The Audi A4 quattro Turbo has never been a breathtaking performer but it has
always been a solidly built and classy compact sedan that offers genuinely
useable performance. The newly introduced A4 S-Line carries over all those
qualities and takes a very welcome step in the direction of the S4 – at last
there’s something bridging the conventional A4 Quattro Turbo and the $130,000 S4
The S-Line is essentially an A4 quattro Turbo featuring the same sort of
enhancements you’d expect from the aftermarket - except the S-Line’s
modifications are seamlessly integrated from factory. The S-Line package adds 17
x 7.5-inch alloys wearing 235/45 boots, an exclusive body kit, sports suspension
and a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard. Oh, and output from the DOHC,
20-valve, 1.8-litre turbo four has also been increased from 120 to 140kW.
Don’t think for a moment those extra 20kW transform the S-Line sedan into a
road rocket – Audi quotes 0 – 100 km/h in 8.3-seconds, which is nothing to get
too excited about. But more important in real world driving situations are the
generous Newton Metres available from low revs – there’s 240Nm all the way from
1950 to 4000 rpm. This strong torque spread together with an aggressive
electronic throttle control strategy gives the S-Line impressive punch for small
accelerator inputs. Ease the throttle down to about 25 percent and the
turbocharged S-Line surges forward with the performance sparkle of a big V6.
This makes pulling out into traffic, overtaking and lane hopping extremely
fuss-free and safe.
But then – when you need all-out power
– the 1.8-litre turbo engine
doesn’t deliver the goods to back its part-throttle performance. From about 4500
rpm to the low 6500 redline, the S-Line’s acceleration plateaus – it feels like
there’s a dramatic boost drop-off at high rpm.
The S-Line’s driveline includes a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard - but is
a 6-speed ‘box really necessary? With such strong torque across the majority of
the rev range there’s little reason to have so many ratios on offer – the S-Line
proves the point by effortlessly accelerating away from traffic shifting from
first to third to fifth... Clutch operation is light and the gearshift action is
fine, though slightly notchy.
Fuel consumption during our test averaged 10.5-litres per 100km – not bad
considering our driving style. Note that the 9.3:1 static compression
ratio and turbocharging mean 98RON unleaded is essential. Fuel tank capacity is
66 litres, giving an urban range of more than 600km.
Grip from the quattro all-wheel-drive system and the S-Line’s big 235/45
tyres is more than ample given its 1455kg kerb mass and 140kW output. This is a
vehicle with tremendous surefootedness and safety. Apart from the occasional
touch of understeer – which is caught by the ESP system – the S-Line is very
nicely balanced. This is indicated by an equal yowl from the outer front and
rear tyres when you’ve got it dancing through a fast corner. Interestingly, though, we
did notice the doors rattling around in their frames and a steering column clunk
when tackling chopped or corrugated surfaces.
The A4 S-Line’s sports suspension delivers a very firm ride – any firmer and
it would border on uncomfortable. Vertical accelerations over bumps are very
rapid and controlled, but sharp bumps – such as poor road surface joins – can
cause some harshness. Aluminium components are used extensively in the double
wishbone front suspension and trapezoidal-link IRS.
The assisted rack and pinion steering of the S-Line is sensitive at centre –
perhaps a result of the low profile tyres. This gives the car an agile feel in
urban conditions but at higher speeds we wish there was more on-centre
weighting. Steering feel is also minimal.
The S-Line’s four-wheel disc braking system – with ABS, EBD and brake assist
– performed well during our road test.
Onboard, the S-Line offers good comfort and an overall feeling of solidity –
but it does miss out on some fairly basic features and it doesn’t offer a great
deal of rear passenger space.
We were amazed to jump into the driver’s seat of this $70,000-odd vehicle to
find no electric adjustment of the lower cushion or backrest – this is offered
(with memory settings for the seat and mirrors) as an extra cost option. Also
absent are steering wheel controls for the audio system – this is very
noticeable since the head unit’s volume control is an arm-length away.
Aside from these absentees, the S-Line cabin has all the features you’d
expect. There’s dual zone climate control, cruise control, a central LED display
(for ambient temperature, range and audio frequency), sports leather steering
wheel, S-Line scuff plates, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking
and immobiliser. Six airbags are distributed through the cabin.
The S-Line’s standard 10-speaker Chorus tuner/CD stacker is impressive –
there’s plenty of bass and very little distortion when cranked up. We wouldn’t
bother with the optional Bose sound system upgrade unless you’re a dedicated
The S-Line also comes with high quality leather trim featuring aluminium
inserts as standard. The sports-spec seats are reasonably comfortable and the
fronts come with electric lumbar support. Front seat accommodation is
comfortable but rear seat passengers are not so lucky – foot space and headroom
(for those 6-foot tall) are both limited. The A4’s high sill line and dark
interior colours also contribute to a feeling of claustrophobia. A first aid kit
can be found in the centre armrest.
The A4 sedan’s boot offers a generous volume and is expandable thanks to a
split fold rear seat backrest. Unfortunately, bulky items are difficult to
squeeze in due to a small boot aperture. Lift the boot’s false floor and you’ll
see Audi hasn’t skimped on the spare wheel – it’s a matching 17-incher.
Step into an Audi showroom and the S-Line instantly grabs your attention over
a normal A4 Turbo. The big five-spoke 17-inch wheels and 235/45 tyres, a
slightly lowered stance, sports bumpers, rear boot lip, fog lights and S-Line
badging are a brilliant dress up. Nobody would object to the aesthetics. Note
that the A4 body shell is fully galvanised and the S-Line sedan has a 0.31
But are the S-Line’s sporty trimmings enough to justify its price?
At $69,500 ($73,100 for the Avant) the A4 S-Line is $9000 more expensive than
the everyday A4 Turbo Quattro. We reckon 9k isn’t too bad considering the extra
trimmings and how well they integrate to the base vehicle. Items such as
sunroof, parking sensors, Xenon headlights and aluminium exterior trim are
available as extra cost options.
Compared to other brands, the Audi S-Line is no rip-roaring bargain but it is
competitively priced – about half of the competition is dearer and the other
half is cheaper.
Verdict. This is an effective up-spec of an already proven and popular
vehicle. Include it on your list if you’re in the market for a prestige compact
sedan with some performance.
Why You Would...
- Punchy part throttle performance
- Solid overall feel
- Grippy and stable
- Looks great
- An affordable step down from the S4
Why You Wouldn’t...
- Lack of top-end performance
- Limited rear space
- Poor access to boot
- Steering lacks feedback
The A4 S-Line sedan was supplied for this test by Audi Australia.