Go searching a shopping mall car parking zone, residential metropolis avenue or multilane freeway and also you’ll see a large number of crossovers and conventional SUVs. The delineation between segments and physique types has change into more and more blurred with each new technology of those automobiles as automakers attempt to each anticipate what patrons need and serve every area of interest inside a distinct segment. Whereas there are apparent advantages to crossovers supposed to be each sturdy and sporty, they in the end fail to seize consideration the way in which a very well-conceived sport sedan does. We had been just lately reminded of simply how good a conventional four-door automobile might be when correct steadiness is the first focus, due to a day spent driving the 2020 Audi S4 round Southern California’s meandering desert roads.
Exterior variations between the outgoing S4 (and the A4, on which it’s based mostly) and the newest are delicate, however in a market overrun with garish styling, a bit subtlety goes a good distance. Excluding the roof, every panel on the brand new S4 has been adjusted to ship an total extra muscular impact and the obvious change is to the complete entrance fascia which brings new headlights with out there LED matrix animations and a reworked grille, which ditches the boring A4 slats for a honeycomb design. Commonplace S4 fashions characteristic visually pleasing silver distinction bars that seem to drift within the grille, whereas these outfitted with the favored Black Optic Pack lose the silver end in favor of a extra stealthy look.
Inside we discovered the form of acquainted, ergonomic cockpit that Audi has been delivering for the higher a part of a decade, however now and not using a multifunction rotary dial adjoining to the gear selector. As a substitute they’ve mounted a brand new 10.1-inch touchscreen to the sprint that runs one of many high three infotainment programs within the trade, MIB 3. Whereas the system operates flawlessly, that includes giant icons and seamless smartphone integration, we’d wish to see the display screen labored into the sprint in a cleaner manner. Proper now, it appears like an afterthought and with the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster serving up every thing the motive force wants proper in entrance of them, one wonders concerning the want for a center-mounted display screen in any respect—apart from to present a front-seat passenger one thing to get fingerprints on.
We pull keys for an Ibis White mannequin outfitted with Black Optic which provides high-gloss black mirror housings, Titanium Black exterior trim and one of the best of the wheel choices, a 19-inch 5-V-spoke model completed in matte titanium and wrapped in sticky Bridgestone summer time tires. To our eyes, the usual 18-inch 5-Y-spoke and non-obligatory 19-inch five-arm-torso directional look wheels don’t do the automobile justice and can be extra at dwelling on one in every of Audi’s quantity mannequin crossovers. Past the visible attraction of the titanium-finish wheels, we really appreciated the upgraded rubber round them as we took the automobile from a standstill to 60mph, then past that the majority well-known of thresholds, and again to a standstill once more.
Motivating these sprints is a twin-scroll turbo 3.zero V6 that carries over from the earlier S4 untouched, which gives greater than sufficient shove to make mundane day-to-day driving extra thrilling and will get probably the most out of open highway cruises. Throughout the numerous inland panorama of Southern California, the S4 is all the time compliant and usually inspiring. Roads on this a part of California differ in high quality and magnificence as they cross by way of the three distinct bioregions of Mojave, South Coast and Colorado Desert. One minute we’re carving up easy corners, the subsequent we’re navigating tough patches on the backside of huge dips. Both manner, these excessive efficiency tires are welcomed, however sticky rubber can solely take a automobile to date.
Fortuitously our automobile can also be outfitted with the brand new unimaginatively named, however completely worthwhile S Sport package deal. For a further $2,500 Audi matches the S4 with a superb sport adaptive suspension, sport rear differential and sport purple brake calipers. The sting of paying for a sport package deal on a sport sedan is considerably mitigated by the beginning value of the 2020 S4 being $49,900, just a few hundred decrease than the 2019 S4 was. The aforementioned undulations within the pavement has our co-driver involved concerning the S4 leaving the bottom, however the fast pondering suspension put such worries apart. It merely compresses on the backside and clings to the highway on the high. Ripping by way of corners and navigating sluggish transferring rural visitors proves simply how sporty that rear differential is just too.
With glorious torque vectoring in a position to ship practically the total quantity of twist to both rear wheel and Audi’s famend Quattro all-wheel-drive system in a position to ship as much as 85% of energy to the rear wheels, the spirited driver has a worthy companion within the 2020 S4. We’re reminded of this at each flip of the chunky flat-bottom steering wheel and burp of the exhaust that coincides with upshifts and downshifts. We’d nonetheless like higher paddles mounted to the again of the steering wheel to set off these shifts because the plastic models which are in there might be discovered throughout the complete Audi mannequin vary (together with the R8). That mentioned, enjoyable as it’s to play F1 driver, setting the drive mode to Dynamic and letting the eight-speed transmission do its factor is simply nice.
By the point the solar begins its descent behind the peaks west of Palm Springs, we’ve got a pair definitive conclusions concerning the 2020 S4. Most evident is that of the 4 non-obligatory packages, the S Sport is certainly the highest decide, with the Black Optic and Heat Climate rounding out the highest three possibility containers to be ticked. It’s value mentioning that in case you do go for ventilated entrance seats, you’ll lose Audi’s signature diamond stitching and therapeutic massage operate. The problem of this determination will range relying in your native local weather, however as a lot as we get pleasure from seat followers, we will’t think about passing on the comfortable 12-way adjustable S Sport seats. Our automobile options good-looking Rotor Gray leather-based with Anthracite distinction stitching, however we’d go for the Rotor Gray Alcantara possibility that harkens again to S4 fashions from the mid-2000s. Not solely will the Alcantara inserts do extra to carry you in place throughout extra aggressive driving, they’ll additionally entice much less warmth, thus lowering the frustration of not having seat air flow.
The opposite huge conclusion we arrive at is that whereas the S4 might have misplaced among the “specialness” it possessed through the B5 by way of B7 generations, it’s nonetheless very a lot a noteworthy automobile.
Photographs by Andrew Maness