We recently tested the BMW M340i xDrive, and loved the intoxicating blend of performance and practicality. But there’s more than one Great White shark swimming in the Euro-sedan Ocean, and one that’s a direct competitor to that Bimmer is the Audi S4. So does the Audi put the bite on the BMW, or vice versa? Let’s find out.
The S4 makes a bold first impression, with segmented LED running lights framing the hexagonal headlights. Like most manufacturers, Audi is a member of the big grille club, but like the BMW, it’s done tastefully here, with lower side intakes adding cooling and a tough look. While our tester had the Black Optic Package that takes most of the bling away, you still get the familiar chrome four circle Audi badge on the hood, and we love it. Audi and Proud!
The profile is very much in the school of European sport sedan, with a snug greenhouse sitting atop a tight crisp contour line that runs the length of the vehicle. Our favorite parts of the S4 side view are the Titanium finish 19-inch 5-V-spoke-star design alloy wheels that look massive, and we love that they are not the expected black finish that you see on almost every other performance vehicle these days.
Out back, the rear is instantly defined as an Audi, thanks again to the 4-circle badge, and the sweet LED turn signals, that light up in a flowing segmented pattern when you’re signaling a turn. While the lower fascia is more restrained than the BMW, the Audi captures the eye with dual twin exhaust pipes that look (and sound) seriously badass.
Finishing off this display was the gorgeous Turbo Blue paint. This color is jaw dropping – okay the A4/S4 model has been around for a while, but the Blue drew spectators and approving looks wherever we went. Absolutely 100% – this is the color we’d get for our personal S4.
Audi Crafted Interior
Inside, the S4 holds up to the legacy that Audi interiors are the very best. First impressions are of top-notch materials in subtle tones of black and gray that look serious and focused. Our tester had the optional Nappa leather seats that smell great, and look fantastic with their stitched, quilted inserts.
Those hides wrap sport seats that are multi-adjustable and super comfortable in that firm, supportive way that German sedans serve up. The rear seats are also comfortable, but we’d point out that rear legroom is tight for adults, so probably short trips are best. The good news, you can pop down the rear seats and get a handy long cargo area.
Audi serves up plenty of tech, too. Our tester included the available Audi virtual cockpit that started the full digital gauge display trend and gives you versatility in display choices but never feels gimmicky. The system also works brilliantly with Audi Navigation, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android auto. A wireless charging pad is cleverly placed under the flip-up center armrest, keeping it out of the way.
You have a large 10.1-inch color touchscreen that’s served up tablet style, and it’s got great resolution, and Audi’s MMI info-tainment system is intuitive and simple. That said, we liked the BMW M340i full-sweep digital display better, and even the Audi A3’s is a better-looking layout. The S4’s age is showing here a bit.
While we give the Bimmer the nod for displays, we’ll take the Audi’s honest to goodness shift lever over the Bavarian’s new toggle-switch transmission, and the Audi’s D-shaped steering wheel oozes racer coolness.
‘Bahn Burner Performance
The big reason you choose an S4 of course is for the drive, and here, the Audi wows you!
Power is supplied by turbo 3.0-liter V6 pumping out 349 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft of torque at just 1400 rpm. (Compare to the BMW M340i at 382 and 368, respectively) The Audi starts with a nice “whump” and settles into a deep throaty idle from those beautiful quad exhaust pipes.
This is a beautiful sounding engine that loves to rev, and it pulls hard to the redline. We did note that it seems a tad quieter than the BMW, maybe tuned for a more refined experience than a pure visceral one.
Which is not to say the S4 isn’t fast. With an incredibly quick-shifting 8-speed automatic, you’re always in the right gear, and in Sport mode, you get a nice crackle from the exhaust between shifts that just makes you smile. Downshifts are right-now instantaneous, and it’s great fun to manual shift the trans, either by the shift lever or the paddle shifters.
Laying down the power is Audi’s legendary Quattro AWD system, and it works great in the dry – our tester had the optional Sport rear differential which helps turn the vehicle into turns and gives the S4 cat-like reflexes and great grip.
We had an unusual rainstorm here in L.A. while testing, and we can tell you Quattro is also excellent all-weather tech, the confidence level even on super slick roads is phenomenal.
Our tester also had the Adaptive suspension, and it’s equally impressive. Drop it into Comfort or Auto mode and the ride is supple, luxo smooth and you glide along in supreme comfort. Ratchet it up to Dynamic, and you get more heft to the steering, and a firmer ride – but we’d say it still keeps a filter of refinement over everything. You also have an Individual Mode that let’s you custom tailor the drive to your tastes. Cool.
So what’s the big difference between the S4 and M340i?
We’d guess they are very close in performance numbers – both are ridiculously quick – but where the BMW serves up a heaviness and a super-sport focused drive, the Audi takes it a step back, feels lighter and more lithe, but also feels a tad more removed. Drive both and find which version of ultimate performance speaks to you.
How Much for Blue Thunder?
The 2022 Audi S4 is a special vehicle aimed at a particular set of drivers. And those buyers will pay for the privilege. The S4 starts at $51,900, and at that price it is a spectacular all-around performance vehicle perfect for everyday commuting and weekend thrills.
Like most European vehicles, the option list is both your best friend and your worst enemy. Our tester had some wonderful add ons, including the Prestige Package (a whopping $8,300), S Sport Package ($2,500), Black Optic Package ($1,400), Dynamic Steering ($1,150), Nappa Leather ($1,000) and Audi Beam/ S-Beam ($275). Adding in Destination ($1,045) and we rang the bell at $67,570. Nearly $15k in options!
As we mentioned, the S4’s direct competition would be the BMW M340i which comes in at $68,470. And they are amazingly close, not only in price, but in sheer jaw-dropping performance. Yet each stay true to their DNA. The BMW a bit harder edged, the Audi, carries an added sheen of refinement and is a little less shouty as it goes about its work.
Want something a little different? We’d also check out the Lexus IS 500, with a stomping 472 horsepower V8, and performance that’s close to S4 and M340i, but with a Lexus-ness that’s palpable as well. At $62,075 a bit of a bargain, too.
The 2022 Audi S4 is pure joy. Stunning looks, class-leading interior, and world-beating performance combined with everyday livability. We absolutely love it!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.