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What makes a year of the Audi S4 the best?
Here are a few criteria that help us decide which vehicles make the list of “best of” for the Audi S4.
Audi has uniquely developed parts and engineering, which tends to increase the price of parts and labor when repairing the vehicle. Some of this can be avoided when vehicle manufacturers like Audi make vehicles that are designed to last a long time in the first place. We can certainly tell you that one thing drivers don't like is unexpected repair bills or being stranded on the side of the road because of an engine or electrical problem.
People who drive an Audi S4 care a bit more about the actual performance of a vehicle than someone who drives a Chevrolet Malibu. While Audi is generally known for manufacturing vehicles that feel solid and can go fast, they aren't all quite created equal.
While not everyone upgrades to all the possible features, some models of vehicles might just be ahead of their time for the year. We'll factor features the Audi S4 offered into our decisions.
It's easy to tell someone that a particular make, model, and year of a vehicle is the best. Finding an example of one can be a little harder. We tend to favor more recent vehicles simply because the older ones likely have more than a few miles on them and are unlikely to be found in quantity on dealer lots or private listing sites.
What are the best years of the Audi S4?
Best Overall Audi S4 Year: 2012 Audi S4
The engine in the 2012 Audi S4 can be best described as potent. With 333hp and 325 ft-lb of torque, the S4's 6-cylinder engine enables you to get up to speed quickly and relatively quietly. How does 0 to 60 miles per hour in under 5 seconds sound? That sounds good to us. Even with the powerful engine, the 2012 S4 manages up to 28 miles per gallon highway.
Though it was a relatively early build of the S4, Audi loaded this up with safety features too – or at least for the time. Six airbags and Audi side assist were early adopters or what is now called lane keep assist – a few years ahead of its time.
The 2012 was among the first to offer a B&O stereo system with outstanding overall sound quality.
Finally, the Audi S4 in 2012 did pretty well for reliability. They register very few complaints on CarComplaints.com with over a decade of performance to report. The most common report is engine noise on a cold start – which is common in extreme cold, and excessive oil consumption, which is also common amongst vehicles as they get older, especially for performance vehicles.
You should try one. They are comfortable and fast!
2013 Audi S4
We aren't saying that looks are that important, but the 2013 Audi S4 offers a nice improvement within its body style that seriously amps up the sporty look of this Audi sedan. The 2012 is also lauded by reviewers for it's conservative, understated styling. Ironic from a luxury brand.
The S4 is even quicker in 2013. The 333hp engine is just a touch faster at 4.4 seconds to that coveted 60mph mark, making this an ideal vehicle to hit on-ramps at full speed in no traffic.
Audi changed the S4 a bit for 2013, adding an electronically controlled rear differential. The result is that when driving and turning hard, you “feel” the S4 a bit more, making the vehicle bit more interactive and responsive.
So a better-looking and even quicker 2012 S4 is how we see the 2013 Audi S4.
2008 Audi S4
The 2008 isn't ranked especially high because it might be harder to find nowadays. So why is an older vehicle on our list? It's because of how the vehicle changed after the 2008 was released.
Audi stopped putting the 8-cylinder engine in the S4 after 2008, so it's the last chance you have before every year after packs the still punchy 6-cylinder engine. The 2008 edition dropped 340hp. The overall pavement squealing performance added to Audi's traditional Quattro all-wheel-drive system made vehicles before 2008 extra fun to drive, though they didn't add all that much horsepower. Quattro also helped Audi compete this year, and those before it as BMW and Infiniti competitors, didn't offer standard all-wheel drive.
The S4 also came available in a sedan, convertible, and a wagon, making it extremely flexible for those that need extra space or live somewhere they can have the top down often enough to make it worth it.
2014 Audi S4
Audi made a few changes for the 2014 – mostly for the better. They replaced the supercharger with a turbo which added a few horsepower. Another big difference is that Audi dropped the dual-clutch transmission that the S4 was known for – in part because the dual-clutch couldn't handle the additional horsepower.
The change could have gone badly; we have to admit. But no, the 2014 took the change to an 8-speed transmission pretty well. Most reviews for the 2014 don't even mention the change in transmission, nor do they notice, as many simply say the 2014 shifts are smooth like butter.
