Audi S4 B8.5 – an account of one powerful but subdued monster

So it’s been a while since I have had the opportunity to jump in and drive something truly powerful.

But this week just gone I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of an Audi S4 B8.5 and wow that car is a monster. Let let me start by stating I’m writing this based in the north of the UK, where it rains more often than not (particularly in Manchester where I was when driving), so in the winter months a four wheel drive car makes a big difference for point to point driving at pace.

First off, this isn’t going to be a straight up review as the facelift S4 has been around for a while and by now, I’d hope that everyone understands how to use Google.

I thought, however, it might be good to highlight some of the main differences between the B8 and B8.5 S4.

Aside from all of the cosmetic updates inside and out the B8.5 got a completely new MMI, which features BT Audio, ipod video function and increased online services. Electromagnetic steering now replaces the old hydraulic and Audi added the crown centre differential from the RS5, meaning more torque can be transferred to the rear (up to 85%) without slip being detected.

So what’s different about this facelift S4 I drove?

Well, apart from the Stronic gearbox having undergone surgery at a ludicrous cost, this S4 has had an engine and gearbox remap by Rick at Unicorn Motor Developments (for examples Facebook search Unicorn Motor Developments and browse his page and see picture outside the workshop below).

I’ve known and used Rick to tune many cars over the years and even remember when he was first making his name in the world of remapping – oh how times change. Rick is now fully established within the remapping industry and anyone who has used his services, I guarantee, will recommend him. Great guy, extremely knowledgeable and will work with you to get exactly what you want from the map.


Now having driven quite a few S4’s both pre-facelift and facelift I had an understanding of how they drive stock.

So I hear you ask, what difference has the map and gearbox map made?

First off lets start with the gearbox – what has changed and why bother.

The very two questions I had for my friend, when we were originally discussing whether or not to map the box as well as the engine.

So what do you get for your money:

  • Launch control at 4000rpm
  • Redline in S increased to 7200+rpm and 6800rpm in D
  • Smoother and faster gear changes across all driving
  • Removed factory torque limit
  • The box doesn’t automatically change now when you’re in M mode (which was annoying – it should be full manual on M, in my opinion)
  • Nice blip on downshifts.

So as you can see above, the list actually addresses why you should bother too.

The increases in redline and full control in manual are worth it alone. There were times previously, which also happened in the Stronic S3, where you approach the redline hit upshift and the car beats you to it so you actually end up, upshifting twice. Annoying.

Secondly extending the redline, in combination with the increase in power from the engine remap, means you have a larger power band to use. It also sounds bloody nice too!

From the engine, this particular car, gained a massive 90bhp taking it from 326bhp to 419bhp and torque went from 352lb/ft to 396lb/ft. As you can imagine from those figures this car is no slouch, in fact I would go as far as saying it’s one of the quickest point to point cars in the UK.

B8.5 map

The way the car now put the power down, even with the optional Audi Sports Differential deactivated is something else. When you hit B roads now, you plant your foot and the car just throws you back in to your seat and powers down the road, easily reaching eye-watering speeds without you even realising it. It also no longer really matters what gear you’re in as the car has so much torque that you just go whatever the gear.

With this car the Audi Drive Select and Sport Differential, they definitely make a difference. However my friend who owns the car says its actually easier to drive with the Sports Differential off as it is a much more predictable car. But being honest I think the tyres (P Zeros) in this weather are the weak link.

Noise. Now let’s talk about how it sounds. In a word, fantastic. Audi have managed to not make the supercharger whine obtrusive and really let the sounds from the V6 come through. From the interior the car remains quiet until you push on, where you get the lovely V6 exhaust note coming through. However it is nowhere near as loud as it is from the outside, this is down to the improved cabin refinement making it a quieter place.

Economy for those interested, on a motorway run it will Average 27mpg, yes that’s right a 420bhp will return 27mpg! But will return an average around town of about 22mpg, which considering it is a 420bhp, is rather impressive. The old B7 RS4, in similar conditions would return 24mpg on a run and 15mpg around town. So in reality you can’t be anything but impressed with the B8.5 S4.

For normal day to day driving not much has changed, its quiet, practical with subdued looks. You just know a squeeze of that right foot and you can dispatch most other cars on the road, which is always reassuring.

With the S4 featuring Audi’s quattro system, it sends the power to all 4 wheels at all times. This means, you appear to have endless grip and exploiting the limits of said grip, you will almost definitely be in license losing territory.

The only niggle I really have with the car, is the brakes. Now I know they were never designed for a 400bhp+ car but I’m not even sure they are really up to the task of spirited driving in a stock car for any extended period of time. Easily fixed for a price I know, but just something I wanted to mention.

All in all, as a package, I struggle to see what you can get for the money that is better. This offers all of the practicality of an A4 with the turn of pace of a much, much quicker car. Whilst still instilling the confidence on any road surface in any condition to enjoy the car. The remap to the gearbox and engine, I would say are essential on this car. The way it transforms the car is night and day. If you were considering, I would just get it done and enjoy the car.


One thought on “Audi S4 B8.5 – an account of one powerful but subdued monster

  1. Pingback: Collecting a BMW 335d xDrive M Sport | ST Supercars

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