The Audi S4 Biturbo
Xenon headlamps with separate indicators. It takes
quite an eye to see, but you may also note that the door-
A buyers guide
mirrors on earlier cars are not quite as “angular” as
By Nilesh Ramrattan
those of its successor.
You’ll also need to know when browsing through local
2. Model Specifics
classifieds and dealer pages that an S4 listed as circa
3. Choosing a Vehicle
1994 is not a misprint, and while it is a fabulous car,
you do not want to waste valuable time looking at it!
5. Finding an S4
6. The phone call
The early S4’s (or urS4’s as they are sometimes
referred to) are based on the last model Audi 100 cars,
and feature a 20-valve 5-cylinder turbocharged engine
as found in the Audi S2.
11. Test Drive
18. A time to buy…
19. Buyers Checklist
The Audi S4 Biturbo
K – So now you’ve done your homework – you’ve
Audi S4’s V6 Biturbo Power Plant
decided that you want a fast yet understated saloon or
estate car (sedan or station wagon).
Choosing a vehicle
You’ll want a car that will last, a car that is
By choosing an Audi S4 biturbo, you’ve actually cut
safe, sure footed, and to a certain degree a
out some major hassles usually associated with car
car that you can “grow” with.
buying right from the start.
You want a six-speed manual or tiptronic transmission,
At the time of writing, the oldest Audi S4 biturbos have
permanent four-wheel drive, and a six cylinder turbo-
only been in circulation for under 3-years. This means
charged engine with the very latest five-valve per
that in most cases, you can rely on them having
cylinder technology, superb build quality, and lots of
relatively low mileages, having been well looked after,
sporting service history from the main dealer, and still
benefiting from the manufacturers warranty.
You’ve convinced your better half and your bank
manager, you’ve checked with the insurance company
Problems such as rust, mechanical wear, and other such
that you can be covered and you’ve satisfied your
issues do not really come into the equation when
conscience that you’ve made the “right” choice.
buying an S4, especially since the car is fully
galvanised and because it is exceptionally robust. But,
You’ve made the decision to buy an Audi S4. Here’s
as with all cars (and there is a but), there are some
how to make the vision into reality...
issues you do need to be made aware of – most of
which stem from cars that have been modified, cars that
have been poorly repaired after accidents and cars that
have been repaired after vandalism.
Where do you go from here? Well, firstly you might
want to appreciate that the Audi S4 biturbo was first
Be aware that although the Audi S4 biturbo is limited to
released in Europe in 1998, with North America and
a low annual production figure, there is a good quantity
Canada being introduced to the model in 2000, so there
available on the market to choose from, so if at first you
are actually two different models available in Europe.
don’t find quite what you’re looking for, try the next
The external differences can be seen quite quickly, with
early vehicles featuring square side-repeaters, thin
For worry free motoring it is recommended that you
body-mouldings, flush mounted door handles, and
choose an example with low to average mileage, a
guide figure being 12,000 miles annually, no
combination of leather and Alcantara – a man made
modifications, and full details depicting the car’s
suede-like material available in a vivid blue or
history in terms of servicing, manufacturer recalls and
This is only a guideline, but as with many things, there
are exceptions to the rule.
It’s usually cars that have not been modified which are
the most desirable and sought after.
The downside of being a desirable vehicle is that the S4
is also prone to “ringing” – that is a vehicle which has
had its identity changed after being stolen or repaired
following serious accident damage – we’ll go into how
to safeguard yourself as much as possible from this later
when we discuss “screening”.
Blue Alcantara Interior
Door and Dash inserts are available in three variants,
The Audi S4 can be specified with a myriad of options,
walnut burr, silver aluminium and carbon fibre – note
almost equating to a third of the cost of the basic car.
that not all finishes are available in all markets – for
This provides for the original purchaser to tailor a car
example, walnut burr is not available in the UK.
that is very unique indeed.
