Forbidden fruit: The Audi S4 Avant wagon

After successive attacks by minivans and crossovers, the station wagon has become an endangered species in the U.S. And its new-found rarity, along with purer styling and nicer driving dynamics, has turned the wagon from an uncool family hauler to an object of enthusiasm.

That’s why American car fans look with a sigh at cars like the Audi S4 Avant, which is set to debut at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show. Audi mentioned the Avant when it unveiled the S4 sedan at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show last fall, but we’re only just getting to see this hot rod wagon now.

Like the sedan, the S4 Avant switches to the new Audi A4 platform, with lots of changes under styling that doesn’t look very different at all. In place of the old 3.0-liter supercharged V6, a new 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 sits under the crisply creased hood. The turbo engine produces 354 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque, increases of 21 hp and 43 lb-ft. over the supercharged V6.

Unlike the previous S4, the new model is only offered with an eight-speed automatic transmission, so fans of manuals will have to look elsewhere. At least it’s quick; Audi says the S4 Avant will do 0 to 62 mph in 4.9 seconds, which is 0.2 second behind the sedan. Both versions are limited to 155 mph.

The S4 Avant also gets a trick version of Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. The default torque split is 40/60 front/rear, but the system can send up to 85 percent of the power to the rear wheels, or 70 percent to the front wheels, if it feels like it. S4 models ride 0.9 inch lower than A4 models, and get larger brakes and optional adaptive suspension.

While the S4 is supposed to be a sportier, more driver-focused version of the A4, Audi didn’t throw away the luxuries and tech. All of the car maker’s latest tech features, including the “virtual cockpit” display, MMI infotainment system, and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot (in Europe, at least), are available, along with safety features like traffic-jam assist and lane-keep assist. The S4 Avant also gets a power tailgate.

The S4 Avant probably won’t be sold in the U.S. because Audi knows most Americans would rather buy a crossover. The S4 sedan will show up here eventually, though, offering all of the wagon’s performance, but with less of its practicality.


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