In a world of ever-growing SUVs there seems to still be room for a good old-fashioned wagon, as we jump into the seat of another Audi avant, the S4. The S4 does not hold the iconic status of the RS models, however it’s been a much loved and more affordable offering for many customers over the years. The S4 has always been placed as that sweet spot, in between the entry model and the top-performance model. The best of both worlds, with a justifiable price tag. We spend a week behind the wheel of the latest 2020 Audi S4 to see what the fuss is all about.

The Range

The Audi S4 comes to New Zealand with only one variant, the Avant. Starting at $122,500 the Audi S4 Avant sits between the entry level Audi A4 Avant (40 TFSI $79,900, 45 TFSI $94,900) and flagship RS4 Avant ($153,500)

The S4 Avant is fitted with a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 petrol engine with an 8-speed tiptronic gearbox and Auid’s Quattro all-wheel drive (AWD). The engine creates 260kW (354hp) of power, and 500Nm of torque at 1,370rpm, getting it to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds. 

Standard equipment never falls short with Audi, some of these include sport suspension with damping control, engine auto start/stop, keyless entry and start, Active Lane Assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking, a 360-degree camera system, Turn Assist, red brake calipers, tyre pressure monitoring, electrically folding, dimming and heated exterior mirrors, matrix LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, LED tail lights and indicators, privacy glass, an electric tailgate, electric cargo cover, S Sports front seats, electrically adjustable front seats with heating, pneumatically adjustable bolsters, massaging front seats and memory function for the driver’s seat, full leather upholstery with fine Nappa leather trim and honeycomb pattern, 3-zone AC, SatNav, Audi Virtual Cockpit, Qi wireless charging, heads-up display, auto-dimming interior mirror, and an ambient lighting package.

You can read more about the 2020 Audi S4 on Audi New Zealand’s website. LINK

First Impressions

Being a long-time Audi owner I knew of the legacy that is the S4, and how it was sometimes awkwardly stuck into the middle, design wise between the A4 and RS4. So it could never look too good, while not looking like the entry level model.  Once I saw the 2020 S4, I thought that a pretty nice balance had been achieved. The styling had the feeling of luxury, sophistication and performance, making it feel more like an executive-level family wagon. 

The inside meant business, the seats looked amazing, and I couldn’t wait to get in. That cross-stitch pattern really lifts the game and justifies the price.

The only thing that i felt was a bit out of place was the new central media screen. It was similar to the old one Mercedes-Benz had, where it was tacked onto the dashboard as an afterthought. It was integrated way better than the old Merc one, but still felt it could have been a bit more integrated into the entire dash design.

The Inside

The inside of the S4 is a modern, clean environment. Nice lines and not a lot of clutter. As we have found with many of the Audi’s we test, the build quality is solid, with a great finish and feel to everything, nothing feels out of place. 

When you open the door, it’s clear this is not a bottom of the range vehicle. The sporty flat-bottom steering wheel and the seats, covered in pleats, which looked both comfortable and sporty. Our S4 was spec’d with the carbon-fibre like finish, which ran across the bottom of the dash and along the central console.

The central MMI infotainment screen is where you access a whole raft of areas and settings. This covers the radio, media, telephone, navigation, phone apps, car, and help. You are also able to make and customise your Audi drive select modes. There are several different options, Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual which was customisable.

The new Audi dash layout is nice and simplistic. There are two main locations for buttons; under the central touch screen in the middle and to the right of the steering wheel. Everything else is controlled from the steering wheel or the MMI infotainment screen. The driver’s display was a nice configuration of two digital dialS surrounded by additional info and a map. You are able to make the side dial smaller, which in turn enlarges the map, a view I preferred using.

The cargo area is covered by an electric cover, and there’s also a net system on the floor. The boot space is a generous 505 litres with the seats up and 1510 litres with the rear seats down. It has two side compartments beside the boot opening, to stop smaller items from rolling around the boot. Access is also really good, super easy to lean into the back and reach anything you put there. 

The Drive

In the S4 standard drive mode the entire car is really ordinary, nice and smooth on the roads, comfortable and relatively quiet. It was so easy to live with, hitting a perfect balance of between the base model A4 and the higher spec RS4. It’s good at everything, while not being bad or amazing at any one thing. It’s a car you could jump in and out of all day, day after day and always enjoy it. 

The 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine produces 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque, coupled to a 8-speed tiptronic gearbox, the power is delivered smoothly and effectively. The gear changes are almost unnoticeable, allowing the S4 to do a standing start to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. That’s quick, and the same as the 2020 Porsche Cayman GTS. Impressive for a 5-seater wagon.

The S in the S4 could very well be for Sleeper. I think it now fits that box the RS4 from the early 2000’s once used to be. The S4 has more subtle styling queues, which would leave many to underestimate it. Once in sport mode you unlock part of its hidden personality, the part that requires a bit of enthusiastic driving to really awaken.

I love the sound performance vehicles make, it’s something that gives you a satisfying feeling that you are connected to the car and as its sound changes you can change gear with it. Most of the time you get a decent hum from the exhaust, and in sport this becomes even deeper. It’s not until you push the revs up higher, and downshift a bit more aggressively that you get a bit of a euphoric auditory surprise. The engine and exhaust pop and crackle down though the gear like a motorsport rally car. It is amazing, the sound is so good, childish maybe, but that’s kinda what it’s all about. The only downside to this, was the high revs you had to hit to trigger this, not ideal for everyday driving. 

Combine this with its amazing handling and weight distribution and you have yourself an exciting car to drive. On one of my regular back road test routes the Audi S4 made the road ahead look and feel easy to drive. The confidence that the Quattro drive system gives the driver in any weather conditions is amazing, and most people – including myself – would never reach the limits of this car. That is without doing something daft. The road was so enjoyable, mixed in with the sound of the engine and exhaust. This left the driver with a rather smug look on his face, as if he was a much better driver then he actually was.

The experience is everything, it’s the difference between something boring and something special, and this S4 was definitely not boring. 

The Competition

The performance wagon market is becoming a bit of a niche one, with fewer manufacturers catering for it over the exploding surge in SUV sales. 

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmNumber of SeatsFuel L/100km0-100 secondsBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Mercedes-Benz AMG C43 Estate3.0-litre V6 Turbo287/52059.64.5490/1510$129,300
BMW M340i xDrive Touring3.0-litre V6 Turbo285/50058.04.5500/NA$129,300
Audi S4 Avant3.0-litre V6 Turbo260/5005tbc4.8505/1510$122,500

Pros

  • Smooth and comfy ride
  • Good build quality
  • Great seats, look and feel
  • Quick and sporty
  • Great handling, Quattro
  • High-quality interior
  • Sporty engine sound
  • Understated styling

Cons

  • Rear legroom tight for tall people
  • Dash-mounted media screen

2020 Audi S4 Avant

Vehicle TypeSports Wagon
Starting Price$122,500
Price as Tested$129,550
Engine3.0-litre 6-cylinder petrol twin-turbo
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
260/354
Transmission8-Speed Tiptronic
Spare WheelSpace Saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1895
Length x Width x Height, mm4726 x 1842 x 1429
Cargo Capacity, litres500
Fuel tank capacity, litres58 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – TBCReal World Test – Combined – 12.9Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/brakedTBC
Turning circle, metres12Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 WarrantyAudi Warranty – 5 years / 150,000 kms
ANCAP Safety RatingsTBC
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
9
Performance
8
Safety
8
Styling
8
Value
7
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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