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Audi S4 and S5 2021 review

Five flavours of everyday, proper Audi performance have been updated for 2021.
EXPERT RATING
8.1
The S4 and S5 line-up is arguably the sweetest balance between serious performance and everyday comfort Audi produces, and all five bodystyles have been treated to an update for 2021.

Audi would probably prefer you not to realise this, but the five distinct versions of S4 and S5 on the market all pertain to a single performance and equipment formula spread across five different bodystyles. 

Yes five, and this has been the case for more than a decade, with the S4 sedan and Avant wagon, A5 two-door Coupe, convertible Cabriolet and five door liftback Sportback all representing vastly different shapes for you to choose from, with the same underpinnings. This simply echoes the A4 and A5 ranges they’re based on of course, and BMW clearly thought it was a good idea too, given the 3 and 4 Series ranges were split into individual lines at the start of last generation.

Mercedes-Benz offers a similar array, minus the liftback, but is happy to wrap the whole lot under the C-Class label. 

So, given that the A4 and A5 range scored a mid-life update a few months ago, it’s only logical that the changes flow on to the performance S4 and S5s, with the top-tier RS4 Avant following suit. 

We’ve covered the latter in October, and now it’s the turn for the former, and CarsGuide was among the first to drive the updated S4 and S5 ranges at their Australian media launch last week.

Audi S4 2021: 3.0 TFSI Quattro
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.6L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$99,900

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

The S4 sedan and Avant have scored the bulk of design updates, with all new and recontoured side panels including the sedan’s C-pillar matching what was applied to the A4 earlier this year. 

This is paired with new front and rear facias and lighting for a subtle but extensive rework of the fifth-generation S4’s conservative look. 

  • Side sheetmetal is completely different. (Credit: Malcolm Flynn) Side sheetmetal is completely different. (Credit: Malcolm Flynn)
  • Plus new lights and bumpers at both ends. (Credit: Malcolm Flynn) Plus new lights and bumpers at both ends. (Credit: Malcolm Flynn)

The S5 Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet get S5-specific new lighting and facias, but no sheetmetal changes. As before, the Coupe and Cabriolet ride on a 60mm shorter wheelbase than the Sportback, sedan and Avant.

The S5s also get Matrix LED headlights as standard which do a neat animated sequence when you unlock the car. 

  • The Coupe and Cabriolet ride on a 60mm shorter wheelbase than the Sportback, sedan and Avant. (S5 Coupe variant pictured) The Coupe and Cabriolet ride on a 60mm shorter wheelbase than the Sportback, sedan and Avant. (S5 Coupe variant pictured)
  • The S5 Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet get S5-specific new lighting and facias. (S5 Coupe variant pictured) The S5 Sportback, Coupe and Cabriolet get S5-specific new lighting and facias. (S5 Coupe variant pictured)
  • The S4 sedan and Avant have scored the bulk of design updates. (S4 Avant variant pictured) The S4 sedan and Avant have scored the bulk of design updates. (S4 Avant variant pictured)
  • The S4 Avant is listed at $102,000. (S4 Avant variant pictured) The S4 Avant is listed at $102,000. (S4 Avant variant pictured)
  • The S5 gets Matrix LED headlights as standard. (S5 Sportback variant pictured) The S5 gets Matrix LED headlights as standard. (S5 Sportback variant pictured)
  • The S5 Sportback is priced at $106,500, $600 more expensive than before. (S5 Sportback variant pictured) The S5 Sportback is priced at $106,500, $600 more expensive than before. (S5 Sportback variant pictured)

Other visual hallmarks include new S4-specific 19-inch wheels, with S5 stepping up to its own unique 20-inch wheel. The six-piston front brake calipers are appropriately painted red, and there’s S-specific adaptive dampers under there too. All variants aside from the Cabriolet get a lip spoiler on the rear.

On the inside, there’s a new centre console and bigger 10.1-inch multimedia screen, while the Audi Virtual Cockpit driver instrument display now offers a hockey stick-style rev counter in additional to traditional dial layouts.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

As I mentioned above, the S4 and S5 line-up are in many ways the same, but also different, and these differences result in a price span of $20,500 between the S4 sedan and the S5 Cabriolet. 

