Family friendly fire from prestige wagon weaponry
Your heart thumps. The knees weaken. Thought clarity is clouded.
Sometimes you just know. It was like that with the Audi S4 Avant.
Modern trends show the attraction for wagons has waned as the obsession around SUVs grows faster than a Kardashian booty. Those with about $115,000 to spend would be well advised to take this four-ringed load-lugger for a spin.
The latest Audis have improved infotainment and cabin features, but little is wrong with the S4 that has been around for three years. New models are on their way and are expected to arrive next month, although they’ll feature no change to power outputs.
Sporting looks translate inside and out. Nappa leather trimmed seats featuring diamond patterns capture the attention, while the telltale flat-bottom steering wheel and stainless steel pedals are hints of the ability hiding within.
For the sizeable investment it has the key features expected, like three-zone climate control, 19-inch alloys, keyless entry with push-button start and a 10.1-inch touchscreen which controls a 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system that also has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Warranty coverage is only three years and unlimited kilometres, while most mainstream manufacturers, and even rival Mercedes-Benz, have moved to five years.
Service plans are available, with $2950 covering maintenance for five years, and intervals are annual or every 15,000km. Those services are basic in terms of inclusions, so always best to investigate the fine print.
Achieving a five-star safety rating from ANCAP back in 2015, that still applies but the 2020 criteria for the same accolade is far more stringent.
The S4 maintains strong levels of technical wizardry to keep you out of trouble. Leading the way is autonomous emergency braking which can step in if required — the S4 will apply the anchors if a frontal collision is detected with a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian and help avoid or lessen the impact.
Big S brakes (350mm discs at the front) provide ample stopping power too, while another highlight is radar cruise control which maintains a set distance from other vehicles. That even works in traffic jams so it can look after all the accelerating and braking during those tedious times when you have no option but to sit and idle.
The cross-traffic assist system monitors the back end when reversing out of carparks and warns of any encroaching vehicles.
Brimming with athleticism, the S sports seats with integrated headrests have a heating and massage function. Hugging the passengers in place, the chairs aren’t too intrusive while the flat-bottom steering wheel feels wonderful in the hands.
The sporting touches combine to deliver a cabin which feels special without going over the top with unnecessary bling.
New models will have an improved virtual cockpit, that’s the driver’s customisable digital instruments, as well as better infotainment. These older models look dated compared to more recent offerings, although operationally Audis are simple and are aided by smartphone mirroring functionality for Apple and Android devices.
Being a wagon means the ride height isn’t as convenient as a modern-day SUV, and these S models also sit 23mm closer to the ground than your run-of-the-mill A4. Yet those willing to bend are rewarded with vastly better driving prowess and luggage capacity.
Kick under the back bumper and the boot lid opens — brilliant for when you have your hands full — which provides access to more than 500 litres of space. That’s better than many mid-size SUVs, like the Mazda CX-5 or a Lexus RX, and the back seats fold 40-20-40.
Despite being a sporting variant, the ride is firm without being jarring. Various drive modes alter settings to improve passenger conditions for easy cruises, or dial up to Dynamic to unleash the beast.
Sultry and powerful, the turbocharged V6 is a gem.
Falling shy of a V8 for overall sporting appeal, the bent six does a stellar job of romancing all aboard with a wonderful exhaust soundtrack and silky power delivery.
Famed Audi Quattro all-wheel drive ensures fast and responsive performance. Step on the throttle and the wagon can reach 100km/h in less than five seconds without wheel slip.
Drop the hammer and sling the S4 into some bends and the grip is impressive from the big 19-inch rubber. Beautifully balanced, it relishes changes in direction.
Steering wheel paddles enable the driver to take manual-style control, but those who don’t like to swap cogs themselves will find the eight-speed automatic does the job intuitively and in a timely fashion.
Drinking 10.4 litres per 100km on average over more than 700km, the V6 proved thirstier than the official 7.8 figure claimed by Audi.
Keep your high-riding SUVs and attention-sapping sports cars, I’m happy to fly under the radar with my wagon weaponry.
While V8s have a foot in the grave, this turbo V6 is a belter. Subdued sportiness on the outside, addictive athleticism within.
MERCEDES-AMG C43 4MATIC $126,400 D/A
Sitting below the V8-powered C63, this little fire-breather pumps out 287kW/520Nm from its bi-turbo V6 and also has all-wheel drive. Like the Audi, it’s refined athleticism.
JAGUAR XF SPORTBRAKE 30D S $124,800 D/A
Value depends on the specification level and whether you can track down a special edition model, but a classy looking option if you can stomach the 3.0-litre 6cyl turbo diesel delivering 221kW/700Nm.
Those who want space, grace and performance, time to get on the bandwagon. The S4 Avant is a beautifully balanced vehicle for those looking for the best of family and sports car worlds.
AT A GLANCE
AUDI S4 AVANT
PRICE $114,270 drive-away (prestige investment)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3yr/unlimited km w’ty (short); $2950 5-year package (OK)
ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo, 260kW/500Nm (meaty)
SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, 360-degree cameras, radar cruise, auto park, AEB, cross-traffic assist (not bad)
THIRST 7.8L/100km (10.4 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (expected)
BOOT 505L/1510 (good)