It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the Audi S4 was powered by a 4.2-litre 253kW V8.
In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that all of Audi’s S-badged models seemed to be using engines that would look preposterous by today’s standards. Just look at the old C6-generation S6; that had a massive 5.2-litre 320kW Lamborghini-derived V10 at its nose, and even then it wasn’t the fastest or most powerful version you could buy at the time.
How times have changed. These beguiling engines have now largely disappeared from Audi’s range of S cars, and even some of the halo RS models have been shorn of a few cylinders.
That, however, is the way of the world. Attitudes change and priorities shift. That’s why, under the bonnet of this new Euro-market S4 sedan, instead of the previous petrol engine you’ll find a 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine supplemented by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. It’s a move we’ve seen Audi make with updated versions of its other S-badged sedans and coupes, but Audi Australia hasn’t really engaged.
This diesel model won’t be coming here, but the new petrol-engined S4 will arrive next year.
Regardless, there’s little denying the fact this new S4 packs quite a wallop. That V6 diesel kicks out 255kW and a whopping 700Nm of torque, which is spread across a relatively narrow 2500-3100rpm window.
For the sake of comparison, that’s the same amount of torque as a Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe gets from its 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8. In typical Audi fashion, this performance is directed to all four wheels via an eight-speed auto and a self-locking diff that can funnel up to 85 per cent of that torque to the rear axle.
While I don’t doubt the S4 is more than capable of hitting its claimed 0-100km/h time of 4.8sec, it’s the way it accelerates while locked in-gear that’s the most entertaining aspect of its character.
Put your foot down below 2000rpm and the pace gradually starts to pick up, but as soon as you breach that 2500rpm marker, things get a lot more brutal. The accelerative force unleashed by the twin-turbo diesel is a sudden violent surge accompanied by a muscular, bassy (if a little faux-sounding) bellow from the V6. It might be fleeting, but for that short moment it exists, it’s undoubtedly thrilling.
The S4’s versatility is readily apparent, too. Point it down a stretch of motorway and not only is that engine impressively hushed, its claimed combined fuel figure of 6.2L/100km means it should provide decent range between trips to the servo.
Sitting on lowered sports suspension, the S4’s ride is noticeably firmer than its A4 counterpart, even with its dampers in their comfiest, most pliant setting. That said, the manner in which it navigates poorly surfaced roads isn’t so brittle you’d wince at the prospect of driving one over long distances. This is a settled, well-sorted car.
The S4 grips tenaciously through corners too, although you can still get its rear end to step out with some well-timed throttle inputs.
MOTOR comparison: S4 v C43 v 340i v XE S
In Dynamic mode, the steering does have an artificial sense of weight about it, but for the most part it allows you to steer the car in a confident, assertive manner. Its response rate quickens as your speed increases, which can be a touch unsettling at first but doesn’t take long to get your head around. It’s a bit disheartening, if not at all surprising, to find there’s little feedback to be gleaned here, though.
The latest-generation BMW M340i xDrive will likely remain the enthusiast’s go-to choice in the segment, but there’s plenty to like about this new S4, even if it’s perhaps not the most inspirational car to drive hard.
The hybridised diesel powertrain in this Euro-spec model makes it something of an oddity in the fast compact executive class, but it also lends the Audi an impressive breadth of ability; it’s both a refined motorway cruiser and an exceptionally fast car to point down a secondary road.
A refreshed cabin, with Audi’s latest 10.1-inch MMI-plus touchscreen infotainment system and virtual cockpit as standard, also helps to give the S4 a welcome boost on the technological appeal front.
We look forward to seeing how the facelifted S4 stacks up for the Australian market in 2020 with the 260kW/500Nm TFSI engine – good enough for 4.7sec to 100km/h – under the bonnet.
Tested and rated on MOTOR reviews
2019 AUDI S4 TDI SPECS
Engine: 2967cc V6 turbodiesel, DOHC, 24v
Power: 255kW @ 3850rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 2500-3100rpm
0-100km/h: 4.8sec (claimed)
Price: $105,000 (est)
Like: Brutal torque and acceleration; refined cruising; economy; refreshed interior
Dislike: Narrow performance band; artificial steering weight and feel
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars