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Audi S4 Avant review (2012 onwards)
Model: Audi S4 Avant
Engine: 3.0 TFSI supercharged
Transmission: seven-speed S tronic
Date of test: July 2012
If you want a fast Audi, but not a bonkers-quick RS-badged nut job, then step forward the curious S4 Avant. It's more subtle than an RS4, less violent when you deploy its power, £15,000 cheaper and, you might be thinking, either completely pointless or it renders the RS4 redundant.
It is in fact a stop-gap between the sensible diesel/petrol models and the licence-losing RS model. The S4 is, in my humble opinion, the best performance car Audi builds.
Where does it fit?
The S4 Avant starts at £39,880 but you'll want to tick a few options to bring it up to a car you would want to live with. As rivals go, the BMW 335i is closest on paper but it is not yet available as an estate. As it stands, Audi remains king of the fast compact estate segment.
Is it for you?
There's something deeply appealing about the S4 Avant. It is the perfect one-car-does-everything tool, acting as practical family estate, performance hooligan and impressive businessman's express. Even if you could afford an RS4, I'd save the money and opt for the everyday usability of the S4.
What does it do well?
That everyday usability comes in the form of a wonderfully muscular 3.0-litre supercharged V6, deploying 333hp between 5,500rpm and 6,500rpm and 324 lb/ft of torque from 2,900rpm to 5,300rpm.
A supercharged V6 might not sound as appealing as the wonderful V8 that used to power S-badged Audis, but it brings a number of benefits to driving ability and running costs.
The supercharger actually endows the S4 with more torque than the RS4 (still a V8) adding a useful flexibility that makes it a more usable performance car in the real world.
Thanks to Quattro all-wheel-drive grip, it launches off the line to 62mph in 5.1 seconds (only half a second slower than the RS4), and quicker than the BMW 335i, its closest rival.
It's a surprisingly entertaining car to drive, too, with the lighter V6 engine set further back in the chassis than the V8. That brings richer steering and less understeer in fast bends, with a sports diff that brakes individual wheels to haul you around the corner and bringing the back end into play - something you certainly don't expect from a four-wheel-drive Audi.
What doesn't it do well?
The S4 is wonderfully refined, which is a great thing when you're cruising the motorway, but it isolates you from the action. Glance at the speedo and you may be surprised at just how fast you are travelling.
You'll also need to be as reserved with your cheque book as the Bank of England is currently, because you will need to spend quite a bit more on goodies such as £900 sports seats, £2k for a technology pack that brings sat-nav, parking aids and Audi Music, £1,150 for larger wheels, £110 for a classic flat-bottomed steering wheel and £305 for a CD changer.
Before you know it you'll have added £10k to the price and be wondering why you didn't just buy an RS4.
What's it like to live with?
The usual Audi quality shines through the S4's cabin - this is a lovely place to reside. There's plenty of space behind the front seats as well for three adults - more room than in a BMW 3 Series - and the boot is a proper 'lifestyle' job offering flexibility with its 490-1,430 litres of space.
How green is it?
Driven sensibly, you should see 33.6mpg and 25.2mpg around town - that's more than 30% more efficient than the old V8 S4 was. The dual-clutch manual helps keep emissions relatively low at 197g/km - great news if you're a company buyer.
Would we buy it?
The Audi S4 Avant is the perfect all-rounder - fast, practical, sure-footed and great to drive. If you can control yourself on the options sheet it makes for quite a bargain performance car, too.
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