So, once you’ve established a basic specification for
It’s also one of the reasons that one S4 can
your potential used S4, decide on what you would
be difficult to price in comparison with
compromise should push come to shove. You might
belay a sunroof in favour of satellite navigation, or
alcantara for leather – give yourself some flexibility.
Our advice is firstly to define your choices in terms of
basics such as Colour, Interior, and then “niceties”, such
Finding an S4
as sunroof, CD player, Satellite navigation and the like.
Finding the car you want shouldn’t be too tasking. The
most preferred way to buy a used S4 is to source one
via an Audi main dealer or an approved Audi main
dealer Internet network, but if you want to save money
and are prepared to do some legwork, take a look at the
local classifieds. “Auto Trader”, “Car Finder”,
“Exchange and Mart” are all excellent ways of locating
a car and saving money over dealer prices.
If you have access to the Internet, you may wish to try
using a search engine from the many available, to
locate a suitable vehicle in your vicinity.
Draw up a list of potential vehicles – unless you’re at a
dealership, don’t visit more than four cars in a day.
Exceeding this number usually results in an impulse
buy when you are tired and running out of steam, or
will facilitate you in missing important clues that may
come to haunt you later.
Available S4 Colours
The phone call
The car is available in nine colours, Laser red, Black,
Using your list of potential vehicles, give the owner a
Cactus green, Hibiscus red, Imola yellow, Santorin
call – do speak to the owner. Ask them the type of
blue, Nogaro blue, Pearl white and Silver. The most
questions you feel you need answered.
expensive paint finishes are Pearl white, Nogaro blue
and Imola yellow, all of which are available by special
Arrange where possible to view the car during daylight
hours. In your initial call, you should look to find out
The interior is available in a selection of three material
combinations - Jacquard satin cloth, leather, or a
Firstly, try to discover why they are selling the car.
These cars usually tend to have issues that the main
Check that their rational is reasonable. Remember, the
dealer may be unable or unwilling to assist you with,
car you’ll be looking at will be less than three-years old,
and you’ll want to note that Audi have recently revised
so you need to find out why it’s being sold. Ensure you
their policies with regard to warrantable work on
are happy with the mileage - ask questions regarding the
modified cars in the USA and the UK with other
condition of bodywork, the wheels and tyres, details of
countries following suit, meaning that in the event of a
when the car was last serviced and by whom.
problem, you’ll foot the bill.
Find out if the car is 6-speed or Tiptronic, what
The most popular modification to an S4 is
remaining manufacturers warranty there is, and if the
“chip tuning” also known as “chipping” or
car has been modified. Check to see if the car has been
garaged when not in use. Ask if the vehicle has been
subject to any accidents or damage of any kind and if
so, enquire who carried out the repairs.
Such modifications allow the BHP and torque of the
vehicle to be increased dramatically.
Is the car under a finance agreement? Does the owner
have documentation to substantiate the car is not owned
Prolonged use or sustained hard driving of a modified
by someone else?
car can result in expensive component failure. The
most common failures being leaking intercooler pipes
After ascertaining the address of where the vehicle can
which give way due to the increased pressure carried by
be viewed, ask the owner if this is their home address.
them and failed turbos (usually the oil seals) requiring
Always be wary of
the engine to be removed for replacement – a very
owners that offer to
meet you at
locations other than
their home. Check
with the owner that
they are happy to
allow you to test
drive the car, and if
they will give their consent to have the car screened by
Carfax or HPi (vehicle verification agencies) before
With regards to the test drive, check with the owner that
you will be insured to drive the vehicle – be it under the
owners policy or your own. Never take the risk of
driving without checking this first – the consequences
The smooth lines of the S4
of this can be dire!
Early cars pre “1999.5” as they are called, use an early
You’ll need to feel comfortable with the responses you
version of the K03 turbo charger and were fitted with
are given. If you are in doubt or your suspicions are
less resilient intercooler hoses. Audi did put a recall
raised, it’s best to make your excuses and phone the
out for these vehicles to have the hoses replaced under
owner of the next car on your list.
warranty, but not all dealerships seem to do this
voluntarily – you will need to ask them to perform the
At the end of this article is a used car buyer’s checklist
work if it’s not already been done when you take the
that you should use when you view the vehicle.
car in for service.
