Automobile - - All - Stars 2018 -

Ca­pa­ble All-Arounder Bor­ders on Ex­cep­tional

Never un­der­es­ti­mate the li­a­bil­ity of even-keeled com­pe­tence. The Audi S4’s all-around skills proved plenty—among them a pleas­antly ap­pointed cabin, more than ad­e­quate power, and sup­ple han­dling. But de­spite its agree­able in­te­rior and un­flap­pable driv­ing dy­nam­ics, this per­fectly fine sport sedan couldn’t sway Au­to­mo­bile’s vot­ers to el­e­vate it to All-Stars win­ner sta­tus.

“I’ve al­ways been an S4 fan, and there’s so much to like here, but it some­how doesn’t quite feel spe­cial or all that thrilling,” ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor Mac Mor­ri­son ar­gued. His ob­ser­va­tion echoed a pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ment that the S4’s po­ten­tial for great­ness some­how eluded the sum of its ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive parts.

When de­con­struct­ing the puz­zle of this con­tender from In­gol­stadt, the first case for con­tention is its styling, a har­mo­nious but harm­less com­bi­na­tion of Ibis White sheet­metal and a cabin in Red Magma. The S4’s in­of­fen­sively un­der­stated looks couldn’t have made a more apt anal­ogy for its per­son­al­ity: Be­cause the “S” moniker prom­ises an el­e­vated ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­pec­ta­tions were per­haps higher than they maybe should have been, with some driv­ers wish­ing it had a bit more RS-like spunk than S-line pol­ish.

Oth­ers lauded ameni­ties such as mas­sag­ing seats and the flex­i­bil­ity to act as both a daily driver and a canyon cruiser, and con­trib­u­tor Marc No­orde­loos opined that “it’s quite a fast car, but the V-6 is all about low- and midrange power. … It runs out of puff at higher rpms, and that di­lutes the sporty ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In light of our motto, it’s not that the Audi S4 is a bad car by any mea­sure but rather that it’s sim­ply not ex­cep­tional enough to earn an All-Stars ac­co­lade this time around. — BW

PRICE: $50,900/$65,625 (base/as tested) EN­GINE: 3.0L DOHC 24-valve turbo V-6/354 hp @ 5,400-6,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 1,370-4,500 rpm TRANS­MIS­SION: 8-speed au­to­matic LAY­OUT: 4-door, 5-pas­sen­ger, front-en­gine, AWD sedan EPA MILEAGE: 21/30 mpg...

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