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For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Audi S4 have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Subaru WRX doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.
The S4’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The WRX doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.
Both the S4 and WRX have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The S4 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The WRX’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.
The S4 has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The WRX doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.
The S4 Prestige has a standard Top and Corner View Cameras to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The WRX only offers a rear monitor.
Both the S4 and the WRX have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, all wheel drive, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.
The S4 comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The WRX’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.
The S4’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the WRX’s (12 vs. 5 years).
A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the S4’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the WRX’s camshafts. If the WRX’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.
To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the S4 has a standard 150-amp alternator. The WRX’s standard 130-amp alternator and largest (STI) 110-amp alternator aren’t as powerful.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Audi vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Audi 22nd in initial quality. With 7 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 25th.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Audi 8th in reliability, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 14th.
The S4’s 3.0 turbo V6 produces 81 more horsepower (349 vs. 268) and 111 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 258) than the WRX’s standard 2.0 turbo 4-cylinder. The S4’s 3.0 turbo V6 produces 39 more horsepower (349 vs. 310) and 79 lbs.-ft. more torque (369 vs. 290) than the WRX STI’s standard 2.5 turbo 4-cylinder.
On the EPA test cycle the S4 gets better fuel mileage than the WRX Auto (20 city/27 hwy vs. 18 city/24 hwy).
In heavy traffic or at stoplights the S4’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The WRX doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi S4 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The WRX requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
The Audi S4 comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the WRX.
The S4’s launch control uses engine electronics to hold engine RPM’s precisely in order to provide the most stable and rapid acceleration possible, using all of the available traction. The WRX doesn’t offer launch control.
For better stopping power the S4’s brake rotors are larger than those on the WRX:
The S4’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs standard on the WRX are solid, not vented.
For better traction, the S4 has larger standard tires than the WRX (245/40R18 vs. 235/45R17). The S4’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the WRX (255/35R19 vs. 245/40R18).
The S4’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 40 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the WRX’s standard 45 series tires.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the S4 has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the WRX.
The S4 offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The WRX’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the S4’s wheelbase is 6.7 inches longer than on the WRX (111 inches vs. 104.3 inches).
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the S4 is 1.7 inches wider in the front and .6 inches wider in the rear than on the WRX.
The S4 has .3 inches more front shoulder room, .3 inches more rear headroom, .3 inches more rear legroom and .3 inches more rear shoulder room than the WRX.
With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the S4 offers cargo security. The WRX’s non-lockable folding seat and non-lockable remote release defeat cargo security.
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just kicking your foot under the back bumper can open the S4’s available trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The WRX doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than Subaru. J.D. Power ranks Audi 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 28% lower rating, Subaru is ranked 19th.
When two different drivers share the S4, the optional memory seats and mirrors make it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position and outside mirror angle. The WRX doesn’t offer a memory system.
The S4 Prestige has a standard heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The WRX doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
The S4’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The WRX has a lever-type parking brake that has to be strenuously raised to engage properly. It has to be lifted up more and a button depressed to release it.
The power windows standard on both the S4 and the WRX have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the S4 is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The WRX prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.
The S4’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The WRX’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.
If the windows are left open on the S4 the driver can close them all at the outside door handle or from a distance using the remote. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the WRX can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.
The S4’s power window, power lock, power mirror and cruise control switches are lit from behind, making them plainly visible and easier to operate at night. The WRX’s power lock switches are unlit, making them difficult to find at night and operate safely.
The S4’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The WRX’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.
Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the S4 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The WRX doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.
In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The S4 Prestige has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The WRX doesn’t offer headlight washers.
The S4 has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The WRX has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Premium/STI/Limited.
When the S4 with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The WRX’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.
The S4 offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The WRX offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
The S4 has standard heated front seats. Heated front seats are only available on the WRX Premium/Limited/STI. The S4 Premium Plus/Prestige also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the WRX.
Optional air-conditioned seats in the S4 Premium Plus/Prestige keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The WRX doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.
On extremely cold winter days, the S4 Premium Plus/Prestige’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The WRX doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.
The S4 has standard massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the WRX.
The S4 has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the WRX STI.
Both the S4 and the WRX offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the S4 has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The WRX doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.
To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Audi S4 Premium Plus/Prestige has a standard wireless phone charging system (Qi) in the center console. The WRX doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.
The S4 Prestige’s Park Steering Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The WRX doesn’t offer an automated parking system.
The Audi A4/S4 outsold the Subaru WRX by 21% during 2019.
© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.
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