Picture this: you are a pulling up to a red light, waiting for it to turn green, so you can merge onto the highway. You notice a black sedan in the right lane, with big wheels and a nice svelte body and you figure…why not? I’ll give it a go. You can’t help but think, “God, I want to run him right now.” You immediately get quick flashes of being the star in the Fast & Furious 42 as you blow the doors off a space shuttle in a never ending highway. After all, you are driving a V-8 powered M3. You rev your engine at the guy, and as you both make eye contact, your heart begins to race. You smile at him, because you know you are going to smoke him in his quaint sedan. He acknowledges and turns his attention to the light. You do the same.
It’s like they went to their engineering department and asked them to make a car that Darth Vader would want to drive his family in…the end result being the S8.
You grip your steering wheel tightly, perhaps your palms get a little sweaty because of the anticipation of waiting for the light to turn green. Your revs climb higher and higher, which also happens to coincide with your heart rate. The crossing traffic stops, the light is about to turn green. You’ve blown away so many cars before, this should be fun and easy. All of a sudden…the light turns green. You floor the pedal, and a wry smile appears on your face. Suddenly, you’ve noticed that the black sedan isn’t behind you, but rather has just pulled out of the hole like a prized rodeo bull that just got branded. That wry smile turns into the biggest jaw drop of your life. Not only did he launch better, but he keeps pulling away at a rapid rate, disappearing into the horizon. It is over before you know it. Actually, it was over at the light. In fact, the race should have never happened.
Why? Because you got smoked, completely destroyed, annihilated, stomped, embarrassed, you starting to get the picture? Don’t worry, you didn’t lose to just any sedan. Rather, you were humbled by the 2013 Audi S8…and guess what? The guy in that car who floored the pedal, who’s body was pinned back into his air cooled seat with the massage working while he was listening to Kelly Rowland’s Kisses Down Low, just laughed himself silly. Who was that guy you asked?
That was me.
What is he doing listening to Kelly Rowland? So what, she’s hot…what’s the problem?
The Audi S8 is so completely asinine. No, its more than that. In the word’s of the great Skip Bayless from ESPN’s First Take it’s, “Asinine, asi-ten, asi-eleven, asi-twelve!” It is so ridiculous and so far out in left field that I love it! I absolutely love it! I would have loved to be a fly on the wall at the board meeting at Audi’s headquarters when the suits came up with this car.
It’s like they went to their engineering department and asked them to make a car that Darth Vader would want to drive his family in…the end result being the S8.
The chassis is simply fantastic. Absolutely no complaints.
They started out with the short wheel base A8 chassis, stuffed it with an 4.0L V-8, and force fed it with two turbos for a mere 520 horsepower and 479 lb.-ft. of torque. Unlike the typical turbo mounting location being on the side of the block, Audi moved the turbos inside the “V” to create a shorter path of travel for the exhaust gases to spool the turbos. The result? Incredible engine response and a constant wave of torque wherever you are in the power band. Turbo Lag? Absolutely none. The one thing that will leave you scratching your head is where the engine is located….in front of the front axle. No, you read that right, I said in front of the front axle. A good friend of mine said, “It’s like a reverse 911.” As a former owner of a 911 Turbo and a few Audi cars, he was enamored with the big sedan.
Compared to the V-10 that was in the prior S8, Audi says that this new twin-turbo V-8 sucks down 27% less fuel while giving you 16% more power. It does all this by deactivating four cylinders under light engine load, which decreases fuel consumption up to 10%. According to EPA estimates, the S8 does 15 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, averaging about 19 mpg in mixed driving…assuming you care about such things.
This potent powerplant is mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, which then routes power to all four wheels via Audi’s venerable quattro permanent all-wheel drive. The transmission is incredibly smooth and feels almost like a CVT, in that you don’t feel the shifts, and the amount of torque that car puts out will always keep it charging ahead. Having eight gears seems like overkill for this car though. Granted, the car itself is the very definition of overkill, the extra gears and eagerness of the transmission to get into the higher gears ruins the fun that could be had. You can put the car in manual mode using the T-shaped shifter and shift using the steering wheel mounted paddles, however the car will tend to shift for you even when you don’t want it to. I tried to search through the never ending menus in the gauge cluster and center dash screen to see if I can turn it off, but eventually I got fed up with searching for it, and left it alone. I briefly drove a S6, when John Ringwald had it to test out, and I fell in love with the 7-speed DCT that the car had. I think that transmission in the S8 would have been spectacular, but this is just a silly complaint.
