The Audi A4 sedan competes in a crowded market, facing stiff competition, especially from the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. To stay ahead of its German counterparts, Audi gave the A4 and its S4 sibling a facelift for 2013, which includes design, chassis and powertrain tweaks as well as new technology.
The 2013 Audi A4 sedan comes in four trims, starting at $37,800 for the base 2.0 TFSI front-wheel-drive trim. It’s actually the same price as the 2012 model despite the refresh. The most expensive A4 is a 2.0 TFSI Quattro premium plus, which costs $45,800. And then you can blow the bank on my tester, the more powerful S4 sedan, which starts at $53,000.
The high-performance S4 is powered by a 3.0-litre supercharged V-6 that delivers 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the engine is a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automatic transmission is optional on the S4, but I prefer the stick with its nice short throws and light clutch pedal feel.
Fire up the engine and the deep exhaust note emerges from the sporty, quad tailpipes at the rear, signifying this is no ordinary sedan. Be warned – the S4 accelerates smoothly and quickly; before you know it, you’ll be hitting 100 km/h in 5.1 seconds. Keep a watchful eye on the speedo; the top speed on the S4 is 250 km/h – not that you’ll ever hit it in Canada.
The S4 is sporty and fun to drive. It’s spirited, agile, and well-balanced as it hugs the on-ramps of highways and accelerates assertively, passing slower-moving vehicles with ease and confidence. The S4’s sport suspension and Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive offers excellent traction and handling on wet roads, too. The facelift also includes new electromechanical power steering, which feels linear and precise. You can also choose dynamic mode with Audi’s Drive Select chassis system, which allows you to switch between comfort, auto, dynamic and efficiency modes.
With the power and speed comes higher fuel consumption. It averages 13.8 litres/100 km in the city and a more respectable 8.3 on the highway. The base A4 model with its 211-hp, 2.0-litre, turbocharged four – the same engine as the 2012 version – is rated at 8.6 city and 6.2 highway. But across the A4 lineup, Audi has reduced fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 11 per cent. It’s a small step, but the savings add up in your wallet.
As part of the exterior facelift, the front and rear fascias are redone. The most obvious change is at the front end with funky, redesigned headlights and sparkling, jewel-like lamps. To distinguish the S4 from the A4, the S4 gets rectangular fog lights, a platinum grey radiator grille insert, horizontal chrome crossbars and tiny S4 badges at the front and rear.
The cabin is elegant and attractive with excellent attention to detail. It remains lavish and upscale with a redesigned steering wheel that feels chunky in the hands. The controls are improved so they’re easier to use. The MMI infotainment system, which controls the phone, navigation, radio and media functions, is also simpler to operate. Before it was overly complicated with buttons everywhere that made it hard to find functions fast. There are now four buttons for the MMI instead of eight, which makes it easier to use. But a lot of similar-sized buttons still remain. The new seat heaters are a big improvement. Just push a button to select the intensity of heating as opposed to the multi-step process of pushing a button and twisting a knob to find the right setting in its predecessor.
The front leather seats are comfortable and supportive – the rear seats are tight for three adults. Two adults would be more comfy. The trunk space is large and deep, offering 352 litres of space for grocery bags and other goodies.
Like all Audis, the A4 comes with technological gadgets galore including adaptive cruise control (ACC). It’s a radar-based driver assistance system that automatically monitors the distance between you and the vehicle ahead and applies the brake and throttle as needed to maintain a safe distance. The driver doesn’t have to touch a pedal – the system does everything for you.
And then there’s Audi Side Assist, which warns when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot and it’s unsafe to make change lanes. A flashing light in the side-view mirror cues the driver not to change lanes. It works well and acts as a second set of eyes, especially when you’re distracted with screaming kids in the rear seat.
The S4 is a powerful, high-performance sedan that can easily go head-to-head against the competition. But if you want something more low key, with a less-expensive price tag, yet is equally attractive, stick with the A4 sedan.
2013 Audi S4 3.0 TFSI Quattro Premium
Type: Mid-size, high-performance sedan
Base Price: $57,800; as tested, $66,050
Engine: 3.0-litre, DOHC, supercharged V-6
Horsepower/torque: 333 hp/325 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel economy (litres/100 km) 13.8 city/8.3 highway: premium
Alternatives: BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz C63, Lexus IS F, Acura TL, Cadillac CTS-V, Infiniti G37