2005 Audi S4 4.2 V8 petrol
Wolf in sheep's clothing
So you’re looking for a car that is going to accommodate the family, that has brutal performance, safe handling and sends up a flare to other car guys that you are indeed a petrolhead. Then look no further.
The B7 Audi S4 V8 is the original wolf in sheep's clothing. Naturally a sleeper, as it closely resembles the S-line model. The only give-aways are the chrome door mirrors, quadruple exhausts, bespoke 18 inch alloys and the ability to make almost every vehicle in your rear view disappear.
I owned my Avant S4 for two years and loved it dearly, but I did discover a number of niggles that you might want to know about before you buy one.
The stereo is coded and the owner’s manual suggests you tear out the code and put it in a “safe place”. Instructions diligently followed by a previous owner. In order to retrieve a lost code (it is required after fitting a hands free) you must take a trip to the Audi dealership and part with £30 and wait for twenty minutes. The high points were: eating my own weight in complimentary Audi embossed muffins and likely being the first person to tear bubble wrap on the driver’s seat of an R8.
The “Anti Spin Mechanism” is a useful feature (stops you whirling around like Black Hawk Down if you go from lock to lock at high speed). What isn’t needed on a Quattro is traction control (ESP).
When one wheel loses traction it cuts power to all four wheels, which is like a medium press on the brake pedal; sphincter-tightening when you anticipated an aircraft carrier launch into a busy roundabout.
Inevitably the ESP button is jabbed when fast driving commences, but this is the same button that also disables the ASM. So you need to remember to push the button if an accident is looming. It’s a small black button right next to the button enabling the front parking sensors by the way, so if you jab that in error and promptly spin off the road hitting a tree, the parking sensors will flat-line in sync with your stopped heart.
Someone in the Audi instrument cluster department must have had a near death experience due to low washer fluid. The washer fluid level warning takes the form of a brash, yellow warning animation, which relentlessly flashes up on a loop making everyone in the car appear jaundiced. This amber strobe gently irritates you like Chinese water torture until you finally give in and fill your washer fluid reservoir with the nearest liquid within reach; something to ponder when your 3 year old needs a pee pee.
The fuel tank can only accommodate 60 litres and it warns you just 30 miles before you kangaroo onto the hard shoulder, so you have a limited opportunity to shop around for fuel. You can expect 250 to 350 miles to a tank. The latter being a motorway journey that involves being overtaken by mobile cranes.
The second you move away the without a clunk-click, the seatbelt warning abruptly chimes like a black smith shaping orange hot steel. BMWs of the same vintage allow 30 seconds before sounding an alarm, making the welcome assumption that the driver is not a complete goon.
Conversely, another design flaw is the location of the fog light indication lights. The fog light switch is on the same turn switch as the headlights, but the green/amber indicators that let you know the front and rear fog lights are blazing are also down there. Obscured by the steering wheel and your right hand, leaving the goon in the driver's seat to remember to switch them off.
The windscreen wipers are a limited edition rare twin holed fitting. Many companies on eBay claim they fit the B7 S4, but as the pair I still have sitting in my garage will illustrate, they do not. Flat blade wipers are out of the question and the only ones you can get for this type of fitting are Bosch and are of the old umbrella style blades that you find standard on any car pre-1990. They also cost £40 a pair. You can remedy this by some wiper arms off a wrecked Seat Exeo for around £30 and fit flat blades forever more, for a fraction of the cost.
As standard it comes with a whisper quiet exhaust, you may as well be driving a two litre from an audio point of view, the snarling V8 is well and truly muted. Probably the most popular remedy is to fit a Milltek exhaust.
There are two versions, the resonated system which gives you a nice V8 sound and is as loud as the system on some of the factory standard Mercedes AMG V8s. Then there is the non-res version, which is a little louder but sounds sublime. A classic V8 sound emerges with this system and it sounds like a NASCAR at anything past 3,000rpm. Fortunately it is still quiet on idle so your neighbours will continue to wave at you with all five digits.
Before I first drove an S4 I envisaged an excited phone call from Injury lawyers 4U after I first kicked loud pedal to discuss my recent whiplash. But with a large, normally aspirated engine there is no turbo kick or change of cam to give you a sudden neck cracking shunt.
Nevertheless the big 4.2 is a full fat muscular engine and it is tremendously flexible. You can put it in sixth at 20mph (idling speed) and it will accelerate willingly all the way up to its 174mph top speed. Power delivery is smooth, refined and relentless. The steering, clutch and gear change are very light. Combined with a very powerful clock moving you forward with little effort, you are given the sensation that the entire vehicle is made of polystyrene.
These cars are incredibly easy to drive fast, laugh-out-loud fun on track days as you have the power to get past some fairly serious vehicles. The 4wd system allows you to reach the limits of adhesion comfortably so you can actually relax and enjoy yourself without worry that you’ll end up parked at the base of your own mushroom cloud. You can look forward to rain, as you have a distinct advantage over any two wheel drive track day enthusiasts.
The main negative for this car is the fuel consumption. 20 MPG is about average if you deflate egos regularly. However, should you be made redundant, 33 MPG will arrive at a constant 50mph.
In summary, these niggles are eclipsed by the smiles per gallon these vehicles provide. Compensating for their unrelenting substance misuse they depreciate slowly (I covered 20k miles over two years and sold for only £300 less than I paid for it). You could buy a “sensible” VW Passat TDI and it would cost you more over the same period. Buy one, you won't be disappointed. Just slightly irritated, every so often.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 1st May, 2016