What's New for 2013
The 2013 Audi S4 gets electric-assist power steering and minor interior updates, but otherwise carries over unchanged.
Sporty performance and everyday luxury seldom harmonize in automobiles as angelically as they do in the 2013 Audi S4. Based on the A4 sedan, the S4 is a more raucous and enthusiast-bred interpretation of its housebroken counterpart. Its supercharged 3.0-liter V6 sends 333 horsepower to all four wheels, orchestrating a song of exhaust exclamations and plaintive tire degradation. With a sport-tuned suspension and stronger brakes, the S4 paints a perma-smile on the faces of all but the most Porsche-obsessed sports car fanatic.
That the fun comes without sacrificing comfort makes the S4 one of the best bargains shy of German rivals with sticker prices nearing six digits. The tasteful cabin is calm, quiet and feels like a hip, upscale hotel room (albeit one in Germany). The ride is compliant and brushes off road rumble with minimal jostle, and there's comfortable seating for four and a decent-size trunk.
The S4 can seem a little pricey, but if you factor in its standard all-wheel drive and comprehensive standard features, it compares very well to the BMW 335i -- a sedan long considered the benchmark in the segment. Playing loose with the options list, however, puts the S4 in range of the Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, models that surpass the S4 in terms of performance and prestige. But even among such lofty rivals, the S4's all-wheel drive, refined surroundings and balanced nature make it a compelling choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Audi S4 is the high-performance version of the regular A4 sedan. It is available in either Premium Plus or Prestige trim levels.
Standard features for the Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, performance summer tires, a sunroof, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, foglamps, automatic wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front sport seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, leather and faux-suede upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a dash-mounted MMI electronics controller and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, iPod interface and satellite radio.
The S4 Prestige adds adaptive xenon headlights, a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry, rear parking sensors, voice controls, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, blind-spot monitoring, an MMI controller mounted on the center console, Audi Connect smartphone integration, a navigation system and HD radio. Most of these features are available on the Premium Plus as options.
Options exclusive to the Prestige trim include the Driver Assist Package, which adds adaptive cruise control, an enhanced steering system and adjustable settings for throttle and transmission response. A power rear sunshade and manual side shades are also optional.
Options available to both S4 trims include 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a sport rear differential that can distribute torque individually to each rear wheel, selectable driving settings (including the adjustable suspension if so equipped), full leather upholstery and rear-seat side airbags.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Audi S4 is powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 333 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission are standard, while a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual (S tronic) is optional. A sport rear differential (which varies torque between the rear wheels) is also available.
In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped S4 sprinted from zero to 60 in a quick 4.9 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is above average for this class of car, with 18 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with the manual. The S tronic returns 1 mpg better on the highway.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Audi S4 include stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. The Prestige adds a blind-spot warning system. Rear-seat side airbags are optional, as is adaptive cruise control that includes an audible warning and brake priming in the event the system detects an impending frontal crash. In Edmunds brake testing, the S4 stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet, an average distance for this class of car with summer tires.
Government crash test results aren't yet available, but the related A4 scored a perfect five-out-of-five stars for overall side-impact protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the A4 earned a top rating of "Good" for its performance in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
All modern Audis get high marks for interior quality, and the S4 is no exception. Seats, doors, panels and consoles are dressed with top-shelf materials in an austere and modern style. The front sport seats both comfort and cosset for long drives or short hops, but also wrap around the driver during more spirited dashes.
Infotainment functions are controlled by Audi's Multi Media Interface, or MMI. This consists of a small knob surrounded by buttons that together control menus on a central screen. These MMI controls are situated around the shift lever on models equipped with the navigation system, but cars without navigation have MMI on the dash, which is unintuitive and far less convenient. The S4's other controls are generally intuitive and well laid out.
Like the A4, the S4 features a roomy cabin that accommodates four adults comfortably, even for extended drives. At 12 cubic feet, trunk space is average for the class.
As the hopped-up version of the already sporty A4 sedan, the 2013 Audi S4 is the performance-minded driver's choice. Handling is impressive, with tenacious AWD traction and little body roll. This cornering prowess does not come at the expense of comfort, either. Ride quality is still reasonably luxurious.
For 2013, the S4 transitions to electric-assist steering, a move made largely to increase engine efficiency. We've yet to test the S4 with this new steering system but suspect it will still be similar to the previous setup, which we found to be slightly too light in effort and too uncommunicative in road feel.
The supercharged V6 is a smooth, strong engine with instantaneous throttle response. Aside from the subdued supercharger whine, you'd probably never guess there's forced induction going on under the hood. The standard manual transmission shifts smoothly, though its clutch travel and shifter throws are a bit long. The dual-clutch automated manual transmission, meanwhile, snaps off rapid shifts either by itself or through your own inputs via wheel-mounted shifters. Even if you're a serious driver, there's no shame in ordering this automatic option.