Audi has been one of the most successful automotive manufacturers over the last two decades. Slowly rising through the ranks of more prominent German brands of the 80s and 90s, Audi came on strong in the 2000s. In 2009, this set the stage for Audi to release one of their most popular cars to date, the all-new MLB-based B8 Audi A4.
With over 275,000 A4s and S4s sold over an 8-year production run, the B8/B8.5 is undoubtedly one of the most successful German sedans of the last ten years. Because of its immense popularity and many used Audi A4s for sale, this mid-size sedan is a natural choice for people looking for a safe, high-quality European car with solid performance and good looks. While it may be tempting to ignore the slightly-upmarket S4 based on price alone, there are several good reasons why the slightly more expensive S4 is the better buy if you're looking for one of these all-wheel-drive sedans from Ingolstadt.
Things you should know about the B8 Audi S4
When shopping for a used Audi S4, there are a few key things to know about the model. The B8 S4 was introduced in 2010 and underwent a mid-cycle facelift in 2013, called the B8.5. The refresh was both aesthetic and mechanical, with updated looks inside and out, plus mechanical updates to the driveline. Check out our Audi S4 Buyer's Guide in the YouTube video below, which gives you an in-depth look at the different options on the B8 and B8.5 S4.
The B8 and B8.5 A4 and S4 were sold over the following years:
- B8 Audi A4 - 2009 -2012
- B8.5 Audi A4 - 2013-2016
- B8 Audi S4 - 2010-2012
- B8.5 Audi S4 - 2013-2016
Pricing can vary significantly depending on the car's age, mileage, and specific features. If you're looking for an Audi A4 or Audi S4 for sale, here are some prices you can expect to see.
- 2009-2012 B8 Audi A4 - $6,000-$11,000
- 2013-2016 B8.5 Audi A4 - $9,000-$15,000
- 2010-2012 B8 Audi S4 - $11,00-$18,000
- 2013-2016 B8.5 Audi S4 - $15,000-$35,000
The Audi 3.0t is a powerful and reliable engine
1: The Audi S4 is more reliable
While it may seem counter-intuitive, based on either traditional logic or the history of previous generations of Audi A4 and S4 models, the higher-performance B8/B8.5 S4 3.0T has shown to be a more reliable car. While the core components, such as chassis, subframes, suspension, Quattro system, and basic electronics are the same between the two models, the power units are substantially different.
Audi's 2.0t was troublesome from 2009-2011
The early 2.0t EA888 Gen 2 TSI engine powering the 2009-2011 Audi A4 had a significant oil consumption issue. It was serious enough that Audi had to extend warranties and devise several stages of fixes for the issue, starting with new PCV valve oil/air separators and going as far as complete new rod and piston sets. As you can imagine, the quality and thoroughness of the work completed at Audi dealerships across the country can vary greatly. If you're unlucky enough to pick up an A4 which has an oil consumption issue and it's still within the warranty period, but Audi already has the fix listed as being completed, you're out of luck. Replacement engines are expensive and can be hard to find, and because so many A4s had consumption issues, you can't really trust any of the engines available at salvage yards; they can be as bad or worse as the one you need to replace.
The 3.0T engine, as supplied in the Audi S4, has proved to be quite reliable. Outside of some basic issues with leaking water pumps and thermostats on very early cars, the 3.0t doesn't suffer from major issues such as the oil consumption problem seen on the 2.0t. The supercharger unit is generally more reliable than the turbo on the 2.0t. The 3.0t has no significant problems with timing chain wear or chain tensioner failures, which have been more common on the 2.0t. When shopping between the A4 and S4, you can be far more confident that the engine in the S4 is a solid unit, while the A4 2.0t may be a bit more of an unknown.
2: The Audi S4 offers better performance
The 2.0t is a supremely 'tunable' engine, with a plethora of aftermarket solutions to increase the power of the base engine residing at the heart of the B8 A4. Simply adding a basic stage 1 tune, the horsepower and torque from the efficient 2.0t are bumped significantly from its factory output, and with little effect on long-term reliability. Intake and exhaust upgrades, larger turbochargers, sport suspensions, larger brakes, and literally every other system on the car can be easily modified. While a tuned 2.0t is a lot of fun, it simply can't compete with the supercharged 3.0t when it comes to power and torque.
