The Audi S4 is one of those curious cars that appears to have lost its place in the world order.

Not long after the turn of the century its role was clear: it was Audi’s answer to the likes of the BMW M3 and AMG versions of the Mercedes C-Class, and to that end it enjoyed the memorable services of a mighty V8 motor under the bonnet.

Problem was the car wasn’t any good, and Audi knew that if it were to be taken seriously as a manufacturer of supercar-slaying compact family cars it would need not just a different approach but a different badge.

Up stepped its Quattro GmbH tuning division with its RS branding and the rest, including the rather more cheerful tale of the RS4, is a different story.

Audi could have just killed the S4, of course, but that would not have appealed to its sense of order and the fact that S versions were either planned or already existed for every other mainstream model in its line-up.

So instead of being beefed up even further, it was put on a diet. The V8 became a V6 and the car remarketed as a head and heart kind of machine, one still worth taking out on a Sunday morning but which was also sensible to live with day to day both in terms of general civility and running costs.

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Which is where we find the S4 today, costing upwards of £39k in four-door form or over £40k as an even more attractive, more practical and, frankly, more desirable estate.

Each Audi S4 can also be had in ‘Black Edition’ specification, offering a whole raft of chintzy design details inside and out majoring on a highly polished black theme, but with some useful additional hardware and software, too, including automatic headlights and wipers, a digital radio, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, 19in rims, a parking camera and a multi-function steering wheel. For an additional £1250, that sounds like conspicuous value.

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First drives

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