UK Drive: Audi’s S4 Avant brings performance in an understated package
The Audi S4 Avant has arrived with diesel power – but does this change affect the way the legendarily well-rounded S4 drives? Jack Evans finds out.
What is it?
Audi knows a thing or two about making very quick yet discreet estate cars. The S4 – the new version of which we’re testing today – has been a go-to choice for those who want a performance wagon which doesn’t, well, scream about its performance.
But this latest S4 Avant represents an interesting shift for Audi. No longer does a petrol engine power the whole affair, rather a turbocharged V6 diesel. It’s a move which rather bucks the trend being followed industry-wide, but the question is has this change diminished the capability of the famously well-rounded S4? Let’s take a look.
Of course, the big change is that engine, but we’ll get to that in more detail shortly. Elsewhere, the S4 benefits from the updated looks and technology levels that have been applied across the A4 and A5 range. The looks are sharper, the cabin features a more up-to-date infotainment setup and, throughout the car, everything has been given a little nip-tuck.
The styling remains on the subtler side of things – as is classic Audi ‘S’ fashion – while the interior has been put together with the same rigorous attention to fit-and-finish that we’ve come to expect from the firm with the four rings.
What’s under the bonnet?
As mentioned, the engine now driving the S4 is – shock horror – a diesel. It’s a turbocharged V6 diesel, in fact, which pushes out 342bhp and an impressive 700Nm of torque to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Zero-60mph? That’ll take just 4.7 seconds while flat-out the S4 will do 155mph.
Economy is the name of the game here, however, so while the S4 certainly delivers on the performance stakes it does well in terms of fuel-sipping abilities too with Audi claiming just under 40mpg combined and CO2 emissions of 166g/km. A 48-volt mild-hybrid system has been incorporated into the car’s setup too, which helps to fill in the gaps in torque made while waiting for the engine to spool up. The S4 can even coast with the engine off to help with economy even further.
What’s it like to drive?
The S4 has a real everyday appeal and that’s helped no end by simply how easy it is to drive. It’s simple to operate while the steering has a decent amount of weight to it without being overladen and therefore a chore to operate. However, Audi’s gearbox issue remains as it has done with many of its recent models; come up to a junction and look to pull away, and you’ll be met by an initial pause before the power eventually comes into play. It’s the same case when pushing on, where requests of acceleration through your right foot aren’t met with an instant slug of power. It’s an annoying trait, but one you learn to work around.
The ride, however, is good and sits on the right side of firm for daily use. And on the motorway, the S4 is beautifully refined, with little in the way of wind noise produced to disturb the hushed and comfortable cabin.
How does it look?
Understated yet purposeful, the S4 really does nail things when it comes to styling – in our opinion at least. The four exhaust pipes at the rear hint at the car’s underlying performance, but save from that there’s not an awful lot to give away just how quick the car can go.
For some, it may be a little too boring. However, for those who appreciate a discreet way of going very quickly indeed, it’ll fit the bill.
What’s it like inside?
Clamber into the S4’s cabin and you’ll be met with plenty of high-end materials. The general fit is excellent, and even though this Audi does without the very latest screen setup found on cars such as the A6, it’ll still feel up-to-date enough for most. The driving position is excellent, with the level of adjustability available through the steering wheel quite impressive.
And of course, when you dial things back you’re still left with a usefully large estate car. There’s 420 litres of boot space available with the rear seats in place and this can be increased to 1,435 litres by folding the rear seats flat. It’s a decent amount of space and, thanks to a relatively square opening, is easily accessed too.
What’s the spec like?
Our car came in high-spec Black Edition trim, and this brings a whole suite of equipment. However, even standard S4 models receive a 10.1-inch infotainment screen which houses all of the major media functions. It’s easy and responsive to operate, while the graphics themselves are pleasantly clear.
This is met by Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which comprises a large screen ahead of the driver in place of the traditional dials. Again, it’s a system which is well-worked and easy to access. The information displayed does a good job of reducing the amount of time you need to glance at the central infotainment screen, in fact.
If you’re after a discrete, quick and practical way of getting around, then the Audi S4 Avant will likely fit the bill. It might struggle with the aforementioned gearbox issue, but it’s not enough of a problem to detract from an otherwise well-rounded and well-finished package.
It’s also eye-wrenchingly punchy, while somehow economical too. There aren’t too often cars which allow you to have your cake and eat it but, from our initial impressions here, the S4 seems to be one of them.
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