For example, a fully maximized A4 2.0t with K04 turbocharger, upgraded downpipe, intercooler, and intake, with the proper tuning, will cost you somewhere between $4,000-$5,000 on average. For that money, you end up roughly between 330-350 horsepower, which is impressive for a 2.0 L four-cylinder engine, but this just barely above the factory rating of 333 horsepower of the 3.0t S4. Considering that you would have already spent an average of $12,000 for your 2012+ A4, taking care to avoid the problematic '09-'11 years, you'd have spent as much or more than you would for a similar mileage Audi S4. Throw a base stage 1 tune on the S4, and you're back in front with less money spent, less stress on the engine, and a better engine note to boot.
Power is only a small component of the increased performance of the S4. While the B8 A4 and S4 both share the same Torsen T3 center differential with a 40/60 torque split, itself a significant step up from the older 50/50 split used on the previous generation A4s, the B8.5 S4 features the much more advanced Audi Crown center differential and optional rear Sport diff, with advanced torque vectoring. Add in the fact that the S4 features larger brakes, optional S Tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission (rather than a traditional torque-converter automatic), as well as higher-rated dampers, springs, sway bars and other supporting components, the S4 is a superior performer in all areas. Whether you keep it stock or decide to modify it, the S4 will outperform the A4 every time.
3: The Audi S4 is more aesthetically pleasing
Being a higher-end model, the S4 has innumerable small touches that make it a more enjoyable car to own over a base model A4. First, the S4 features a more sporty exterior, with a more aggressive front facia, a more sporty-looking exhaust system with quad tailpipes, and larger, more exclusive wheels and tires as standard. While there are S Line A4s that mimic the look of the S4, these are less common to find, and still don't have the mechanical prowess of the S4.
Audi A4 S Line has the looks but not the performance of the S4
The S4 also has improvements over the A4 where some would say it counts the most, on the inside. Standard sport seats and exclusive color options for the leather seating surfaces are some of the more obvious features, as is the S4 sport steering wheel and gear selector. Still, many intangibles make the interior of the S4 just a nicer place to be. Small things like a different gauge cluster, S4 badging on the steering wheel and seats, plus optional carbon-fiber trim, will constantly remind you that you're behind the wheel an S4.
Details large and small make the S4 cockpit more inviting
4: There are more enthusiast Audi S4 owners
One of the less-considered aspects of purchasing a pre-owned car of any kind is who the original owner may have been. Did they give the car the proper care and service that it requires, or were they the type to defer things like oil changes and regular service because they knew they were trading the car in after a few years anyway? While it's certainly possible for an A4 to be purchased by a fastidious and exacting owner who cares for it as it deserves, the average A4 owner is less likely to be an enthusiast than the average S4 owner. Tfherefore less likely to go the extra mile when it comes to service and maintenance.
The more spartan interior of the A4 is still very nice
Going along that same vein, the 3.0t S4 community is one of the best around. Thanks to their combination of power, performance, reliability, and styling, the B8/B8.5 has grown to become a very popular car with German car enthusiasts. Information sharing about performance modifications, OEM+ upgrades, module re-coding, and support for DIY service and troubleshooting abounds on Audi forums, websites, and Facebook groups. Finding like-minded S4 enthusiasts is pretty easy to do, and no matter where you live, chances are there are other S4 owners who are just as passionate about their cars as you are. This is not to say you can't find other enthusiast A4 owners, but the S4 is an enduring commodity compared to the base model A4.
5: The Audi S4 retains more resale value
This is perhaps the most obvious of all, but should the time ever come when you decide to sell your beloved S4, you will most certainly be able to ask a higher selling price than an A4. The S4 will continue to retain value, for all the reasons listed above, and specifically, it will retain more value than an A4 regardless of mileage and condition. It will also be an easier sale. While it's unlikely that any S4 will achieve the kind of ludicrous pricing seen in the Porsche and E30 M3 markets, there will always be other enthusiasts looking for an S4. With the higher price and more specific target market, you'll hopefully have to deal with fewer tire kickers and time wasters, but I think that's probably a universal when it comes to selling a used car these days.
Small touches will constantly remind you that you made the right choice
Ultimately the best used car is the one you can find in the best condition that's in your price range. At the end of the day, if you find yourself unable to make the jump in the budget to go from an A4 to an S4, the A4 is still an excellent choice. They still have a lot of great qualities and are a great car for the money. Yet, if you can either wait and save a little more money or make some other budgetary adjustments to put an S4 in your driveway, you will be much happier after making that choice.
If you want to read more Audi stories, news, DIYs, or guides, check out our Audi hub at audi.fcpeuro.com. And be sure to let us know if you agree or disagree with this list in the comments below.
FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55