Road test: Audi S4 Avant 3.0 TFSI 354PS Quattro Tiptronic

  • All-new turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 for the latest S4 Avant
  • Scorches from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, returns 37mpg
  • Will it sate the requirements of enthusiastic drivers?

It says much about how we’ve become accustomed to colossal power outputs that the latest generation of Audi S4 Avant with its 354hp merely feels quick as opposed to mightily fast.

There’s a good reason why this wagon doesn’t feel as wild as it could: essentially it leaves room for the blistering RS4 Avant to sit above it at the pinnacle of the A4 line-up, although you’ll have to wait until 2017 for that.

In the meantime, Audi cites the Mercedes-AMG C 43 Estate as the S4’s primary rival, representing the madras option to the phaal of the C 63. It’s also worth looking at BMW’s 340i Touring as an alternative, but there’s never been an estate-bodied M3 to crown that range.

All-new turbocharged V6 powerplant

Remember the previous S4’s supercharged 3.0-litre V6? Well, forget about it because only the cylinder capacity of this motor’s carried over.

This new engine’s the first of a family of modular units and now uses a turbocharger to up the ante.

Let’s not quibble here: the S4 Avant’s oomph will be an eye-opener if you’re progressing up from a humbler 2.0 TDI, with an electronically governed top speed of 155mph and a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds – the first time the estate model’s dipped under the five-second threshold – thanks to 500Nm of torque from just 1,370rpm.

There’s such a subtlety about the way its performance is delivered that under most circumstances the Audi’s happy being cruised around quietly, the standard eight-speed Tiptronic automatic seemingly perfect for a comfortable cruiser.

Flick it into Dynamic mode, mash the throttle pedal into the carpet and it comes alive, snarlier and a bit more aggressive. Overtakes can be completed in satisfyingly short order.

Audi claims the S4 Avant will return an average of 37.7mpg – around 30mpg is more likely – with CO2 emissions rated at 171g/km. That equates to a VED car tax bill of £350 for the first year and £225 annually thereafter at current rates.

Improved handling but little excitement

The handling characteristics of earlier generations of Audi S4 were lamented for lacking excitement, especially at the helm, which felt decidedly wooden.

Undoubtedly things have improved here and it is more engaging to drive quickly, but “fun” is an adjective you can’t really throw at it. However, things do bode well for the upcoming RS4.

We’ve long-bemoaned sportier Audis for their unnecessarily firm ride qualities but things are far more pleasant in this latest S4 riding on adaptive dampers. Yes, it’s still on the harsh side in Dynamic mode, but in Comfort it’s a different story – the suspension’s compliant enough to soak up most of the roads’ fiercer imperfections without the bodyroll you might expect to accompany a softer setting.

As was ever thus, the S4 Avant comes equipped with Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system, albeit with a claimed 60 percent power bias to the rear wheels in ordinary conditions. This is great for traction out of bends, especially when the surface is slippery, but turning off the traction control makes the rear end a bit twitchier.

Luxurious specification promised

Pricing’s likely to be around £42,000 but neither it nor the exact UK specification for the S4 Avant has yet been decided but we expect it to include:

  • LED lights front and rear with self-dimming matrix headlamps optionally available
  • Electronic instrumentation with an S-specific view with the rev counter central to the display
  • Subtly beefed-up exterior with unique bumpers, rear diffuser and matt grey trim detailing
  • S-specific sports front seats trimmed in pearl Nappa leather
  • Matt, brushed aluminium interior decor appliques 

Verdict

Powerful, handsome, boasting imperious levels of build quality and a usefully spacious cargo bay to boot, the Audi S4 Avant could be all the performance estate you need yet it somehow doesn’t deliver the sucker punch.

For similar real-world performance, the 272hp A4 Avant S Line 3.0 TDI Quattro is likely to prove a bit cheaper to buy and considerably less expensive to run. If you need to go faster than that, hold on until 2017 for the RS4.

Rating: 3.5 stars