The chassis is simply fantastic. Absolutely no complaints. It is firm and the all aluminum construction keeps the weight down….or that is what you would think because the weight of the car will make you really wonder if Audi used lead instead. Coming in at a hefty 4,641lbs, the S8 is by no means a light weight. How heavy was this aluminum? The ride settings can be changed from Auto to Comfort, Dynamic, or Custom. The air suspension soaks up everything the road throws at the car without upsetting you or your passengers. The common misconception is that air bags don’t hold you down well and that you float along and that the ride is almost bouncy, however, you would never be able to tell with the S8. I had to look at the spec sheet to find out for myself. It is just that good.
Audi claims that the S8 does nil to 60 in 3.9 seconds, with a top speed limited to 155 mph. It makes sense to have that limiter because it just wants to keep going with no end in sight. The 0-60 time that Audi claims seems a little bit slower than what the car will actually do, in my opinion, because I have yet to drive a car that launches you so hard with absolutely no drama what so ever. There is no detectable wheel slip and no tire chirp. It is as if the tires are glued to the pavement.
There is no detectable wheel slip and no tire chirp. It is as if the tires are glued to the pavement.
Body roll is is virtually imperceptible despite the size and weight. Take it corner carving and the car just shrinks around you.
Don’t bother brake torquing the car because the brakes won’t do much from keeping it moving from a stand still, however, they will stop that leviathan in an absolute hurry. Floor the go-pedal, and your backside will be imprinted into the seat. Slam on the rather large brake pedal (you can double foot it and bring out your inner Fred Flintstone if you wish), and your eyes will pop out of their sockets on their way to the windshield. I like setting my Audi testers to my own custom setting with the steering on Comfort, suspension on Comfort and everything else on Dynamic which includes the timing, exhaust, differential, and transmission response. With this personal setting, the car is easy to drive, comfortably floating along the pavement, yet it still gives me the sportiness that quells the thirst for driving around.
Body roll is is virtually imperceptible despite the size and weight (did I mention that it comes in at 4,641lbs!). Take it corner carving and the car just shrinks around you. You will never notice that it is riding on a 117.8” wheel base or that the car is 76.7” wide. It felt just as nimble and quick to rotate as the S5 I tested earlier this year, albeit with much more power and weight. There is virtually no feedback from front tires, mainly due to the electronic steering rack.
With the steering set in Dynamic, you get some feedback, but it feels too artificial and not as natural. I don’t find too many owners bothering to keep it in Dynamic either because it really stiffens up. My recommendation? Keep the steering in Comfort because it is perfect for both in town, on the highway, navigating parking lots, and a little fun. Don’t worry about the steering not talking away at you. It isn’t a sports car, it’s a cruise missile.
Driving on my favorite back roads in Connecticut yielded something I wasn’t totally expecting. Drive it at 8/10ths, and the car is very rewarding to drive. Hitting some nice S-turns with road undulations and elevation changes really shows what the car can do. The suspension soaks up the irregularities and no disruptions get transmitted through. The tires stay connected to the ground and the AWD makes sure things don’t get too out of hand. The immense torque band allows you to charge from apex exit to corner entry. Floor it hard, and you will encounter understeer. Plenty of understeer. Keep in mind that the engine is in front of the front axle. Ease into the throttle, and you will be rewarded with plenty of grip and smooth transitioning. In order to induce oversteer, I turned off the traction control and took this car on a closed off, hard-packed dirt road. The S8 was eager to wag its tail at even the slightest throttle input, but I don’t think the system is fully defeatable. The car kept wanting to get back in line and I didn’t want to force the issue. You shouldn’t be drifting this thing anyway, no matter how much fun you are having, even if you are only 25 years old. I don’t think customers who are shopping for a car like the S8 are looking to rally it anyway.
