The Audi S4 has defined what an AWD performance car should be since the 2004 model year when the 4.2L V8 B6 generation replaced the previous years twin-turbo V-6 setup. With a V-8 lighter than the pervious generations V-6, performance was exceptional, even leading the Audi to beat out BMW’s legendary M3 in a Car And Driver performance test in 2004.
Why Buy a Used S4:
The reasoning behind buying one of these cars used is simple: it’s an amazing sports sedan (or convertible, or avant), that, in the 2004 model-year, can be had for under $18,000 and still, if you look hard enough, have well under 50k miles. For this price, there aren’t many cars on the road that can match the Audi’s combination of a free-revving V-8, AWD, luxury, drivability and track performance. The car is a total package of driver satisfaction, and with an MSRP of just under $50,000 in 2004, it’s a great deal used.
2004 S4 Performance:
With 340hp on tap, performance is exceptional. Multiple sources confirm that a 6-speed manual will get the S4 sedan from 0-60 in 5.0 seconds, a number that is still more than acceptable by today’s standards and is only 0.1 seconds slower than the current S4. At the time of production, the S4 was quicker than the M3, though slightly slower than Cadillac’s CTS-V and Mercedes’ C55 AMG.
Though the Audi was continually criticized by car reviewers for its slightly heavy weight in comparison the competition, the S4 always excelled in drivability. Though not quite as nimble as the M3, it was no slouch in the turns. Car And Driver stated, while reviewing a 2004 S4:
“Test-track data [doesn’t] reflect what this car is like to live with in the real world. Put the S4 on a wandering back road, and its statistical shortfalls become nonissues.”
– CarAndDriver Magazine
The 2004 Audi S4, even by today’s standards, was able to deliver an exemplary level of acceleration, handling and everyday drivability. A level which many auto manufacturers still strive to match today at a price much higher than $18,000.
2004 S4 Interior:
The interior of the S4, even by today’s standards, is quite nice and contemporary. Red backlight gauges and controls make the car feel as though it was made just a year or two ago and luxuries such as heated seats can be found in most models.
While the interior is not quite as nice as today’s BMW’s, and a far cry from the newest Audi’s, for $18,000 or so, it’s a lot nicer than most if not every interior in it’s price range for this type of car. The standard Recaro front seats feel exemplary, no matter the occupant’s size or distance traveled, and the cabin is also much quieter than other performance cars from this time period.
Things to Watch For:
As with any used car, there are drawbacks to the model you must both be aware of and educated on before purchasing, and the 2004 S4 is by no means an exception.
The first issue surrounding any S4 from the 2004-08 model range is reliability (though it does seem to improve from 2005+). A common problem on S4’s is a failure of the timing chain (mind you, not belt). This is a very costly repair which requires removing the engine to remedy and will total somewhere around at least $4,000. The frequency with which this happens is more than you might think, as well. By 100,000 miles, judging by the reports from multiple Audi communities and first hand accounts, I would estimate you have a 30%, if not more, chance of the timing chain needing repair and replacement.
Before buying, unless it’s a 2007 or later, make sure the spark plugs and coil packs were replaced under the technical service bulletin by the previous owner. Though it is still free from Audi to get these replaced, failure to do so by now strongly hints that the car was neglected, something these S4’s cannot afford.
Other, less frequent issues include: Upper/lower control arm bushing failures, power steering leaks or failures, A/C issues and fuel system failures. Be sure that there are no signs of these on the Audi you are looking at or you are headed for trouble.
Things to Consider:
The 2004 S4 was the first year of the B6 generation, and is thus the cheapest. Though the car is modern, with the same engine and drive train being used up to 2009, revisions were made in the later years that may be worth considering:
- In all model years, the 5-speed automatic/tiptronic gets considerably better mileage than its manual counterpart.
- 2005.5+ models feature more modern styling, which is quite apparent on the interior and exterior. These S4’s also feature stiffer shocks, V-8 badges and HID headlights.
- 2007 models received a revised center differential with a 40:60 torque bias for improved handling, and an updated electronic stability program (ESP).
“2005 Audi S4 Quattro,” Car And Driver Magazine.