New & Used Audi S8: In Depth
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The Audi S8, unlike other variants of the big A8, is offered only in short-wheelbase form. It is the quickest, if not the most expensive, version of the German automaker's A8 sedan. Audi added the S8 to its lineup in the late 1990s, and the current car is the third iteration.
MORE: Read our 2016 Audi A8 / S8 review
The first Audi S8 was introduced in Europe in 1997 but took until the 2001 model year to arrive in U.S. showrooms. Priced from $72,500, this S8 set the pattern for all future performance derivatives spun off from Audi's unique, aluminum space-frame sedan. The first edition packed a 360-horsepower V-8 engine and standard all-wheel drive; American-market cars were only offered with an automatic transmission. The higher-output model was distinguished by "S" badging, added aluminum trim, and more standard luxury features, as well as 18-inch wheels. The first S8 had a short run in the U.S., since that generation of A8 sedan went out of production in the fall of 2002.
The A8 was redesigned in that year, but it wouldn't be until 2007 that Audi would bring its second S8 to American drivers. The wait was worth it: instead of a V-8 engine underhood, the S8 bore a mighty, Lamborghini-derived V-10 engine. At 5.2 liters of displacement, the engine generated an awe-inspiring 450 hp at 7000 rpm in the S8 and 398 lb-ft of torque, only slightly down from Lambo spec, all shuffled to the tires via a Tiptronic six-speed automatic. Quattro all-wheel drive had variable torque distribution, with a rolling 40:60 split, with the ability to move up to 85 percent of the torque to the rear, or as much as 65 percent to the front.
The S8’s transmission, steering, chassis, adaptive air suspension, and brakes were upgraded compared to the rest of the A8 line, and it rolled on beefy 20-inch alloy wheels wearing 265/35 R20 high-performance (three-season) tires. Audi offered a carbon-fiber-trimmed interior, while its Multi Media Interface (MMI) system came standard.
After ending that S8 model run in the 2009 model year, Audi once again put the uber-sedan on hold, this time until the 2013 model year. The latest Audi S8 has reverted back to V-8 form, but it hasn't lost any performance--it's more powerful, in fact, thanks to a 4.0-liter V-8 with twin turbocharging and 520 horsepower, as well as 481 pound-feet of torque. Via standard all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic, the S8 can drop 0–60 mph times of 3.9 seconds while delivering 19 miles per gallon on the EPA's combined cycle.
This third-generation S8 features Audi's Drive Select control system, which allows the driver to choose one of two preset profiles—Comfort or Dynamic—an Auto mode that decides for you, or the Individual setup that allows the driver to select different parameters separately. Drive Select affects things like suspension tuning, steering weight, throttle response, transmission shift points, the torque vectoring Sport Differential, and even the level of exhaust sound.
The S8 returned for the 2014 model year with few changes, and carried over into 2015 intact. You can still connect to the Web through Audi Connect, see beautiful Google Earth maps on the navigation system, and bathe in stunning Bang & Olufsen audio.