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- Stupefying performance
- Dazzling infotainment
- Deep Valcona buckets
- Did we mention the twin-turbo V-8?
- Settles down plenty
- Very plain exterior
- Lots of options
- $1,000 more this year, because why?
The 2017 Audi S8 is the super sedan by which others are measured.
The 2017 Audi S8 is the automaker's uber-sedan and the ultimate "sleeper" performance machine: that straight-laced, conservative four-door hotel shuttle can run up to 60 mph faster than a Porsche 911.
For 2017, the S8 carries over almost wholly unchanged, except for the price. Starting at $116,850 ($1,055 more than last year), the 2017 Audi S8 is the only version of the A8 to be offered as a short-wheelbase sedan—the A8 3.0T and 4.0T are long-wheelbase only.
The S8 is a rival to other high-powered versions of European full-sizers, including the Jaguar XJR, Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, and BMW's Alpina-tuned B7. The Lexus LS 460 F-Sport could be thrown into the mix too, in terms of relative comfort.
It earns an 8.2 overall on our ratings scale thanks to its breathtaking performance and features. Equally breathtaking? Its price and fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
The Audi S8 is the most conservatively styled sedan of the bunch (against the Lexus LS, that's saying something) but that's been part of its appeal. Since it exploded in the film "Ronin" the Audi S8 has been a wolf in sheep's clothing; its anodyne curves belie the giant twin-turbocharged V-8 underneath.
Few indications from the outside hint at what's underneath. The performance sedan doesn't concern itself with grabbing attention as much as it places an emphasis on subtle luxury touches. LED lights, dark trim, and big 21-inch wheels along with small S8 badges are the only outward indicators of its position—quad oval tailpipes are the only overt indicators.
Inside, the S8 proudly wears Audi's taste for elegance and design: it's a lavish cabin with soft leather and breathtaking shades of black, gray, and brown hides.
The real jewelry is tucked away beneath the S8's panels, atop its aluminum space-frame body. Under the hood is the Audi's twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V-8. It shares bore centers and stroke with the lower-output version—but higher boost pressures help it deliver 605 horsepower, far and above the lesser version's 450 hp. Torque differences are less, at 517 pound-feet versus 444 lb-ft.
In the S8, Audi says the combination of the turbo V-8 and a brilliantly responsive 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, will deliver 0-60 mph times of 3.7 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, or optionally increased to 190 mph. Those figures are more than a half-second and 60 mph better than the non-S V-8.
All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard equipment on every S8 and is one of the sedan's hallmarks. Audi's AWD system (which it calls "quattro") helps put the 4.0-liter's mighty 605 hp to the pavement via ample 21-inch wheels when you need it. Otherwise, the S8's adaptive dampers and air springs help keep the sedan calm when you're not pressing the issue.
Summon the 605 horses (or near-about) and the S8 springs into life; it's quick to respond to steering, throttle, and braking through the electric steering rack down to the standard summer tires. Excellent and super-sized ventilated brakes provide excellent arresting power. It's what we want every $115,000 sedan to feel like.
Like other Audis, a Drive Select system marshals the car's potential. Select from Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual, and Efficiency modes to dictate steering heft, throttle response, shift speed, suspension damping, and rear differential activity. The drive modes are controlled through Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) 7.0-inch display controlled via rotary dial. (Trust us, Dynamic is the way to go, as much for the swift powertrain response as it is for the settled ride.)
The MMI system can be controlled via voice commands, steering wheel controls, or Audi's MMI touchpad, which is designed to recognize commands entered in Palm Pilot-style hieroglyphics. It's not the most efficient system on first blush, but it gets better. Rich, detailed Google maps are shown via the car's T-Mobile data connection (monthly subscription rates apply) and integrated wireless hotspot capability turns the S8 into the world's fastest office—in our eyes.
Comfort, safety, and features
The S8 only falls down in its short wheelbase. The 14.2 cubic feet of trunk space is unusually small for its class and rear seat leg room is fairly cramped compared to long wheelbase versions.
There are a handful of optional trims and accessories, but we wouldn't pass up the S8's sublime Bang & Olufsen sound system that packs 19 speakers and 1,400 watts into the cabin, including small tweeters in the dash that dramatically rise when the car is started.
Predictably, fuel economy in the S8 isn't great. The EPA rated the 2017 Audi S8 at 15 mpg city, 24 highway, 18 combined.