2000 model year cars seem to fare a lot better on the
modification front. The hoses used are stronger and the
K03 turbos are allegedly of a revised design.
Now depending on your own personal preferences, you
may wish to purchase an original vehicle or a vehicle
Other popular modifications include lowering the ride-
that has been modified.
height of the car to gain additional stability during
cornering, short shifters, to lessen the throw of the gear
If you elect to go for the latter, depending on which
lever and to give a more “solid” feel during changes,
country or state you live in, you may be required to pay
alloy wheel upgrades and various spoiler and grille
additional insurance premiums depending on the
With any sort of lowering, it’s a good idea to have
Make sure that the key for the locking wheel bolts is
geometric check done on the car to check camber and
available and safely stored.
alignment, which can prove invaluable in the long run.
If the car has been lowered, check under the wheel
The more radical of these cars can sport up to 470BHP
arches and see if any rubbing of tyres and paintwork
using parts from the later Audi RS4 and after some
has occurred. Turn the steering wheel to the left and
expensive tuning work.
right and again, check for rubbing or wear.
Avoid vehicles with panels that do not line up, cars with
spoilers or body kits that have not been correctly fitted
Regular servicing and maintenance always pays
and look out for any signs of poorly repaired accident
dividends. Late model Audi S4s can go 20,000 miles
damage or forced entry.
without servicing due to advancements in oil, filter and
spark plug technology. In the US, servicing is
The Audi S4 comes fully galvanised and has
recommended every 3,000 miles, quite possibly due to
a 10-year anti-corrosion perforation
the amount of stop-start driving done in the cities.
warranty. This puts the “rust-bug” nicely
If a car has replacement alloy wheels, enquire as to
where the originals are. This way you can replace them
if you don’t like the ones fitted or have yourself an extra
set of winter tires.
Ensure that the wheels are free of scrapes and chips –
any signs of such are an indication of neglect and hard
Ideally, all servicing should be carried out by the main dealer
Open all the doors, one at a time and close them – check
The S4 should always be serviced using
that doors have not dropped on their hinges and that
synthetic oil, never mineral or semi-
they close first time without slamming or bouncing off
the rubber seals in the doorway. Do the same with the
bonnet and boot-lid (hood and trunk).
Ensure that a service history document is available and
If the car exhibits rust of any kind on the body or under
check that the book exhibits all the correct stamps and
the bonnet, you should walk away.
endorsements. Don’t forget to check the latter pages to
see if scheduled brake fluid changes have been
performed. From the factory, the S4 is supplied with a
glycol-based brake fluid of DOT 4 specification. Be
wary of cars that have been topped up with silicone
brake fluids, as glycol and silicone fluids are not
It’s important to check that the brake fluid is changed at
regular intervals as glycol fluids are hygroscopic,
meaning that it absorbs water over time and looses it’s
Don’t compromise by viewing or selecting a
car that has not been well cared for. To do
Check for stone chips or other damage
so will result in problems and regrets soon
Check in the boot under the spare tyre. All S4s come
with a full size spare and tools including a jack. Look
Usually, the issuing main dealer services most cars.
for signs of damage or repair. Check under the cars
This means that all the stamps in the service booklet
sills for damage by poor jacking. Many garages (and
should match. You can always check with Audi
some owners) fail to pay attention to the jacking points
customer services if you are in any doubt about the
and damage suspension, plastic trim or floor pans.
authenticity of such entries.
Cars with differing stamps do not indicate any sort of
attention to lights including Airbag, Brakes and
foul play, as it is conceivable that owners move from
one area to another, or may even have had bad
experiences with some dealerships.
We touched briefly on factory recalls when we covered
modifications. At the time of printing, we could only
find recalls pertaining to the following:
1. Intercooler hoses – early models weak
2. Dust caps on tie rod ends – early models weak
3. Vehicle with tiptronic transmission – Brake
Note that not all of these will apply to later vehicles.