The interior of this car is what I want my living room to look like.
The interior of this car is what I want my living room to look like. It has so much cool technology and gadgets and crazy stuff coming out of places that you had no idea were the places that the things could come out of. The interior has nothing but leather, carbon fiber, Alcantara, and aluminum. Plastic? Nope, virtually everything you touch is one of those aforementioned materials. The fit and finish in the car is utterly gorgeous. The lay out is intuitive and works well. With my seat set how I want, my right hand fell perfectly on the t-shaped shifter. Straight ahead is the gauge cluster with your tachometer on the left, and the speedometer on the right, both of which are fading and curving away from you to make way for the 7” Driver Information Center. The tachometer has a variable redline, and will increase as the car reaches optimal temperature. The Driver Information Center will show you just about everything you wish to know about the car including the media, navigation, climate, and vehicle modes. The readouts are clear and easy to read and aren’t affected by sun glare. The climate controls and MMI interface controller are easy to reach and will take some time to get used to but when you do, it is simple muscle memory. The MMI knob is easy to use and you can slide over to the various menus and sub menus to do what you need to.
My advice? Sit and learn where everything is and play around with the system before you get frustrated trying to find stuff on the fly. The owner’s manual looks like a mini Encyclopedia, so I’m sure this car had way more than I what I chose to talk about. The thing about the MMI I didn’t care for was the touch pad. It wasn’t very straight forward and it controlled your presets for your radio however, changing them was very involving and a pain. Your best bet is to make it easier on yourself and use the steering wheel controls or give the system voice commands.
I’m no audiophile, but I know a great sounding system when I hear one.
The Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System is simply unreal. I’m no audiophile, but I know a great sounding system when I hear one. The sound is so crisp and clean with absolutely no distortion. With the cabin as quiet and insulated as it is, you hear your favorite tunes like you’ve never heard them before in a car. The Bang & Olufsen being an option that you can tick, it is quite possibly the most expensive option that you can get on the Audi at $6,300. Hell, if you can pony up the money for this car in the first place, go for the gold!
The Audi doesn’t come without it’s ostentatious flair though. The MMI Navigation screen is hidden when the ignition is turned off. Turn the car on and the screen and the tweeters for the sound system rise up out of the dash. The interior lighting is lit up using nothing but LEDs. Everything you can think of is illuminated. The door sills are illuminated with the S8 logo, even the rear ones.
The front thrones are just that, thrones. You can choose from a multitude of massage settings and can customize your seat preferences by adjusting the side bolsters, the hip bolsters, and the thigh extension. The rear seats forgo the massage, but they are heated, while the fronts have heating and cooling capabilities. The rear seats have a center console that can be brought down manually from the seat back and that contains heating and cooling functions for the two rear seats. The S8 is equipped with 4-zone climate control so each occupant can have their own personal setting to stay comfortable. Return the center console back to its position in the seat back, and the bench is capable of seating five. To be honest, I’m actually surprised that center console isn’t powered by some electric motor or a piston of some kind. The middle of the rear seat is a offset a little higher than the sides and not as comfortable. The driveline tunnel takes up most of the comfortable area in the middle. Four occupants is best for this car. With my driver’s seat set to my position, I had plenty of leg space in the back without my knees hitting the front seat back. It would be nice to have a massaging unit in the back though, for those times when I just want to be pampered. Passengers on both sides of the rear can control the powered privacy screens for either side and the rear.
The S8 was optioned with the Night Vision Assistant for $2,300. If you are wondering if that is a night vision camera, it is. I guess Darth Vader likes stealth mode? I know I do.