The former is now $400 cheaper with a list price of $99,500, with the also-$400 cheaper S4 Avant not far beyond at $102,000.

The S5 Sportback and Coupe are now $600 more expensive at an equal list price of $106,500, while the swish folding soft top of the S5 Cabriolet pushes it up to $120,000 (+$1060).

Equipment levels are consistent across all five variants aside from the S5s getting Matrix LED headlights as standard and one inch larger 20-inch wheels. 

  • The S4 wears 19-inch alloy wheels. (S4 sedan variant pictured) The S4 wears 19-inch alloy wheels. (S4 sedan variant pictured)
  • The S5 scored 20-inch alloy wheels. (S5 Coupe variant pictured) The S5 scored 20-inch alloy wheels. (S5 Coupe variant pictured)

Key details include Nappa leather trim with front sport seats with seat heaters and massage function, a Bang & Olufsen sound system which spreads 755W across a total of 19 speakers, brushed aluminium inlays, head-up display, coloured ambient lighting, tinted windows and metallic paint.

The front sport seats have Nappa leather trim. (S4 Avant variant pictured) The front sport seats have Nappa leather trim. (S4 Avant variant pictured)

Over the past 12 months, the S5 Sportback has proven to be the most popular of the five variants by far, accounting for 53 per cent of sales, with the S4 Avant next in line at 20 per cent, the S4 sedan making up 10 per cent, and the S5 Coupe and Cabriolet combining to make up the remaining 17 per cent.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The biggest practicality change among the five S4 and S5 variants is their upgrade to the latest version of Audi’s MMI multimedia system, which steps up to a 10.1-inch touchscreen and drops the scroll wheel from the centre console.

Inside, there’s a new centre console and bigger 10.1-inch multimedia screen. (S4 Avant variant pictured) Inside, there’s a new centre console and bigger 10.1-inch multimedia screen. (S4 Avant variant pictured)

It also boasts ten times the computing power of the version it replaces and uses this and an on-board sim card to access Google Earth maps for navigation and Audi Connect Plus that offers driver information such as fuel prices and parking information as well as point of interest search and weather information, plus the ability to make emergency calls and seek roadside assistance.

There’s also a wireless phone charger, but using Apple CarPlay will still require a cord as per Android Auto.

I only drove the S4 Avant and S5 Sportback at their media launch, which are clearly the most practical of the five, but from our experience with the previous versions, each looks after its occupants well in terms of space and storage. Back seat accommodation is clearly not a priority in the Coupe and Cabriolet, but there’s three other variants if that’s what you’re looking for. 

The S4 Avant looks after its occupants well in terms of space and storage. (S4 Avant variant pictured) The S4 Avant looks after its occupants well in terms of space and storage. (S4 Avant variant pictured)

The Cabriolet can open its automatic folding soft top within 15 seconds, at speeds of up to 50 km/h.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

Audi has taken an ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach with the mechanicals, with all S4 and S5 models unchanged with this update. So the centrepiece continues to be the single-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 that produces 260kW and 500Nm, with the latter available from a broad 1370-4500rpm.

S4 and S5 models share the same 3.0-litre turbo V6 that produces 260kW and 500Nm. (S5 Sportback variant pictured) S4 and S5 models share the same 3.0-litre turbo V6 that produces 260kW and 500Nm. (S5 Sportback variant pictured)

The rest of the drivetrain is also unchanged, with the venerable but excellent ZF eight-speed torque converter auto paired with the Quattro all-wheel drive system that can send up to 85 per cent of drive to the rear wheels

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Official combined fuel figures range from 8.6L1/00km for the S4 sedan to 8.8L/100km for the Avant, Coupe and Sportback, while the heavier Cabriolet steps up to 9.1L/100km. 

All are pretty good considering their performance potential and the size of these cars, plus the fact that they only require 95 RON Premium Unleaded fuel.

