2012 Audi S4 Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 23, 2011

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2012 Audi S4 Buying Advice

The 2012 Audi S4 is the best car for you if you want a midsize European luxury sedan with elements of style and grace complemented by rip-roaring acceleration and tenacious handling.

The 2012 Audi S4 will likely carry over with only minor changes after its most recent redesign for model-year 2010. It will continue as the high-performance version of the Audi A4 sedan, packing a larger, more powerful engine and other performance-minded enhancements, plus a full platter of comfort and convenience features. The 2012 Audi S4 competes with other amped-up luxury/sports sedans such as the BMW M3, Lexus IS-F, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Expect the S4 to receive a modest midcycle update for model-year 2013, though whether it will bring to the U.S. the S4 version of the A4 Avant station wagon is uncertain.

Should you buy a 2012 Audi S4 or wait for the 2013 Audi S4? The 2013 S4 is expected to receive a number of styling enhancements along with a few added features and likely a boost in fuel economy and/or power. Wait for the 2013 version if you’re the sort who absolutely needs to have the most up-to-date rendition of the S4, one that’ll remain current through the A4’s expected model-year 2016 redesign. Otherwise, avoid the inevitable price increase and buy the 2012 S4. It’ll probably deliver similar performance the 2013 S4 and is certain to remain stylish, even if Audi tweaks the car’s looks as part of a midcycle freshening.

2012 Audi S4 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Audi S4 should continue with the basic styling treatment introduced with the A4’s model-2010 redesign. Its overall appearance will likely remain similar to the sedan upon which it’s based, albeit with minor modifications. These will likely continue to include a mildly reshaped grille and specific bumpers, an unobtrusive trunklid spoiler, and LED taillights. The 2012 Audi S4 should again ride on unique 18-inch alloy wheels and tires (with 19s optional) and sport brake calipers adorned with the “S4” logo. As with the 2012 A4, the 2012 S4 will likely feature Audi’s familiar trapezoidal grille, LED daytime running lights and low and wide front air intakes.

As in the 2012 A4, the 2012 S4’s cabin should remain reasonably spacious with ample room for four adult passengers; a fifth grownup can sandwich into the rear seat, but not happily. The 2012 S4’s driver-focused cockpit should again feature large and legible gauges. Expect an LCD screen to again be mounted at the top center of the dashboard for the navigation system and Audi’s MMI multimedia interface. The 2012 S4’s cabin should again be distinguished from the A4’s by sport-shaped front buckets and added touches that include numerous “S4” badges, brushed aluminum trim, and a black headliner. Buyers should be able to specify carbon fiber, stainless steel or traditional wood-trim accents.

Audi has been offering the S4 3.0T quattro Premium Plus and Prestige models.  Audi could change these designations or add additional S4 trims for model-year 2012.   

Mechanical: While the 2012 S4 isn’t expected to look dramatically different than the 2012 A4, more significant differences should again lie beneath the surface. The S4 will likely come powered by a supercharged and direct fuel-injected 3.0-liter V-6 engine; the other A4s use a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Expect the 2012 S4 to meet or slightly exceed 2011’s output, which was 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque (horsepower being the measurement of and engine’s power and torque an indication of its forcefulness in acceleration). Other 2012 A4s, by comparison, should again rate 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

Expect the 2012 S4 to continue to do 0-60 mph in just under 5 seconds, which is roughly on a par with some competitors that pack larger V-8 engines in the 400-plus horsepower range.

The 2012 Audi S4 will likely offer a choice of two transmissions. A conventional six-speed manual should remain standard. Audi’s excellent S tronic dual-clutch automated manual transmission should be optional. S tronic affords truly quick gear changes in either fully automatic mode or when shifted manually via steering wheel-mounted paddles.

A lightweight aluminum suspension should again be tuned to give the S4 sharper handling characteristics than regular A4s, with only a slight penalty in ride quality.  A sport-tuned suspension will likely be an S4 option; it’ll tighten the car’s cornering abilities a notch, though at the expense of a still-rougher ride.

The 2012 Audi S4’s key competition will continue to favor pure rear-wheel drive for its inherent edge in handling, largely because of its more-favorable front-to-rear weight balance. The S4’s host car, the A4, is based on a front-wheel drive layout – not usually the enthusiasts’ choice because of its nose-heavy bias and because it demands that the tires that propel the car must also steer it.  

To meet the challenge, Audi will again equip 2012 S4s with its quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system. It’s designed to maintain top traction on wet and dry roads and in the S4 should again be rear-biased on a 40/60 front/rear ratio for sportier handling than the usual 50/50 setup. The system can send additional power front or rear as needed on a continuous basis, both for added foul-weather traction and to maximize the S4’s dry-pavement cornering abilities.

Audi’s Drive Select Control system should remain optional. It allows the S4 driver to adjust the operating character of the engine, transmission, steering system and (if included) the active-damping suspension to emphasize more or less acceleration with a smoother ride or grippier handling. Drive Select Control will likely again come packaged with a speed-dependent variable gear-ratio steering system. This adjusts steering ratios on a continuous basis for optimum performance. Also continuing available, depending on other options, should be a sport rear differential that distributes power on a variable basis between the left and right rear wheels, sending additional torque to the outside wheel through corners for added control.

The 2012 Audi S4 should again come standard with the latest versions of Audi’s stability and traction control systems to help prevent fishtailing in extreme handling situations and to improve grip on slippery surfaces at low speeds. As before, the stability control system should include a mode that affords less intrusion below 62 mph to allow accomplished drivers more liberal handling boundaries.

