Home / News / 2021 Audi S4 Sports Sedan: Pros and Cons Review

2021 Audi S4 Sports Sedan: Pros and Cons Review

Audi S4 Full Overview

Pros

  • Excellent interior
  • Great ride quality
  • Lovable steering and handling

Cons

  • Mild refresh
  • High price
  • Non-linear brake feel

The sheet metal of the A4, and its S4 sibling, is ever so slightly tweaked. The infotainment and digital dash screens are new, too. Otherwise not much else changes. Engines and transmissions carry over. Why bother to include it in our 2021 Car of the Year competition? Well, the A4 has impressed us with its dynamics and chic, understated design inside and out. Besides, maybe Audi tuned a thousand little things that, when summed, wow us out of our socks.

Among those little things, the 2021 A4 receives a 12-volt hybrid system that adds 13 hp to the gas engine’s output—meaning the powertrain has been updated, meeting the hurdle for entry. Did the good-looking, smallish sedan squeak its way into our competition? Ja, one could say.

Audi opted to only send us the 349-hp S4, and although we would have preferred to also have the A4, no one was complaining too loudly. “A peach of a car,” testing director and figure-eight maestro Kim Reynolds said. “Here’s an all-wheel-drive system that really digs in and goes.” Reynolds also found the structure to be “solid as heck.” Yes, that’s how he talks.

We also all took note that the brand-new 2021 Acura TLX is not only a competitor of the A4/S4 but is also front-drive-based. Let’s just say we all preferred the Audi, though we acknowledge that the TLX Type S is the one that competes against the S4. But Acura will have its work cut out. “The S4’s throttle and gearbox response are snappier,” associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said. “The dual-clutch gearbox shines on the figure eight.”

We really shouldn’t go any further without talking about the interior. Audi makes fantastic interiors. In other news, water is wet. Although the screens and displays are updated (the infotainment screen grows from 8.3 inches to 10.1, adds touch capability, and loses the scroll wheel), the functionality is the same. Why mess with success? “Virtual Cockpit is still fantastic,” Buyer’s Guide director Zach Gale said. “It’s maybe the easiest in the industry to use and one of the best in terms of visual options. Wonderful job.” Audi took what was already functionally the best in the class and made it look even better.

Let’s get back to how well the S4 drives. When the A4 was new a few years ago, it came in second place (out of eight) in our $399-lease-deal comparison test— losing out to our eventual 2018 Car of the Year, the Alfa Romeo Giulia. Why didn’t the Audi get first? It simply didn’t drive as well as the Alfa. But today, we’re talking about the S4. “It’s easy to adjust your steering angle via the throttle, which is always a hallmark of a good performance car,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “You can really feel that rear diff doing its thing.” Reynolds called the ride “surprisingly supple.” Seabaugh compared it to the BMW 4 Series: “The M440i wasn’t bad, but the S4 was far more forgiving without any obvious drawbacks.”

There’s also something, well, je ne sais quoi about the steering. But in a good way. A classic Audi way. To me, it felt like the RS 4 from back in the day. I’ll let Reynolds explain: “I like the steering but struggle to explain why. What’s nice here is the sense of tremble in the rim that gives you an illusion of road feel and a sense of where the four tires are and what they’re doing. It’s hard to explain this— I probably couldn’t measure it— but it’s an illusion that’s there for sure.” Let’s just chalk it up to engineering excellence.

To summarize the S4 at this year’s competition, here’s editor-in-chief Mark Rechtin: “Same old S4, just with a better center screen and more dynamic infographics. If someone asks, ‘Hey I’m looking for an entry-luxury car, one that makes me feel like I’m driving something modern but isn’t going to be really confusing, what should I get?’ I answer Audi A4, and if you have a few extra bucks, the S4.” Hard to argue with that.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2020 Audi S4
Base Price/As tested $50,895/$66,490
Power (SAE net) 349 hp @ 6,200 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 369 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 4.2 sec
Quarter-mile 12.8 sec @ 107.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 112 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.91 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 25.2 sec @ 0.75 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 20/27/23 mpg
Vehicle Layout Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine/Transmission turbo 3.0L DOHC 24-valve V-6/8-speed automatic
Curb Weight (F/R Dist) 3,921 lb (57/43%)
Wheelbase 111.0 in
Length x Width x Height 187.5 x 72.7 x 56.2 in
Energy Cons, City/Hwy 169/125 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 Emissions, Comb 0.86 lb/mile


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