Owner Review

2009 Audi S4 3.0 TFSI quattro review

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I had read plenty of reviews and tests of the S4 over the last few years and had always admired them. When a well featured, second-hand one within my budget became available, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

The Sprint Blue colour is fantastic and a much better choice than the boring silver and white examples. White should be reserved for commercial vehicles only!

This particular car came with the Drive Select option including the adaptive dampers, dynamic steering and the sports diff which was what helped it stand out from most of the other S4s available. It also has a rear-view camera and memory seats and the Audi MMI which should have been standard on a car that cost almost $120K when new.

Prior to purchase I had the car inspected at an independent Audi specialist and the previous owner also gave me copies of the service history. The S-Tronic gearbox has had issues with the mechatronics and clutch packs (both replaced), an intake manifold bank has been replaced and the keyless entry and start sensors have played up several times. Hopefully that’s the end of its problems.

Before this I owned a 2010 VW Passat CC V6. It was a beautiful car to drive and well featured with a quality feel. The style, AWD grip and rapid response of the DSG was enough to lure me away from an FPV F6. I loved the F6 as well, it looked great and went hard.

I had always read about the quality and feel of Audi interiors so I was expecting great things from the S4. Generally, those comments are well founded but to be frank, the Passat CC was better.

The dash pad, door trims and armrests on the S4 are a bit harder. The steering column stalks and some of the centre stack HVAC buttons are clickier and aren’t as well damped. The lower dash and door plastics seem thinner and the doors close with a somewhat hollow sound and feel. I also think the Nappa leather on the seats in the Passat CC felt more supple and luxurious than the S4’s optional Nappa sports seats.

Most of the controls are simple enough to use without resorting to the owner’s manual. This car has the optional Bang and Olufsen sound system which is simply the best I have ever listened to in a car. Both the clarity and sheer punch it delivers is amazing.

Probably the worst feature of the infotainment system is the phone function. It hooks up via Bluetooth easily enough (although it doesn’t have audio streaming) but making a call is a bit of a pain as it does not have a touch screen. Setting favourite numbers into memory is extremely unintuitive and dialling a number via the MMI is time consuming and frustrating. My Passat CC was far superior in this regard. It really highlights the usefulness of a touch screen in a car versus operation via a wheel or joystick device.

The navigation works as expected but entering destinations is also time consuming even with the voice recognition. You must use very specific terms and then spell out towns and street names. It can’t recognise general speech.

The cruise control holds the set speed very well. In fact too well as it will apply the brakes if the car starts to creep over the set speed when going downhill. Annoying because I prefer that the car coasts back to the set speed gradually and it also makes you look like an idiot driver applying the brakes on a highway with nothing in front of you.

Around 90 per cent of my driving is commuting to work and the odd trip between Canberra and Sydney but I’ll definitely get this on a couple of track days to fully explore what it is capable of. It’s practical to use as a daily driver and has plenty of boot space.

The S4 is a lot of fun to drive and I love how you can adjust the suspension, gearbox and steering from comfort to dynamic as you feel at the time. It’s not the most comfortable long distance tourer and legroom in the rear is a bit tight.

The comfort suspension setting could probably soften up a little bit more particularly when you come across some poor quality lumpy roads but generally it’s fine. With the sports diff set in dynamic, you can really feel it load up the outside rear tyre to pivot the car around a corner under power. It’s freaky.

The engine is just so smooth and strong and has a nice low bassy tone (but no pops or crackles on overrun unfortunately). The brakes are really strong with a firm but not hard pedal feel. The S4 just always feels planted on the road.

Fuel consumption has been a little disappointing. The car is rated at 9.4 L/100km combined but I’m averaging around 11.6. The Passat CC I had was rated at 10.5 but over three years I averaged 9.8. I thought I might be able to achieve about 9.0 in the S4 but I don’t see that happening now. I’d never really questioned some of the ADR 81 fuel consumption numbers until now.

I knew when I purchased the car that the previous owner had it parked on the street quite a bit so it was no surprise when I spotted a couple of leaves in the plenum chamber. When I got the car home and had a closer look there appeared to be more than first anticipated. I ended up removing the plenum chamber cover to find what seemed like half a eucalyptus tree and decaying compost in there. It took me over an hour to clean it all out.

Interestingly, the Audi service schedule includes that the plenum chamber and water drains are checked for dirt and cleaned if necessary…

Despite a few minor niggles and inconveniences, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this is an excellent car to drive. I would recommend it to others but just shop around to make sure you get the right options included.