It's not perfect, but after some months of ownership we're convinced that the B7 Audi S4 is the best performance car buy for less than $20,000.
As stated, $20,000 and less for good examples with less than 100,000 miles. For about equal money, B7 Audi S4 or a Dodge Dart? Right.
2. Parts greater than the sum of the whole, or something like that.
The original equipment carbon fiber interior trim runs about $2,600 from Audi.
We looked at a similar set of Recaros for another performance car application, and were around $3,000... for the fronts only.
Point is, it doesn't take long to recognize the value proposition of the whole when considering the high quality individual components.
3. Recaro seats.
Speaking of the seats, we're fans. Comfortable and with some functional bolstering for sporty driving. Lumbar adjustment and thigh extension as well. Good comfort around town and on extended highway trips.
Totally subjective, of course, but we think the B7 Audi S4’s cockpit has aged exceptionally well.
Because a launch control sequence for cruise control engagement isn't actually necessary. The B7 S4 cruise control is convenient enough to reach and engage, yet out of the way so that hitting it accidentally is unlikely.
302 lb. ft. isn't particularly significant by modern performance car standards, but the perception from behind the wheel of the B7 Audi S4 is that there's thrust on tap whenever needed. Especially in the low rpms upshifting through the gears.
8. No power dead zones.
The B7 Audi S4 engine pulls strong from nil all the way up to the ~7,000 redline. Natural aspiration has its advantages.
9. Distinct, unique V8 sound.
The B7 S4's V8 audio is a combination of supercharger like whine, and somewhat subdued V8 rumble. Unique and enjoyable, even in totally stock form.
10. Short shift, smooth linkage, and a quality shift knob.
Everything about the shifter was right straight from the factory.
With rear seats folded down, we've fit a slightly disassembled mountain bike, wife's luggage, and the cat for a weekend away. So all of life's necessities.
12. Civilized, quiet ride.
Very limited wind and exterior noise makes its way in.
13. Understated yet purposeful look.
We're suckers for sleepers, and the B7 Audi S4 is undeniably that.
Advantages are well documented. With a set of snow tires you'll own winter.
You were on track to be the next John Elway before the injury, now your right elbow is achy. Good news, the center armrest is seriously comfortable.
16. Temp control is mega.
You want a 60 degree cockpit in July? It'll get damn close.
17. Clutch and flywheel are stout.
We're at about 62,000 miles and no signs of slipping, or a high bite point, etc.
18. Worst case scenario mechanically puts you at about 50% value of new.
Like all aged German autos, the B7 Audi S4 isn't without some mechanical liabilities. The infamous timing chain issue has scared away more than one prospective owner. Frankly, we think that's a bit foolish considering even a costly timing chain repair lands you at about 50% the investment of new. And it's not half the car of new.
19. Full size spare because she’s secure with the fact she’s no lightweight.
No waist cincher here. She's about 3,700 lbs, big boned and proud of it. What's one more wheel in the mix going to do... Plus it totally helps to offset the front axle weight.
20. Engine accessibility, and look, an oil dipstick!
Oil dipsticks have gone the way of the dodo bird, but their extinction wasn't welcomed by any car enthusiast we know.
We'll take it. And since the engine block is just about protruding through the front bumper in true Audi fashion, everything is within arm's reach.
For when that wintertime Sebastian Loeb impersonation goes awry.
22. Exceptional interior build quality.
Know of any decade-old European autos without a single rattle or interior annoyances of any sort? We don't either, with the exception of our B7 Audi S4. The doors close with a positive thud. All of the compartment latches are fully functional and intact. The oft-problematic sunroof is structurally sound. Overall the interior is a strikingly quiet place to be.
23. Unapologetically horrible gas mileage.
If you go hypermiler in the B7 S4, you might see 17 mpg around town. Conservative highway trips might yield 22-23 mpg per the digital readout (we've not actually corroborated that with our own calcs).
In an era where fuel mileage is a foremost priority and societal preoccupation, the B7 S4 refuses to so much as pretend to participate, and there's something iconoclastic and attractive about that. Combined with a 16.6 gallon tank, your local gas station will appreciate the repeat business.
24. Square tire setup.
Allows for tire rotation and prolonged treadlife.
25. Scrolling, fixed heated seat feature.
Because chances are if you needed your arse warmed the last time you started the car, you'll want it warmed once again. The scrolling/fixed heated seat feature was a good idea.
26. Side trunk luggage net.
Spare liter of oil, hockey pucks, random items. We almost always have something to put in there.
From behind the driver's seat it's as if the car has no hood whatsoever, which is favorable when trying to find your next gas station stop.