All have a 58-litre fuel tank, which should enable a range of at least 637km between fills based on the Cabriolet’s figure.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

All S4 and S5 variants boast an impressive array of safety features, but there’s some interesting points when it comes to ANCAP ratings. Only four cylinder A4 models (therefore not S4) were given a maximum five star rating when tested according to less stringent 2015 standards, but all A5 variants (therefore S5) aside from the Cabriolet carry a five star rating based on the tests applied to the A4. So officially, the S4 is not rated, but the S5 Coupe and Sportback are, but based on the A4 rating that doesn’t apply to the S4. As with most convertibles, the Cabriolet is simply not rated. 

The airbag count totals eight in the sedan, Avant and Sportback, with dual front airbags, plus side and curtain airbags covering front and rear.

The Coupe drops the rear side airbags, while the Cabriolet also drops curtain airbags, meaning there’s no airbags for rear seat occupants. The roof is made of folding fabric, there has to be some safety compromise.

Other safety features include front AEB that works up to 85km/h, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, active lane guidance and collision avoidance assist that can automatically swerve, a 360 degree camera system, rear cross-traffic alerts, exit warning that can prevent you opening a door into an oncoming car or cyclist, and pre sense rear that can detect an impending collision from behind and prepare the seatbelts and windows for maximum protection.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Audi continues to offer a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty, which is in line with BMW but lags behind the five years offered by Mercedes-Benz these days. This also contrasts with the five year norm among mainstream brands, which is punctuated by the seven year warranties of Kia and SsangYong.  

Service intervals are a convenient 12 months/15,000km though, and the same five year ‘Audi Genuine Care Service Plan’ offers capped price servicing for the same $2950 total over five years applies to all S4 and S5 variants. This is only marginally more than the plans offered for regular petrol A4 and A5 variants, so you’re not being stung for the thoroughbred versions.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

The S4 and S5 range were already an excellent balance between everyday comfort and a genuine sporting edge, and nothing has changed with this update.

S mode livens up the engine and transmission without stiffening up the suspension. (S5 Sportback variant pictured) S mode livens up the engine and transmission without stiffening up the suspension. (S5 Sportback variant pictured)

I spent time behind the wheel of the S4 Avant and S5 Sportback at their media launch, and both managed to deliver the proper Audi luxury experience over some pretty rough rural roads, while always feeling a bit more sporting than a regular A4 or A5. That’s with the Drive Select left in the default mode, but you can shift that sporting personality up a few notches (while scaling back the comfort), by selecting Dynamic mode. 

The S4 sedan races from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds. (S4 sedan variant pictured) The S4 sedan races from 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds. (S4 sedan variant pictured)

My preferred means of adjusting their personality is by simply tugging the transmission selector back to activate S mode, which livens up the engine and transmission without stiffening up the suspension. 

The exhaust note is adaptive, but there’s nothing synthetic about it. (S5 Coupe variant pictured) The exhaust note is adaptive, but there’s nothing synthetic about it. (S5 Coupe variant pictured)

Across the five S4 and S5 bodystyles, there is some variance in performance potential, with the S4 sedan and S5 Coupe topping the performance chart with 0-100km/h boasts of 4.7s, with the S5 Sportback trailing them by 0.1s, the S4 Avant by a further 0.1s and the Cabriolet managing a still-fast 5.1s claim.

The S4 Avant delivers the proper Audi luxury experience over some pretty rough rural roads. (S4 Avant variant pictured) The S4 Avant delivers the proper Audi luxury experience over some pretty rough rural roads. (S4 Avant variant pictured)

Another area I consider the S4 and S5s to get just right is their exhaust note. It is adaptive, but there’s nothing synthetic about it, and the generally muted and distinctly V6 burble is always there to remind you that you’re aboard a proper performance model, but not in such a way that it will annoy you, or your neighbours. Polite performance, if you will.

Verdict

The S4 and S5 range continues to represent a great formula for performance you can live with every day. They're arguably the sweetest balance Audi produces, actually. All come fantastically equipped, with cabins that feel truly special, and we’re lucky they can be had in a choice of five bodystyles.  

Pricing guides

$100,950
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$99,500
Highest Price
$102,400

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TFSI Quattro 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $99,900 2021 Audi S4 2021 3.0 TFSI Quattro Pricing and Specs
Avant 3.0 Tfsi Quattro 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $102,400 2021 Audi S4 2021 Avant 3.0 Tfsi Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Design9
Price and features8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving9
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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