Successfully completed recalls are marked
The understated lines of the S4 Saloon
in the service history booklet and are
stamped by the main dealer, usually with a
When you’re comfortable, take the car for a drive. To
test the car as best as possible, you’ll need at least five
miles of road, including a fast section of motorway.
By now you’ve looked over the car you’ve found and
Ideally you should insist on seeing the car
are more than comfortable. You just can’t wait much
when the engine is cold – if not on the first
longer to get in and take it for a spin – but before you
visit, then the next.
do – you need to check that you are sufficiently covered
by your own or the owners insurance policy.
Drive the car gently at first until the engine has warmed
Check the car in all gears – changes should be smooth
and there should be no sign of crunch or stiffness on a
good manual gearbox, with no signs of the clutch
slipping or snatching.
Turn off the radio and listen. Listen for knocks and
grinds, squeaks and thuds – If you hear any – start
The car should pull smoothly from all gears
Choose a route which emulates most driving types
and is capable of pulling from 30mph in top
Before driving off, check the condition of the tyres, and
gear without the need to change down a
check the fluid levels under the bonnet – oil, water,
brake fluid, power steering and washer bottle. Be aware
of any unusual smells – burning, brake or clutch lining,
A healthy car should cruise quietly and effortlessly.
fuel and the like, both before and after the test drive.
Push the throttle and you should feel an immense surge,
and no loud sounds of air escaping from the intercooler
Adjust your seat, headrest, mirrors and steering column
or hoses, or whining from the transmission or driveline.
to a position that suits you.
Locate equipment such as lights, indicators, wipers,
park brake, and emergency hazard light switches before
Test the brakes – the car shouldn’t dive excessively or
you pull away.
pull to either side, but remain composed through
straights and bends, with a firm pedal feel.
When switching on the ignition, check for any warning
lights that stay on after the car is started. Pay particular
a bad one that smokes and splutters. If you do, walk
From cold, check the oil and water levels. If you find
the oil to be dirty or the anti-freeze to be weak or off
colour (usually a pinky red or greeny blue colour if all
is in order), then insist it is changed prior to purchase.
Start the engine and check for signs of leaks, unusual
noise and fumes.
S4 with modified rear braking system
Ensure that the cosmetics under the bonnet are all
present and undamaged. Look for ring clips that have
Check for brake squeal, and vibration on the steering
been over tightened or have damaged screw heads.
Don’t necessarily be suspicious of a very clean engine
Be wary of cars with a spongy pedal feel and
bay, as these cars seem to keep clean of their own
improperly fitted aftermarket brakes.
After the test drive and the engine has warmed up,
check again for leaks, fumes and noises.
When you are happy that you’ve established a good feel
for the car, switch on the radio, check the CD player
Check that there are no severe vibrations in the cabin –
and tape – tune in radio stations, set the air conditioning
this may suggest signs of worn engine mountings, or
to both cold and warm positions, verify the full travel of
poorly fitted exhausts in the case of modified cars.
all windows, mirrors and all the electrical equipment
that you can lay your hands on.
If the car is fitted with a self-dipping mirror, check its
With the exception of the Leather Alcantara
operation by covering with your finger the forward
combination, the interior of all S4s is durable.
facing hole on the right hand side. If it is operational,
Alcantara although a strong man-made fabric, is prone
you’ll see the mirror darken.
to staining and marking, and requires a great deal of
discipline to keep it clean and looking good.
Pay attention to all the switchgear –
especially illumination and cruise control.
All cars are fitted with a three-spoke leather steering
wheel and leather gear knob.
With the engine running and the headlights switched on,
Sound system is in the shape of Audi badged
close the doors and windows and activate the
Symphony, Concert or Full Navigation systems
windshield washers. From below the bonnet – check
featuring a TFT screen.
that the “robot” washers push up from the front bumper
and fire at the headlamps.
