Audi’s russian doll product strategy demands at all times either a forensic interest in the increasingly daunting range or else a simple cheaty soundbite. With the latter in mind, here’s the deal with the S4: it’s like an A4, but with a few telltale signs making you ask ‘you been working out?’ It is also, until next year’s RS4, as high as you can climb up the A4 pole. Subtle muscularity includes a gapier front bumper, edgier sills and a mock rear diffuser housing a quartet of exhaust outlets. There’s a smattering of sporty cabin cues, too.
Despite the unremarkability of its visuals, it’s quick. Not RS4 quick, but Merc-AMG C43, BMW 340i and Jaguar XE S quick – hitting 100kph in 4.7 seconds and topping out at a limited 250kph. Generating that urgency is an all-new 3.0-litre V6, first of a family of forthcoming modular motors. The supercharger has been ousted, with induction now forced by a turbo nestled within the engine’s vee-configuration. Lighter by 14kg, the powerplant is 15kW richer at 260kW, pumping out 500Nm (up by 60 on the previous S4) from just 1370rpm. It lacks its AMG rival’s aural drama, but thanks to an eight-speed automatic replacing the previous seven-ratioed S-Tronic ’box, it’s quicker off the line than the old S4.
Clinically effective rather than fun to drive, the steering’s a tad light but weights up progressively and, while feedback is at a premium, it’s at least chattier than Marcel Marceau. The adaptive ride in Comfort mode proves adept at disguising ripply asphalt; Dynamic errs towards jostly, the 23mm lower ride height and consequent lack of wheel travel making itself felt. Quattro four-wheel drive maximises traction, with a 60 per cent rear-end bias dialling in a modicum of tail happiness, but this isn’t a car you’re going to be steering on the throttle.
Competent though the S4 may be (it’s spawned from an impressive base car, after all) excitement cravers should hold out for the RS4.
Audi S4 3.0 TFSI Quattro Tiptronic
Price Not yet Engine 2995cc 24v turbocharged V6, 260kW @ 5400-6400rpm, 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm Transmission Eight-speed automatic, 4wd Performance 4.7sec 0-100kph, 250kph (ltd), 7.3L/100km, 166g/km CO2
Weight 1630kg On sale Now