Full 2014 Audi S4 Review
What's New for 2014
Selectable driving settings are now standard on all models, and a Black Optic package with high-gloss black exterior trim and 19-inch smoke-colored wheels is newly available.
Stylish and competent, with a swank and neatly laid-out interior, the 2014 Audi S4 is a very nice compact luxury sedan with room for four adults, respectable trunk capacity and lots of available high-end features. But it's also a bona fide sport sedan thanks to a zesty, 333-horsepower supercharged V6 that makes it about a second-and-a-half quicker to 60 mph than the A4 sedan on which it's based.
Standard all-wheel drive helps ensure all that power gets to the ground and makes the S4 an appealing option for driving enthusiasts living in wet or snowy climates. At first glance, though, you could mistake this car for an A4, because its exterior styling upgrades are so subtle. But those in the know will spot the S4 sedan's unique wheels, brushed metallic mirror caps, extended body sills and lowered suspension. If they bother to look inside, they'll see sport seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel as well. The result is an understated sport sedan that doesn't advertise your penchant for driving fast.
Of course, the S4's numerous upgrades do not come for free. In base trim, it's competitive with the BMW 335i, which offers similar speed and handling capabilities. If you overdo it with the options, the price begins to creep into the territory of the far more powerful and extroverted Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG sedans (though when typically equipped, those cars still tend to be quite a bit more expensive). Ultimately, few cars can match the 2014 Audi S4's balance of luxury, performance and restrained style, and if you're shopping for a premium-brand sport sedan, it's definitely worth a look.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Audi S4 is a higher-performance version of the A4 compact luxury sedan. It's offered in a single Premium Plus trim level with an available option package known as the Prestige.
Standard features of the S4 Premium Plus include 18-inch wheels, summer performance tires, selectable driving settings (known as Audi drive select), a sunroof, automatic xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, foglights, automatic wipers, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front sport seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, leather and simulated suede upholstery, aluminum interior accents, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, auto-dimming mirrors, Bluetooth phone connectivity, a dash-mounted MMI (Multi Media Interface) electronics controller and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, iPod interface and satellite radio.
The Prestige package adds adaptive xenon headlights, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry, rear parking sensors, voice controls, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, blind-spot monitoring, an MMI controller mounted on the center console, Bluetooth audio connectivity, Audi Connect smartphone integration, a navigation system and HD radio. If you don't want to pay for this entire package, the nav system and Bang & Olufsen stereo can be purchased separately.
However, you must select the Prestige package if you want the Driver Assist package, which includes adaptive cruise control and an enhanced steering system (which varies the steering effort and quickness). The power rear sunshade/manual side shade option also requires the Prestige package.
Other options include 19-inch wheels, adaptive suspension dampers, a rear limited-slip differential, full leather upholstery, rear-seat side airbags, all-season 18-inch tires (no charge), carbon-fiber interior inlays, layered aluminum/black wood inlays, and a Black Optic package with high-gloss black exterior trim and unique 19-inch smoke-colored wheels.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 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 come standard, while a seven-speed automated manual transmission (called S tronic) is also available and serves as the automatic-transmission option on this car. Audi offers what it calls an optional Sport rear differential, essentially a limited-slip differential that helps apportion torque between the rear wheels to improve the car's cornering line. It's worth buying if you like to drive on twisty back roads.
In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped S4 accelerated from zero to 60 in a quick 4.9 seconds, which is quicker than six-cylinder sport luxury sedans like the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes-Benz C350. However, the C63 is capable of performing this feat in the low 4-second range.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is 17 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined with the manual and 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with the S tronic. Although the 335i, Q50 and C350 are more fuel-efficient, the S4 has much better ratings than the C63.
The 2014 Audi S4 comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, hill launch assist, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Rear-seat side airbags are optional, and the Prestige package adds a rearview camera, rear parking sensors and a blind-spot warning system. This package also allows you to add adaptive cruise control (at additional cost), and it includes a collision warning and mitigation feature that primes the brakes if it detects a possible frontal crash.
In Edmunds brake testing, the S4 stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet, an average distance for this class of sedan with summer tires.
The 2014 A4/S4 aced government crash tests, receiving five out of five stars for combined overall protection, with five stars for frontal protection, five stars for side crash protection and five stars for rollover protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the A4 (on which the S4 is based) earned a top rating of Good for its performance in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. The A4 earned a Poor rating (the lowest) in the Institute's new, small-overlap frontal-offset crash test, but only a handful of cars have been subjected to this test and a majority have earned low ratings.
Interior Design and Special Features
There is little to fault inside any Audi when it comes to interior design, and the S4's cabin remains as clean and organized as the A4 on which it is based. Upgrades unique to the S4 are its supportive sport seats (with either full leather upholstery or a combination of leather and simulated suede), a flat-bottom steering wheel and gray-faced instruments.
Many of the S4's controls are straightforward. Infotainment features are controlled via Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI), which consists of a small knob surrounded by buttons that control menus on a central screen. Overall, it's an effective interface, though some audio functions are buried in menus and, in practice, we've found BMW's iDrive and Mercedes' COMAND systems a bit more intuitive to use. In S4s without the navigation system, the MMI knob is located on the dashboard (rather than the center console), and we find this setup less convenient to operate.
The S4's generous interior space gives it an advantage over some of the smaller cars in its segment. It accommodates five adults for short jaunts or comfortably seats four adults for long trips. Trunk capacity is average for the class at 12.4 cubic feet.
With the supercharged V6 engine's considerable power and torque, the 2014 Audi S4 accelerates with genuine enthusiasm, whether it is equipped with the manual transmission or the automated S tronic transmission. The manual transmission has somewhat long shifter throws and a long clutch pedal travel, but is generally pleasant to operate. The S tronic offers a best-of-both-worlds blend of performance and convenience, as it provides quick, deliberate shifts whether you use the shift paddles on the steering wheel or simply leave it in automatic mode. Although you may be inclined to choose the manual, the S tronic is a satisfying alterative, especially if your S4 will be driven by multiple members of your household.
Responsive and communicative brakes inspire confidence without biting too abruptly when you're driving in stop-and-go traffic. Likewise, the S4's handling is terrific, thanks to its firm state of suspension tune, all-wheel drive and standard summer tires each contributing to its awesome grip, even in inclement weather. The selectable driving settings add sharpness to the throttle response and shift characteristics, and can liven up handling on models equipped with the optional dynamic steering (part of the Driver Assist package) and adaptive suspension dampers.
Rounding out the S4's likable qualities is its ride quality, which remains quite comfortable in spite of the car's sharp handling. All told, the Audi S4 is a driver's car that makes peace with the reality that you can't always drive alone.