Car Reviews

Fast Wagon: 2020 Audi S4 Avant review

GERMAN UBER WAGONS have always been popular with enthusiasts, adventure types and families who want more than a dull (even if it’s ‘sporty’) SUV in the driveway. This new Audi S4 Avant aims to fit that bill perfectly, and in any event, is a welcome addition to the German brand’s lineup after hiatus.

THE GOOD: Great practicality, engaging and powerful to drive, lovely interior and technology.

THE BAD: Rear seat room isn’t capacious, the engine could sound meaner.

IN A NUTSHELL: After a long absence caused by the emissions testing changes in Europe, Audi Australia finally has its S models back. We’re sampling the S4 Avant, a go-fast wagon that should keep both the driver and passengers happy with its blend of performance and practicality.

Audi S4 Avant review

Who doesn’t love a fast wagon? Even at a time when SUVs are all the rage, there’s something deeply appealing about a load-lugger with some get-up-and-go.

Unfortunately for Audi, the S4 Avant had been sidelined from local sales as the German luxury giant had to clear a backlog of cars for the new ‘WLTP’ economy and emissions testing. It meant most of the S models (S3, S4, S5, and others) were off the market until recently.

Audi S4 avant rear boot

Now they’re back and to generate some interest around them Audi has loaded the S4 up with more equipment in a bid to remind people what they were missing.

What does the Audi A4 Avant cost and what do you get?

It starts at $102,900 (plus ORCs), a $3000 premium over the S4 sedan, which is typical across most segments. As mentioned earlier, the new model gets more standard gear for its return including, metallic paint, S sports seat with Nappa leather trim, extended upholstery package, head-up display, wireless smartphone charging pad and a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system.

Audi S4 Avant wheels

That’s in addition to the previous standard equipment which includes a comprehensive safety package (more on that later) as well as LED headlights and taillights, 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels,  Audi’s virtual cockpit, navigation and heated front seats.

What’s the Audi S4 Avant interior like?

Like most Audis, the S4’s cabin is class-leading in terms of presentation and execution. The strong horizontal lines create a feeling of space, while the materials used (which include an optional carbon atlas inlay in our test car for $1000) looks and feels good quality.

Audi S4 interior front

The new Nappa leather upholstery on the seats adds to the feeling of a premium vehicle. The sports seats in the S4 are particularly nice, with a diamond pattern and good lateral support for both your sides and thighs.

How much space is there in the Audi S3 Avant?

The S4 Avant is a compact luxury car, competing against the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, so rear seat space isn’t roomy but it is on par for the segment. The seats are finished in the same Nappa leather but are flatter and don’t offer the same support as the front chairs. But it’s roomy enough for young children to be comfortable and happy, especially as the latest updated including adding two USB ports in the rear to keep electronic devices charged.

Audi S4 avant boot space

The S4 Avant is also a practical family hauler thanks to its wagon bodystyle, with a 505-litre boot that can expand to 1510-litres with the rear seats folded down. It’s more than enough to make you question the need for an SUV, although the lower load height may be a turn-off for some would-be buyers.

What’s the Audi S4 Avant infotainment like?

Everything about the S4’s infotainment system feels nicely integrated and well thought out. The Audi virtual cockpit (aka 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster) is easy to navigate and allows you to control most of the infotainment functions directly in front of you, without taking your hands off the wheel.

Audi S4 infotainment and virtual cockpit

The new Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound system is excellent, providing good power and clarity. The infotainment system also includes navigation, Bluetooth and DAB+ digital radio and can be controlled via a rotary dial on the centre console that integrates a touchpad for writing letters and numbers for easier searching on the move.

What’s the Audi S4 Avant engine like?

It’s important to remember that the S4 isn’t meant to be the ultimate performance version of the A4 range, that job belongs to the RS4 Avant. Instead, this is meant to straddle the line between sporty and sophisticated, and it’s a role it plays well.

The 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine has been developed by Porsche as part of the Volkswagen Group partnership and it’s a real gem. Offering 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque it has the kind of effortless performance you expect in a luxury car. Thanks to the wide spread of ratios in the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the S4 is able to take advantage of the fact peak torque is available all the way from 1370-4500rpm and feels strong across the mid-range.

Audi S4 engine bay

It makes for an easy car to live with, quietly cruising through traffic but capable of suddenly awakening and accelerating hard if you need it. If you dial up Sport in the Drive Mode select system the engine and transmission become more eager and responsive all the time and make for an exciting and engaging powertrain suitable for dynamic driving.

What’s the Audi S4 Avant like to drive?

One of the biggest appeals of a fast wagon is the ‘sleeper’ aspect. No-one expects a station wagon to be quick, so there’s some enjoyment in surprising people, both in a straight line and around corners. Like the powertrain, it finds a nice balance between going fast and being comfortable to live with every day.

Audi S4 avant going fast corner

Audi uses adaptive dampers on the S4 but even in the Comfort setting the ride is noticeably firmer than an A4, so you need to practice caution over speed bumps and watch for big holes, but there’s still a good level of compliance so it never feels like a chore to drive. Audi traditionally had a weak-spot for steering tuning, often its S and RS models lacked feeling at the limit, but recent models have seen a steady progression. As a result, the S4 is a real pleasure to drive at the limit, with direct steering and a responsive chassis.

How safe is the Audi S4 Avant?

There’s plenty of both passive and active safety equipment fitted as standard. Aside from airbag coverage for all outboard occupants, there’s Audi’s pre-sense forward collision warning, rear cross-traffic alert and active lane-keeping assist. Also included is adaptive cruise control with stop & go function and traffic jam assist – a mild autonomous mode.

A 360-degree parking camera system is also included in the cost, making for a comprehensive package to keep you safe.

What are the Audi S4 Avant alternatives? 

There are plenty of mild sports sedans to choose from, including the new BMW M340i xDrive (from $99,900), Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce (from $72,900), Genesis G70 Ultimate Sport (from $79,950) and Jaguar XE R-Dynamic HSE (from $71,940) – but they’re all powered by four-cylinder engines and none of them are available as a wagon.

Audi S4 front

This means the most direct rival is the Mercedes-AMG C43 Estate, which is a similar performance wagon concept but is pricier at $112,240.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the value?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?

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2020 Audi S4 Avant pricing and specs

Price From $102,900 plus ORCs Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine 3.0L V6 twin-turbo petrol Power 260kW at 5400-6400rpm Torque 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic Drive all-wheel-drive Body 4745mm (l); 1842mm (w); 1411mm (h) Kerb weight 1750kg Seats 5 Thirst 7.8L/100km Fuel tank 58 litres Spare Space saver

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Stephen Ottley

Stephen Ottley