Used Vehicle Review: Audi S4, 2010-2015

Model

2010 to 2015 Audi S4

Vehicle Type

Sport Sedan

History/Description

Winter is coming. Not for a few months, sure, but it’s definitely going to be here, one day, in the not-so-distant-future, and that might be firing up your desire for a new-to-you ride to help handle its icy depths and salty, grey pits of despair. Or, maybe you just want to rip killer snow-donuts around the lamp poles in the Home Depot parking lot after they turn the lights off at 9:45.

Most S4 owners came for the discreetly styled performance-sedan looks and stayed for the driving dynamics, slick manual shifter and liquid-smooth engine.

In any case, the current-generation Audi S4 launched for model year 2010 with a new V6 engine, manual or paddle-shift transmissions, four doors, and Quattro All Wheel Drive on every model. Discreetly styled, potent in performance and easy to use year-round, this generation S4 can now be had for reasonable money in the used marketplace, and amounts to a classy sports sedan with a touch of high-performance split personality.

Feature content included all luxury sedan must-haves: push-button start, premium audio, powered memory seats and a multifunction steering wheel, as well as xenon lighting, a sunroof and an all-in-one multimedia interface.  With room for a significant other and a few offspring, the so-called B8 generation S4 was a tuned-up luxury sedan that’s family-ready and usable every day of the week.

Engines/Trim

Look for your used copy of an Audi S4 with a 3-litre supercharged V6, good for 333 horsepower thanks to an integrated supercharger and direct injection. Manual 6-speed or dual-clutch 7-speed transmission options were available, and Quattro AWD was standard, with some units offering a rear Sports Differential system for sharper handling and response.

What Owners Like

Most S4 owners came for the discreetly styled performance-sedan looks and stayed for the driving dynamics, slick manual shifter and liquid-smooth engine. S4 is reported to be roomy enough for family duty, decent on fuel when driven gently, amusing when driven hard, and also able to handle inclement weather with ease. The high-end audio system, and the Audi Drive Select system, with adjustable steering, dampers and more, are among the list of feature favorites. A powerful lighting system rounds out the package.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for a more generously-sized back seat, and note the use of some cheaper-than-expected interior trim bits. As it tends to go with attainable high-end performance cars like these, few owners have anything bad to say about their investments.

Here’s a look some owner reviews.

The new generation: Preview: 2017 Audi A4

The Test Drive

Start with ensuring that both remote keyfobs work properly, and ensure the S4 starts up quickly and strongly. Some reports have been made of a dead or dying battery affecting the push-button start system. Note that in complicated vehicles like this one, low battery voltage may cause other issues – so budget for a battery tender or trickle charger (about $30 at Canadian Tire) to keep your S4 properly charged if you only drive it occasionally. 

Here’s a great candidate for a check-up at an Audi dealer ahead of your purchase, if you’re not set on buying one from a Certified Pre-Owned program at a dealer, which will include a full inspection of the car before your purchase.

Have an Audi mechanic inspect the water pump and cooling system for signs of leakage, or indications of imminent water-pump failure, which may include warning messages in the instrument cluster, or signs of leakage or spraying of coolant from the water pump. The S4’s water pump is made of plastic, which many owners figure is a bad idea because it’s a water pump. Replacement water pump units are made of aluminum, which is metal, which is likely better suited to the application. More reading here and here.

Note that leaky thermostats were also reported in discussions of S4 coolant leaks, though the owner’s community suggests that these issues only affected earlier models, and had been addressed by Audi by about 2012. A mechanic should check for an unlikely but possible fluid leak from the rear differential, too. If one is noted, a bad seal or seals may be the culprit.

From 2013, a new power-steering system was used in the S4, with mixed reactions from the owner’s community. More reading here and here. This looks like another case of a new-car electric power steering system being tuned and calibrated in a way that doesn’t feel natural to drivers, though some owners have reported what feels like a slipping or disconnected feeling from the steering at speed, for a few seconds, and the sensation of ‘drifting’ down their lane with a loose or numb steering wheel. Some owners have had new steering system software installed to correct the issue. This isn’t an Audi-specific issue, and has been reported by owners of various vehicles.

Further, note that earlier models may suffer from a wobble or shudder in the steering in tight, low-speed cornering situations. If this is apparent on a test-drive, have an Audi mechanic inspect the front-end of the S4 you’re considering, but be aware that in many cases, this is diagnosed as a natural and inherent characteristic of the car.

If you’re set on a model with the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) dual-clutch transmission, drive it with an eye for shift quality and consistency. This gearbox should shift at lightning speed with perfect rev-matching and absolute smoothness to gear changes in both directions. If that’s not the case, or any clumsiness or hard shifting is detected, be sure to have an Audi technician investigate. Typically, issues like these are addressed by reprogramming the computer that controls the DSG transmission, and aren’t related to the transmission itself – though be sure that’s the case if any issues are noted.

Interact with the MMI infotainment system, which consolidates all communications, navigation, entertainment and other functions into a single interface. Though relatively rare, some owners have reported issues with non-functionality of several system components, a hassle that’s more likely if the previous owner has spilled double-double all over the flat-mounted command console. Ensure the controller dial or pad works as intended with all commands as a bare minimum. Twist the dial, tap it forwards, backwards, left and right, and press down on it, ensuring all commands are recognized. If any aren’t, you’re looking at reduced functionality until the controller is replaced.

This one’s important: confirm, twice, that the slightly-used S4 you’re considering still has a powertrain warranty. A hearty portion of S4 owners are naughty and install non-factory software to the engine computer (ECU) to bump the supercharger up to higher-than-factory levels, to make more power. Many folks do this under the belief that setting the ECU back to stock before visiting their dealer will erase any evidence of the tampering, but this isn’t the case. Basically, the ECU has an integrated function that counts how many times it’s been reprogrammed, and so do Audi dealers. If the numbers don’t jive, the dealer knows the S4 in question has been re-flashed with non-Audi software, and the vehicle’s VIN number gets ‘marked’ or ‘flagged’.

Translation? Even if the model you’re considering has run an aftermarket engine management tune and is put back to stock before visiting a dealer, the modification will have been logged, and gives the vehicle in question a so-called TD1 designation, which can void the warranty. So, as part of a pre-purchase checkup, ask the servicing Audi technician to determine if the model in question has been flagged, and to confirm that its warranty is still in good standing.

The Verdict

Loved for driving dynamics and discreet performance, and likely to be suffering only from minimal problems that are easy to identify and fix, a few-year-old Audi S4 makes a fairly confident used performance sedan bet. Seek an Audi mechanic’s thumbs up on a non-modified unit, or seek out a good deal on a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) unit at a dealer, confirm that the powertrain warranty is still valid, and shop with confidence.

Here’s some additional reading.

And just 2 recalls.

Crash Test Ratings

NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2013 and up only)

Currently available on autoTRADER.ca
Winter is coming. Not for a few months, sure, but it’s definitely going to be here, one day, in the not-so-distant-future, and that might... 9/17/2015 10:24:49 AM