Later vehicles were offered with the option
Get out of the car leaving the windows open – check the
of electrically adjustable front seats and
operation of the “closure” system – operating the alarm
and holding down the “arm” button will automatically
close the windows.
The Audi S4 comes highly specced even in
basic form, meaning that it could accrue
potential electrical gremlins.
Remember, anything that doesn’t work and that’s not
covered under warranty will doubtless cost you to
The engine is one of Audi’s most modern and advanced
power plants, and as such, you’ll be hard pushed to find
The S4 in base form is wel equipped
Be wary of cars with poorly fitted aftermarket mobile
In the US, and the UK, it’s possible to approach
phone cradles, turbo gauges and stereo equipment.
agencies like www.Carfax.com and www.HPI.co.uk,
who check the history of vehicles nationwide.
Cars fitted with pearlescent paintwork,
sunroofs, BOSE audio and leather or
Vehicle History Reports can reveal
leather and alcantara combinations usually
important background information and
command the highest prices.
unearth hidden problems in a vehicle's past
which may affect its safety and resale value.
Severe marks or holes in plastic trim can be costly to
repair and due to the overall high build quality of the
They can reveal using the seventeen-digit Vehicle
car, can be time consuming to replace resulting in hefty
Identification Number the following types of risks:
• Totalled in an accident or salvaged
Again, check that everything works – open the sunroof,
• Flood damage
check the operation of the heated seats and the
• Odometer rollbacks
ventilation. Check that the fine “fins” in the air
• Lemon histories
conditioning vents are not broken or damaged. Sit in
• Emissions inspection results
the back of the car and examine the headlining and map
• Lien/Finance activity
pockets on the back of the front seats.
• Vehicle usage (taxi, rental, lease, etc.)
The car comes with four keys – two housing the remote
Before you purchase any vehicle, it’s always wise to
device for the alarm, a valet key which doesn’t open the
use such an agency to verify the authenticity of your
glove compartment, rear seats (saloon) or boot lid, and
an emergency wafer thin key that fits into a purse or
wallet. Make sure you have them all and ask the owner
if they have any copies that they need to give to you.
Check that the main keys operate all locks, including on
the saloon the locks for the fold down seats in the rear.
Examine the condition of the main keys, looking for
any cracks or tears in the plastic. Walk a distance away
from the car and check that the remote on the main key
will lock and open the car from at least the distance of a
couple of cars away – this will determine the condition
of the battery in the key.
Always be courteous. If you find a vehicle
Ensure you are comfortable before committing to any deal
you don’t like, explain politely to the owner
that it’s not quite what you’re looking for
A time to buy…
After you’ve researched a vehicle to your satisfaction,
Ask the owner to show you the Radio and locking
you’ll now be in a position to make the transaction.
wheel bolt codes. If they are unable to do so and
suggest that the dealership knows the codes, check with
When you visit the car, check that it’s in the same
the dealer before you commit yourself to any purchase.
condition as when you last saw it. Check that the
owner hasn’t removed anything essential such as tools,
decals or what was originally interpreted as part of the
In this day and age of uncertainty with high insurance
deal. Check that the tyres haven’t been swapped or
premiums, theft at an all time high and unscrupulous
changed and that there has been no new damage
individuals “ringing” and “chopping”, “cutting” and
sustained since your last inspection
“shutting”, you’ll want to know that the car you are
buying is not stolen, that it’s not an insurance write-off
and that it’s safe and poses no danger to you or your
friends and loved-ones.
• Look for signs of rust, especially at wheel
On the next page, you’ll find a buyers checklist
wells, under doors, in the boot (trunk).
detailing all the points you’ll need to cover when you
• Musty smell or dampness in the boot may
visit a prospective car.
indicate collision damage.
• If car appears newly painted, ask why.
Check with the owner before you visit that they have
time for you and are not in any hurry to dash of to take
the little one to a school play or grandma to the hospital
• Wear should be even on each tyre and among
during your visit.