The S4 is considered a great value, too, compared to competitors, with its ability to take smooth, fast corners and accelerate to highway speed as you mean it.
In Audi tradition, drivers also loved the interior and its overall ease of use in addition to class and elegance. We can honestly say this is true of most years of Audi S4.
2020 Audi S4
Especially in the context of a luxury sports car, we are a sucker for good luck. The 2020 S4 added a wider grille and became more aggressive and aerodynamic. For a variety of reasons, we like it a lot.
We also like some technology and entertainment. While previous years of the Audi S4 aren't exactly a slouch at all, the 2020 feels even better with a very responsive and frustration-free infotainment system that is very responsive and even calculates routes for navigation quite quickly. While it's not the first year this was offered, the Virtual Cockpit surrounds you with multiple displays while not making them distracting. The 12.3” gauge cluster lets you see how your vehicle is doing without being the primary focus of your eyes.
Some additional updates do include more drive modes, including comfortable. The Audi S4 is already known for perfectly balancing an attempt at a high-powered sports car and overall drivability, but the “Comfortable” mode reinforces the notion for traveling on the highway in a straight line and just wanting it to feel nice.
Did the Audi 8-cylinder engine have an engine issue?
Unfortunately, that's one of the biggest drawbacks of the pre-2009 Audi S4s. The timing chain could have an issue, and Audi's engineering didn't make it easy. The clips that held the timing chain in place were plastic and susceptible to breaking early. The biggest issue here is that the timing chain issues were located in the back of the engine, where Audi techs would basically have to disassemble the entire engine to replace a simple clip. Since many of these breakages were covered under warranty, the cost was largely paid by Audi, but it meant that drivers would have to be within their coveted S4 for at least a day or two while their local shop performed reconstructive surgery under the hood.
It's totally worth the 8-cylinder engine, though, especially for the extra power.
I like manual cars. Which year should I get?
Any year before 2014. Audi stopped offering the manual transmission when they stopped using their previous generation of dual-clutch transmission. This is not to say that they won't offer a dual clutch transmission in the future, but given the performance of their current vehicles they don't have a particular reason for the investment. Audi drivers have stated they love the manual editions as they bring out even more serious performance and control for those experienced enough with manual transmissions to truly enjoy.
Are Audi's generally reliable?
We didn't talk much about Audi reliability because compared to lesser vehicles, they don't have a lot of issues. You will pay more for general maintenance of the vehicle, including oil changes, but overall, Audi doesn't have the same reputation as other European sports cars that need near-constant fixing. Audi also registered very few overall complaints on CarComplaints, which is impressive because as a luxury car, one would think they would be more vocal about issues.
Are Audis generally safe?
Audi has great overall crash test ratings. We didn't bring it much up as a comparison because all the Audi S4s have a great combination of airbags and safety features – along with solid crash cages built-in. More modern Audis have more electronic safety features in place and are also often ahead of their time in implementing systems that can prevent accidents.
The Audi S4 has been around for a while. Why aren't any older models included?
On some level, we assume that people who are seeking the best years of a vehicle are looking to buy one and are carefully researching which models to seek. Audi models built before the mid 2000s are likely to be more difficult to find with a mileage count that owners will appreciate. We would still get any Audi you are looking at inspected by a mechanic and take a good look at the vehicle history report, regardless of which year you decide on.
Which year would you buy?
If price were no object, we would go straight for the more recent years. While, in some cases, the quality of the vehicle is not proven for a couple of years, Audi is a bit of an exception to that. The thought of driving an older Audi with more electronics sounds kind of appealing, but we appreciate the more modern Audis more because of their new features, aggressive looks, and better fuel economy.
About The Author
Matt is a VW Master Technician since 2009 after proceeding through the ranks as a Team Leader and Shop Foreman. He has developed software to increase car dealership efficiency, managed 10+ techs, and instructed students at multiple high-performance driving events since 2011. He is also the lead mechanic, engineer, and driver for Blue Goose Racing.Read More About Matt Meurer