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2013 Audi S4 Quick Drive

The 2013 Audi S4 has performance at the ready

The 2013 Audi S4 is the performance-inspired version of the A4 compact sports sedan, and once behind the wheel, you can confirm there is no shortage of inspiration. But the 2013 S4 finds itself almost in a segment of its own. It's priced below the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG--performance versions of Audi's German competition--and doesn't quite have the power of those two. But it's head and shoulders above the standard-issue BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which compete more directly with the A4. Even more expensive versions of models will find themselves quickly outclassed.

The S4 is powered by an enhanced version of Audi's 3.0-liter supercharged engine, which also stars on the Audi A6 and mechanically similar A7. But in this application, the 2013 Audi S4 gets 333-hp out of its V-6, and a surprising amount of that power is gratifyingly accessible below highway speeds, allowing for excellent acceleration. The S4 also features unique driving modes, which allow you to tailor the car and driving characteristics to you needs. Audi's compact performance sedan is at ease getting you about town in style, or feeding your need for an inspired sports car. Featuring a premium, S-specific interior, and Audi's excellent quattro all-wheel drive system, it's easy to see the allure of such a car. We had a few days to play with Audi's fit sedan, and the worst part of the week was giving the car back.

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Model and Price

The 2013 Audi S4 starts at $47,600 equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and $49,895 after delivery when fitted with the seven-speed S tronic DSG transmission, complete with paddle-shifters affixed to the steering wheel. All S4's come with standard 18-inch S-design wheels, an S-specific sport-tuned suspension and brakes, leather sports seats, and more.

The model we drove was fitted with all the bells and whistles, and priced at $58,620. Our S4 added: the Audi MMI Navigation Plus Package, with a color screen, Google Earth, voice control, backup camera, and Bluetooth; 19-inch S-design wheels; Nappa leather; and Bang and Olufsen premium audio.

Safety and Key Features

The 2013 Audi S4 comes replete with several standard safety features, including front side and side curtain airbags; stability and traction control; Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system; a backup camera; LATCH anchors for child safety seats; adaptive cruise control is an option. The Audi A4, and S4, received a "Good" rating--the highest awarded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety--in front, side-impact, and roof-strength testing.

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Family Friendliness and Utility

The Audi S4 features LATCH anchors that are easy to access, and child safety and booster seats fit without drama. The trunk is wide and features a bolted-down cargo net that is excellent at firmly securing groceries, laptop cases, small luggage, and just about anything that will fit. And if you need more room, the 60-40 split-folding rear-seats mean you'll be able to get maximum use out of your cargo area. The car is low to the ground, so entry and exit is easy for children, while taller passengers will have to duck to slide in.

Comfort and Quality

Audi's interiors aim to please, and the 2013 S4 is no exception. Sporty, timepiece inspired instrument gauges give a feeling of precision. The Nappa leather wrapped, heated, 12-way adjustable sport seats are snug, accommodating, and still comfortable. Surfaces look and feel premium. The flat-bottom steering wheel is sporty and feels nice in-hand, and the MMI controls are situated below the shift lever, easily within the driver's reach, allowing one to access them effortlessly. One of our editor's said the MMI was confusing and took a little getting used to. Overall, the cabin is streamlined and luxurious.

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How it Drives

It's hard to name a car with such a pronounced difference in driving characteristics and overall feel between driving modes as the 2013 Audi S4. There are four settings to choose from: Comfort; Individual; Auto; and Dynamic. We played around with each, but once we discovered the Dynamic mode, we never looked back. In Comfort mode, the engine and exhaust notes are muted, the steering is firm, and the ride is smooth. But switch to Dynamic, and instantly you've awoken the performance beast.

High-revving--and thirsty--the engine and exhaust purrs and growls, the suspension tightens and the steering lightens, acceleration is noticeably quicker, it's in this mode the S4 comes to fruition. Shifts on the S tronic paddles are instantaneous, and the best we've seen. The quattro all-wheel-drive grips latches on to the road and quickly earns your trust, and builds your confidence. But if all of that is not for you, or for times you'd rather not be as engaged, the comfort mode will perform artfully, as well.

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Summary

The 2013 Audi S4 is a performance-inspired sports sedan that essentially competes in a class of its own. Slotting above higher trims of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the S4 is also priced below--and underpowered compared to--the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. With alluring exterior styling, a premium interior unique to the S trim, and plenty of performance at the ready from its enhanced 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 engine, the S4 makes for a strong performance case. Add in relative utility and a bevy of premium options, and the case for consideration grows. But at nearly $60,000, we would also investigate the slightly pricier performance versions from the competition, or think about forgoing a few of the high-end options featured on our model. Of course, if a few thousand dollars won't make much of a difference here, we're confident the S4 will leave you grinning from ear to ear.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested: $58,620 after delivery
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 18 mpg
EPA Highway: 28 mpg
EPA Combined: 21 mpg
Estimated Combined Range: 338 miles
IntellichoiceCost of Ownership: Average

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