• Tires should be the same size, rating and
Take your time – don’t be rushed or
preferably the same make.
pressured into doing anything you are not
• Wear should be consistent with odometer
comfortable with. A major part of buying
• Insist on a spare, jack, and wheel brace if
any car is careful preparation and
they’re missing. Check for the locking wheel
Ensure that they have all the paperwork needed and that
you will be able to start the car from cold when you
• Push down and release each corner of car. If it
bounces more than once, car may need struts
• Push and pull on each wheel from beside the
car. If wheel moves in or out, bearings or CV
joints may be in bad condition.
• Uneven tire wear may indicate suspension
problems. If car has new tires, be extra careful
in checking suspension.
• Check CV joint boots on either end of front
and rear axles (should be a total of eight). If
torn or missing, you may expect trouble with
replacing expensive joints!
Agree on a preferred method of payment in advance
• Wear of seats, steering wheel, etc. should be
consistent with odometer mileage.
Do take some sort of ID with you to reassure the
• Pay particular attention to the amount of wear
potential seller that you are genuine. If possible, go
on pedal rubbers.
with a friend – never with more than two or three
• Musty smell or new carpet may indicate flood
people in total. If you can – take someone with you
who is knowledgeable about cars.
• Make sure windows, safety belts, etc. all work.
If you don’t feel happy about carrying out
• Check glove compartment contents. You
should have an owner's manual. Look for
an inspection, take an expert with you.
repair orders that show the car's mileage.
Make sure mileage is consistent with the
Remember, the checklist is a guide to assist you in
current odometer reading.
deciding whether a car is worth buying. If you find
yourself answering “Yes” to a lot of questions, it may
Engine & Transmission
be best to make your excuses and walk away.
• Check that all fluid levels are correct.
While completing the checklist, bear in mind the
Oil should not smell burnt or contain water.
• Coolant should be pinky red or greeny blue,
but not rusty.
• On tiptronic cars, transmission fluid should be
red or pink and not smell burnt.
• Look for unmatched paint or poor body fit
• Look for leaks around radiator and hoses.
(may indicate collision damage).
• Spots on the ground under the car may
Check for body filler (use a refrigerator
indicate leaks. To be sure, place a clean
magnet wrapped in tissue paper on suspicious
newspaper on ground under the car after
driving it. Check in a few minutes for spots.
Audi S4 Biturbo - Buyers Checklist
1 Is there any sign of rust or damage on the vehicle?
2 Are there any leaks or damaged hoses or belts under the bonnet?
3 Are the tyres and wheels damaged or worn?
4 Are all the seatbelts in good order?
5 Do the doors windows and sunroof show any signs of leakage or damage?
6 Are there any electrical problems? (Dashboard warning, lights, switches)
7 Has the car ever been in an accident?
8 Have any body panels been repaired rather than replaced?
9 Does the car have a good colour match all over?
10 Check the boot (trunk) for spare tyre, tools and damage – anything missing?
11 Has the cars identity been tampered with (VIN numbers)?
12 Is there any damage to the glass on the car – scratches, chips?
1 Are the brakes defective?
2 Does the car pull to one side when braking?
3 Do the brakes squeal?
4 Are there any unusual noises or smells?
5 Does the park brake work?
6 Does the steering wheel shake or vibrate?
7 Does the car pull to one side?
8 Is changing gear difficult?
9 Does the gear lever jump on acceleration or braking?
10 Does the clutch slip or snatch?
11 Does the engine sound different when the clutch is pressed on idle?
12 Is there a strong smell of petrol, oil or brake/clutch lining?
Post test drive
1 Doest the engine rattle or make other noise?
2 Are there water or oil leaks?
3 Is there any smoke from the exhaust?
4 Has the car been clocked? Has the instrument cluster been tampered with?
5 Is there any heavy wear and tear signs that are inconsistent with mileage?
6 Does the mileage on service documentation contradict the odometer reading?
7 Are any of the four keys missing?
8 Does the sound system exhibit any faults – CD & Tape?
9 Does the interior require any repairs?
10 Are there any poorly fitted modifications?
Use reverse of sheet for additional notes and observations