Features: As the flagship of the 2012 A4 lineup, the 2012 Audi S4 should again come with all the expected standard comfort and convenience features. Among items expected to continue standard on the S4 that are optional on other A4s: a three-spoke sport multifunction steering wheel, real brushed aluminum cabin accents, a USB iPod interface, a power front passenger seat to go along with the power driver’s seat, and leather upholstery – though the S4s get exclusive pseudo-suede Alcantara seat-trim inserts. 

The 2012 Audi A4 will also likely continue to offer several of the latest high-tech options, many of which will come bundled in packages. These should include keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, a rear-view camera for easier and safer parking, and a high-watt Bang & Olufsen audio array. Also offered will be the Audi Side Assist blind-spot detection system that alerts the driver to vehicles in adjacent lanes just to the rear of the vehicle and Audi Lane Assist lane-departure warning system to alert when the S4 wanders from its intended highway lane.

High-intensity headlamps that automatically adjust the beams at highway speeds to avoid blinding oncoming drivers, and an adaptive cruise control system that maintains a set distance from traffic ahead also will be 2012 S4 features.

An available navigation system should continue to incorporate SD memory-card slots for playing digital music files, HD Radio, a Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity and Audi’s MMI multimedia control interface. MMI employs a menu-based command system, displayed on a dashboard-mounted video screen, that’s engaged by a pushbutton rotary knob and a series of buttons on the center console. While MMI is far from the least intuitive such control system it still can be more cumbersome to use than would be a series of straightforward buttons and dials.

Among passive safety on the 2012 S4 will be torso-protecting front side airbags and head-protecting side-curtain airbags that cover all outboard passengers; torso-protecting side-impact airbags should again be optional for the rear seats.

2012 Audi S4 Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Audi S4 weren’t released in time for this review but they should remain close to model-year 2011 levels. That suggests a base price of roughly $48,500. (All base-price estimates in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Audi’s fee for the 2011 S4 was $875.)

Among options prices for the 2012 Audi S4, expect the seven-speed automated manual transmission to cost around $1,400, with rear side airbags priced at about $350. The upgraded Bang & Olufsen audio system should return at about $850, Audi Side Assist at about $500, the navigation system and backup camera together at about $2,550, and the adaptive cruise control system at around $2,100.

The Audi Drive Select system will likely be priced around $1,100 with the sport rear differential and around $4,000 as part of a package that also includes the dynamic steering and adaptive damping suspension systems.

2012 Audi S4 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel economy estimates for the Audi S4 weren’t issued in time for this review, but they should remain at or near the model-year 2011 ratings.

That suggests a 2012 Audi S4 fuel-economy rating of at least 18/27 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 18/28 with the dual-clutch automatic. These ratings would again be admirable for a midsize sedan with the S4’s performance capabilities.

What's next for the 2012 Audi S4 back to top

The Audi S4 is anticipated to undergo a midcycle update for model-year 2013, with its next complete redesign not likely to occur until the 2016 model year.

In keeping the midcycle-update tradition, changes for the 2013 refresh should be minor. Expect perhaps a boost in fuel economy or a slight increase in engine power, plus assorted minor styling tweaks inside and out.

Also in store could be few added features to stay abreast of the competition. These should come in the form of added connectivity with smartphones that would allow wireless streaming of music and information. An updated version of Audi’s MMI multimedia control system will probably receive features that debuted in the Audi A7 and A8 models, including realistic Google Maps displays and a center-console mounted touchpad that enables fingertip-writing input for the car’s navigation system. An optional Wi-Fi hotspot and perhaps even built-in Internet connectivity may also be offered down the road.

2012 Audi S4 Competition back to top

BMW M3: Lauded by some professional critics as the world’s single best automobile, this is the high-performance version of BMW’s already sporty 3-Series. The 2012 M3 should again be offered in sedan, coupe, or convertible models. A 414-horsepower V-8 will remain the 2012 M3’s calling card and it’ll continue to drive the rear wheels via either a standard six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual that features both automatic and manual-shift modes. The ’12 M3 will again feature more aggressive styling and racier road manners than the standard 3-Series, yet won’t be so harsh as to preclude its use as a daily driver. BMW’s MDrive system allows a driver to adjust the engine throttle, stability control and steering response as well as the suspension stiffness as desired for street or track use. Expect a 2012 M3 base-prices range of around $57,000-$69,000.

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG: Along with the rest of Mercedes’ compact C-Class line, the top-performing C63 sedan and coupe versions feature modestly revised exterior and interior styling for model-year 2012. A 451-horsepower V-8 engine will come mated to a sophisticated and responsive seven-speed AMG automatic transmission; Mercedes says the car will reach 60 mph in just over five seconds. Specifying an optional AMG Development Package will bump the engine’s output to 481 horses and result in a claimed 4.3-second 0-60 mph time. The car will also receive revised suspension and braking systems, assorted other upgrades and several new high-tech features. Estimated base-price range for the 2012 C63 AMG is $61,000-$64,000.

Lexus IS-F: Lexus is Toyota’s luxury division and the IS-F is its challenge to the likes of the M3, S4, C63 AMG, even the Cadillac CTS-V series. The IS-F is modestly restyled but thoroughly fortified version of the six-cylinder Lexus IS 250/350 models. The IS-F is available only as a sedan and it should continue for 2012 with a 416-horsepower 5.0-liter V-8. It’s rear-drive only and uses an eight-speed automatic transmission. Lexus says the car can do 0-60 mph in around five seconds. It should again feature revised braking, suspension, and steering systems that can handle the additional power and deliver additional handling prowess over the generally uninspiring standard IS models. Expect a 2012 Lexus IS-F base price of around $62,000.

2012 Audi S4 Next Steps