Based on the already dynamically pleasing Audi A4, the 2020 S4 adds horsepower and a sport-tuned suspension to the mix to dial in the performance. All-wheel drive is standard and the S4 is powered by a 349-hp turbocharged V-6 engine that hustles this four-door along—how’s 4.3 seconds to 60 mph sound? The S4 has the moves, too, and it’s never met a twisty stretch of road it couldn’t conquer. This sports sedan means business—serious business. And that’s why it’s not our favorite, despite its capability. Driving it feels a bit too clinical; it’s lacking the emotional appeal that makes great cars exciting to drive, qualities that make rivals such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia more appealing. Still, when it comes to being a well-made, very quick, well-rounded sports sedan, the S4 is one of the best on sale today.
What’s New for 2020?
The high-performance S4 receives a host of exterior styling updates for 2020 to match the similarly updated A4 sedan. A new grille, new wheel designs, updated exterior mirrors, a trunklid spoiler, and updated front and rear bumpers give the 2020 model a fresh look. Inside, a new 10.1-inch infotainment display replaces last year’s 8.3-inch screen.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- Premium: $50,895
- Premium Plus: $53,395
- Prestige: $59,345
Upgrading from the base Premium model doesn’t add more horsepower or driving excitement, but the $2500 leap to the mid-range Premium Plus does add a handful of luxuries that buyers in this segment may feel are essentials. Among them are a wireless smartphone-charging pad, keyless entry with push-button start, the Virtual Cockpit digital gauge display, blind-spot monitoring, and front and rear parking sensors.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
All S4s ship with a 349-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that syncs with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. While the version we tested was quicker than most rivals, the engine response and exhaust sound—both hugely important characteristics of a sports sedan—were less visceral than expected. Despite its subdued engine character and lack of manual transmission, the V-6 delivered substantial thrust on demand, seamlessly transitioning between relaxed and responsive. Also impressive was its automatic gearbox, which had reactions that seemed so perceptive, we found the desire to shift for ourselves was virtually eliminated; well, almost. Looking at the numbers, the S4 ranks above most competitors in performance. Still, the experience lacks the emotion and sharp handling responses of top rivals. Its chassis is its greatest strength, with tautly controlled body motions and compliant damping that make it equal parts sports and luxury sedan. The S4 is very precise and easy to control; its accurate steering, excellent cornering stability, and tenacious grip on the tarmac boosted our confidence to torpedo on-ramps—but it also cruised calmly around town. Although the brakes were tremendously responsive, they were touchy at city speeds. The fluctuating feedback also interrupted the fun on curvier sections of road where the brake pedal could feel too soft.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates the 2020 S4 will earn 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Those numbers are down from the previous model year when the Audi was rated at 21 mpg city and 30 highway. While we haven’t tested a 2020 S4 on our real-world highway fuel-economy route, the last one we evaluated returned 28 mpg during that test.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Audi is a benchmark of interior quality, and the S4 is further evidence of this. Every cabin is trimmed with marvelous materials and standard features such as diamond-stitched sports seats with massage features. Along with impeccable fit and finish, the interior is racy and luxurious. The flat-bottomed steering wheel, straightforward controls, and highly adjustable seat provide an exceptional driving position. The S4 had the quietest interior in our test, which also contributed to its calm demeanor—for better or worse. Despite having a 13-cubic-foot trunk—tied for smallest in its class with the Mercedes-AMG C43 sedan—the S4 held an impressive number of carry-ons. While its interior storage is average, the sedan can store a variety of loose items and personal belongings provided that they’re not too big. Compared with the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, the Audi is a much better travel companion. We only wish the S4 had a more versatile center console.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Audi fits every S4 with a 10.1-inch center infotainment screen and ample infotainment options. Along with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, the MMI system we tested responded quickly to commands and had user-friendly controls. While it’s within the driver’s line of sight, certain areas of the display require leaning forward to reach. Thankfully, the rotary knob on the center console is user-friendly to operate and makes the system easier to navigate.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The S4 has not been crash-tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The sports sedan does include several standard driver-assistance features, but other options such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are only offered on the more expensive Prestige model. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with forward-collision warning
- Available blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Available adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Apart from its short complimentary scheduled maintenance coverage, the S4 has an ordinary warranty that aligns with most competitors.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for 1 year or 10,000 miles