not only because it’s more potent than the 12-volt electrical system on the A4, but, more importantly, because of the huge improvements in the performance wagon’s overall efficiency.

Audi claims that the mild-hybrid system on the S4 models has the potential to reduce customer fuel consumption by up to 0.4 liters per 100 kilometers, from 6.7 liters per 100 km to about 6.3 liters per 100 km.

That converts to around 37.3 mpg based on our own metrics, an improvement over the S4 Avant’s previous rating of 35.1 mpg.

The figures paint an emboldening picture of the S4 Avant’s enviable efficiency rating. Likewise, the entire powertrain setup shows how quick the performance wagon is off the line. According to Audi, the S4 Avant can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.9 seconds. It’s 0.1 seconds slower than its sedan counterpart, but it’s also quicker off the line than most performance crossovers in the business today. Like most Audis, the new S4 Avant should have an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839671
2020 Audi S4 Avant drivetrain specifications
Engine 3.0 V-6 TDI
Horsepower 342 HP @ 3,850 RPM
Torque 516.3 LB-FT @ 2,500 RPM
Hybrid System 48-Volt Electrical Boost
0 to 60 mph 4.9 seconds
Top Speed 155 mph
Fuel ecnomy 37 mpg

Competition

Mercedes-AMG C 43 Wagon

2019 Mercedes-AMG C43 Exterior
- image 771565
Available as a Coupe, Sedan, and Wagon

There aren’t that many performance wagons on the road, but the ones that are available are all incredibly feisty. Take the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Wagon for example. Like the Audi S4 Avant, the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Wagon isn’t available in the U.S., And like the S4 Avant, the AMG C 43 Wagon is as ferocious as it comes. It draws its power, not from Thor’s hammer — that’d be cool, though — but from a punchy 3.0-liter biturbo V-6 engine that produces 385 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. It’s more powerful than the S4 Avant, though the latter’s engine is a V-6 diesel. While that draws a fuzzy line in the sand as far as these two performance wagons are concerned, both the S4 Avant and the AMG C 43 Wagon are proud flag-bearers of what has become one of the most competitive niche segments in the entire industry.

The AMG C 43 Wagon isn’t all about power, too. It’s also tricked out to the high heavens like any other Mercedes model. It can flaunt its well-crafted design, and people will immediately recognize it as a true-born Mercedes. It boasts an interior that’s loaded to the brim with premium materials: leather, Alcantara, carbon fiber, and all that. And like any Mercedes model that’s worth its salt, the AMG C 43 Wagon comes with no shortage of the latest tech bits and features that the German automaker has to offer.

At the end of the day, though, the AMG C 43 Wagon defines itself by its performance capabilities. All that power it has can be put to good use, whether it’s sprinting from 0 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds — 0.1 seconds faster than the S4 Avant — or clocking in a break-neck top speed of 186 mph. Oh, and the sound. The Merc’s V-6 engine spits out an audible impression that you don’t expect from a wagon. Even when it’s sitting around, the exhaust has a gnarly snarl that’s hard to miss.

Unfortunately, the AMG C 43 Wagon remains a forbidden fruit in the U.S market. It is, however, available in Canada where prices start at around CAD59,000. That converts to $44,000, which is a really cheap price for a model that packs this much grunt.

Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes-AMG C43.

BMW M3 Wagon

2020 BMW M3
- image 806285

Technically, an M-powered BMW 3 Series Wagon does not exist. A lot of people, we included, have been clamoring for one, but BMW has so far resisted on entering this niche market. But it seems that the winds in Bavaria are blowing in a different direction these days as rumors of an M-powered 3 Series Wagon have started to take shape. There’s no official confirmation on Bimmer’s part yet, but word has it that company executives are looking for justification to build its own 3 Series performance wagon to go up against rival models from Mercedes-AMG and Audi that are already in the market. If you frame it from that perspective, BMW likely would’ve built one already. The automaker, after all, isn’t known to sit out a good fight when it sees one. But there is a more important aspect to consider: viability. That’s the question that keeps popping back up. Is it worth it to build one? Is it going to make money?

Only BMW knows the answer to these questions, and, so far, it hasn’t hinted on what that answer is. That has left us to continue speculating about an M-powered 3 Series. I admit that I’ve thought about it several times in the past, not only because I’m curious to see what it’s going to offer, but, more importantly, how it compares to the Audi S4 Avant and the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Wagon. You can even throw in the RS4 Avant and the AMG C 63 Wagon in that mix, too. But unless BMW decides that’s worth the money, the time, and effort, the M-powered BMW 3 Series will remain well out of reach from everyone.

Read our full speculative review on the 2020 BMW M3.

Conclusion

2020 Audi S4 Avant
- image 839684

The Audi S4 Avant is one of the finest performance wagons in the market today. I’m not saying that just because there aren’t that many, to begin with. I’m saying it because it’s true. Ever since Audi started offering the S4 Avant in 1998 — yes, it’s been around for 21 years! — the performance wagon has become one of the go-to models in its market. Audi has parlayed that run to great success for the model. With the arrival of the 2020 S4 Avant, it certainly looks like Audi has another winner in its hands. The new S4 Avant comes with dramatic exterior upgrades, new tech gadgets, a smattering of new features, and a potent diesel engine that’s going to surprise a lot of people. About the only thing worth complaining about is its availability. For the last time, the S4 Avant isn’t headed to the U.S. market. We can pray to the high heavens for Audi to have a change-of-heart, but, at this point, it seems that we’re more than likely to see Audi offer the S4 Avant in other markets while keeping it well out of our reach. For shame, Audi. For shame.

  • Leave it
    • Not a lot of new digs in the interior
    • Just one engine?
    • Still not avialable in the U.S. market

Further reading

2016 Audi S4 Avant High Resolution Exterior
- image 667117

Read our full review on the 2016 Audi S4 Avant.

2020 Audi A4 Avant
- image 839654

Read our full review on the 2020 Audi A4 Avant.

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