The MMI Navigation uses Google Earth integration, which gives you a realistic view of your surroundings, as well as shows you a 3D panoramic aerial view. Along with SiriusXM Traffic, you get real time alerts and information of traffic conditions that you may face ahead. The S8 is also equipped with Wi-Fi, and is a rolling hot spot for whatever gadgets you happen to bring along…as if the car’s gadgets weren’t enough. The big Audi was optioned with the Driver Assistance Package that utilizes front and rear cameras, as well as side view cameras to help you navigate into parking spots in any area. Included in the Driver Assistance Package is the Adaptive Cruise control which will, get this, brake for you and come to a complete stop in traffic situations and then accelerate itself to the speed you selected. Yes, it really works, trust me! All you need to do is steer the car and it will do everything else itself. The feeling is almost unnerving knowing that you aren’t controlling anything. Audi may claim that it won’t fail but you won’t find me taking my foot off the brake anytime soon. They should rename it Autopilot and provide you with a R2 unit instead. As if that wasn’t cool enough, the tester was optioned with the Night Vision Assistant for pocket change ($2,300). If you are wondering if that is a night vision camera, it is. I guess Darth Vader likes stealth mode? I know I do. It isn’t meant for picking up other vehicles since it is meant to pick up organic objects such as people or animals that you may not have seen yet.
The thing I love about Audi’s cars are the clean, simple designs, especially in S trim. I’m not a huge fan of the A8, but the S model gives it a more aggressive look, complete with super sexy 21” wheels wrapped in 265/35 summer tires, twin-blade horizontal slats of the massive front grille, lower front side intakes to give it a lowered yet aggressive appearance, a rear diffuser, larger rocker sill moldings, aluminum mirror covers, and a four outlet exhaust system with dual pipes on either side of the car.
The thing I love about Audi’s cars are the clean, simple designs, especially in S trim.
The front headlights uses LED lighting to turn night time into a sunny afternoon. The rear tail lights follow in a similar fashion using all LEDs. The S8 badge adorns the trunk, as well as the massive matte black 6 piston front calipers that take up quite a bit of real estate, along with the massive 15.7” front rotors that sit behind those beautiful wheels. It is just a very elegant looking car that flies under the radar and doesn’t attract much attention, but gets quite a few stares.
Apart from the transmission not letting me shift to my liking, my only gripe is the engine/exhaust note, or rather the lack there of. From the outside and with the windows down, it sounds great. You get that nice V-8 burble, and a crackle and pop of the exhaust with each hard shift, but not much gets transmitted through to the cabin. Having the car set in Dynamic mode does little to enhance the sound of the car from the inside. In my opinion, a car with this much power and these looks needs to have a bit more auditory stimulation. It is very quiet in Dynamic mode, and almost coffin-like silent in Comfort. I think a louder note in Dynamic wouldn’t hurt the S8 or Audi’s image of an uber-luxury saloon. You still have the perfect cruiser that is luxurious and quiet, but you would also have that absolute maniacal persona, when set in Dynamic, that would please your inner Sith Lord. As for the fuel economy, no one ever said Di-Lithium crystals were ever fuel efficient, and this car isn’t meant to be a fuel miser. They have a 3.0L V-6 for those of you who want a fuel efficient A8. You have to be very easy on the throttle or the instant fuel economy readout will give dive immediately into the single digits.
I can’t help but think just how amazing this car is. Our tester broke the bank at $129,295, so it better be amazing.
As I was driving this car and even now as I sit and write this review, I can’t help but think just how amazing this car is. Our tester broke the bank at $129,295, so it better be amazing. The standard vehicle price is at $110,000, not including the mentioned $6,300 Bang & Olufsen System, Driver Assistance Package for $2,500, the Night Vision Assistant for $2,300 as well as a Full Leather Package for $5,500 and the Cold Weather Packge for $800. Destination charges add an extra $895 to round out to our total of just over $129K. The standard options list on this car is vomit inducing. It has stuff I never knew you could have in a car. I was actually surprised not seeing deflector shields or blasters on the list. I don’t have the resources to purchase a car like this but it does make me want to strive for a car like this someday. It’s not overly flashy, it doesn’t have wings or spoilers protruding from the body, it doesn’t have a wild paint job, and it may not have any steering feedback…but do you care about those things in a car like this? You are wrapped in luxury, power, prestige, and even a bit of exclusivity. This car does it all in my opinion. Do I recommend it? Absolutely! It is so ridiculous, you have to have one! I’m not convinced that there is another saloon out there that does everything that this car does so well. I can honestly say that this 25 year old JDM guy is turning into an Audi fan and he’s damn happy about it.
THE CAR FANATICS BLOG TAKE
If I only had the money….