It’s easy to see the increasing number of electric vehicles on the market. Companies across the board are rushing their own EVs into dealerships and as for diesel? Well diesel is starting to just feel a little old-fashioned, isn’t it?
That’s not to say it hasn’t got a place in the motoring landscape. Of course, the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will certainly put a stop to box-fresh models taking power from the black pump, but up until that point, diesel power is a great fit for long-distance drivers who want efficiency and economy.
And, as is the case of the Audi S4, performance too. My time with Audi’s undercover estate car has drawn to a close, but a couple of weeks ago I managed to get a snap of it and the new Q4 e-tron – Audi’s latest fully electric car – and couldn’t help but notice the polar extremes that the pair represent.
On the one hand, you’ve got the burly performance gained by the 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine under the bonnet S4. I still maintain that, save for a few gearbox issues, it’s one of the strongest packages on the market given its ability to bring sports car-baiting acceleration as well as deliver well over 40mpg on longer journeys. In terms of all-rounders, I really do see it as one of the best.
And then on the other, you’ve got the Q4’s zippy acceleration – which at a still-respectable 8.4 seconds from 0-60mph – might lag behind the S4’s, but off the line and up to 30mph it feels far closer than you might expect.
It just goes to show the variety of what’s on offer these days and, to me, that’s quite exciting. It can be quite easy to get overladen with concern about the transition from petrol and diesel to electric, but at the present moment the sheer breadth of cars available seems genuinely interesting to me.
Of course, having a real fondness for big, load-lugging estate cars means that I’ll miss cars like the S4 in the future and we’re as yet unable to see an electric-powered estate car – save for the one produced by MG. If Audi could take the same approach that it has with the S4 but make it electric, then I’m pretty sure you’d be on to a winner.
But what has over six months spent with the S4 been like? Well, it hasn’t been as long-legged as I’d like it to have been. The coronavirus pandemic firmly put the brakes on mine – and so many other people’s – abilities to travel further afield, so I really wasn’t able to put as many miles on the S4’s Virtual Cockpit as I’d like.
The time I did spend with the S4, however, flagged up its immense sure-footedness in all situations. It felt at its very best on the motorway, where that engine settled back into a refined thrum and the suspension could work within its best operating window at higher speeds.
In fact, the suspension is something I would change. Though it was perfectly judged for the kind of pace you keep on the motorway, around town it just felt a little too firm and a little too harsh. You can specify optional dampers which will allow you to soften the ride off and, if I were choosing my own S4, this is something I’d want.
The cabin is also superbly built while the large boot came in handy on numerous occasions. I ran the car with the rear seats lowered for most of the time and, since they go practically flat, you’ve got even more boot space to play with. Given the number of trips to the tip I’ve done in recent months – blame a house renovation on that – it’s come in incredibly handy.
And while the diesel engine might feel a little outdated compared to the one you get in the Q4, it’s absolutely fit-for-purpose. It brings both performance and economy, refinement and an ability to excite at a moment’s notice. It’s a part of the car I’ll really miss.
But most of all, I think I’ll miss the undercover nature of the S4. To most people, ‘my’ car just looked like any other A4 Avant – but those in the know appreciate what it’s got hiding underneath. To me, that’s very cool indeed.