2018 Audi S8

7.8
2018 Audi S8

The Basics:

MSRP: $116,875

The 2018 Audi S8 is a speed machine that's the ultimate sleeper. Spot one and stare—it'll likely be gone just as quickly.

Horsepower: 605 hp

MPG: Up to 15 mpg city/24 highway

Dimensions: 203 “ L x 77” W x 58” H

Curb Weight: 4,685 lbs

The 2018 Audi S8 is an all-wheel-drive miracle: more than two tons move up to 60 mph in less than four seconds in splendid luxury.

The S8 is serious about performance and serious about its price. It earns a 7.4 on our overall scale thanks to its handling and acceleration, plus a superlative set of features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The 2018 Audi S8 stands pat this year without any major changes. It’s a rival for high-performance sedans such as the BMW B7 Alpina, Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, and Jaguar XJR.

The Audi S8 is the only way to get a short-wheelbase version of the A8, and the S8 is the version we prefer, not only because it’s very fast, but also because it’s discreet and still luxurious.

The twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 is shared with the A8, but uprated to 605 horsepower in the S8 and 517 pound-feet of torque. It’s still mated to an 8-speed automatic, which does its job by skillfully getting out of the way of power hitting the pavement. We cover the A8 separately.

A standard all-wheel-drive system, which Audi calls Quattro, air suspension, and adaptive dampers channel power through 21-inch wheels.

It’s equipped like a luxury sedan, but the S8 is firmly a driver-centric car. With that in mind, the S8 is better behind the wheel; you wouldn’t know by looking at the outside that the S8 rivaled high-priced exotics in terms of power.

The EPA rates the S8 at 14 mpg city, 24 highway, 18 combined. There are more fuel-efficient cars on the road today, but very few of them hold the same court as the S8.

The 2018 Audi S8’s best features lay underneath its body panels.

The anodyne curves belie its performance underneath, but the interior is still one of our favorites.

We give it a 7 out of 10 for an excellent interior, similar to the A8. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Small cues, such as 21-inch wheels, LED headlights, quad oval tailpipes, and a half-inch shaved from the sedan’s overall height signal the S8’s intentions.

A decklid spoiler is a subtle indicator that the S8 has sporting intentions. The A8’s shape is drama-free, which may appeal to luxury buyers, but it leaves the S8 feeling a little less than special.

Inside, the S8 wears its luxury badges well with sumptuous leather, twill, and low-gloss trim that raises nearly as many eyebrows as the S8’s performance.

 

Under the hood of the S8 a compact twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 spins out 605 horsepower and 517 pound-feet of torque. It’s breathtaking in its execution and its power density. An 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive, adaptive dampers, and air suspension fill out the starting lineup of a sedan that is nearly perfect.

It earns a 9 out of 10 on our performance scale for its power, precision, and personality.

First things first. The S8’s potent powertrain is shared with the 4.0T version of the A8, but the S8’s bigger boost comes on stronger to add more than 150 horsepower.

That power is dumped down the driveline via an 8-speed automatic equipped with paddle shifters that gets its own tuning from the A8 to keep the performance sedan from tearing itself to pieces.

Standard all-wheel drive, which Audi calls Quattro, metes the power in a 40/60, front-to-rear ratio at takeoff and rockets the Teutonic sled up to 60 mph in less than four seconds.

We like the customizability of the standard air suspension, which is dialed in via Audi’s Drive Select mode. Toggling between Comfort, Dynamic, and Efficiency modes is simple and quick—an Auto mode does the thinking for us.

Call the 605 horses into action and the S8 springs forward off the line. Standard summer tires grip the road without feeling flinty on big 21-inch wheels, and the electric power-assisted steering provides nice weight at speed and is quick to respond to inputs.

The standard suspension setup on the S8 is impressive; fully independent five-link up front and trapezoidal rear link in back make things interesting, while a standard rear sport differential traces a tighter line around corners.

 

Admittedly, the 2018 Audi S8’s first mission isn’t comfort.

Unlike the A8, the S8 has a shorter wheelbase and therefore a smaller space for rear seat passengers.

Its trunk isn’t the biggest in its class either, and we arrive at a 7 out of 10 for comfort with one points above average for excellent fit and finish and another for superb front-seat appointments. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

By the numbers, the S8 sports 38.7 inches of rear leg room, but that can be deceiving. The plush front seats in the S8 aren’t scalloped very deeply, and tall drivers and passengers can cramp rear riders with the seats pushed back all the way.

Similarly, the 14.2 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk isn’t as big as some other full-size sedans, but we’re guessing none of them can carry gear as quickly.

Like the A8 on which it’s based, the S8 hasn’t yet been rated by federal testers nor the IIHS.

Considering its low volume and high price, that’s not likely to change anytime soon either.

We’re withholding our safety score from the S8, but we’re not holding our breath. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The S8 is built on an aluminum spaceframe, like the A8, that is both light and strong. It also features a full complement of airbags and traction control systems to keep it on the road.

And we highly suggest that you keep it on the road—it's better there.

 

The S8 starts life as a luxurious A8, but with more go-fast bits.

Summarily, the S8 can be equipped with sumptuous leather, exotic audio, and advanced safety.

It won’t get any self-driving features, which is why we stop short of a perfect score for features. It earns a 9 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The infotainment duties are handled by Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) 7.0-inch display controlled via rotary dial.

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 data connection (monthly subscription rates apply) and integrated wireless hotspot capability turns the S8 into the world's fastest office—in our eyes.

The S8 is equipped as standard with a sunroof, Alcantara headliner, 22-way adjustable front seats, four-zone automatic climate control, power sunshades, Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats...you get the picture.

Its well-equipped as standard and gets better, for a lot more money. Among our faves: A sport package increases the top speed to 190 mph and adds carbon ceramic brakes for $11,000. A $6,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system is better than being there live.

 

 

 

The 2018 Audi S8 isn't exactly frugal when it comes to using fuel—not many 605-horsepower sedans are.

The EPA says it manages 14 mpg city, 24 highway, 18 combined. That's good enough for only a 5 out of 10 on our fuel-efficiency scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Considering its sizable weight and prodigious power, that's not bad. Other high-priced sedans do better, but those are usually hybrids. Many others do much worse.

Buying Tips:

If the $116,000 starting price doesn’t turn your stomach, spring for Bang & Olufsen audio and carbon ceramic brakes for $17,000 more. Costs the same as a Yaris, but way more fun.

Other Choices:

  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz S Class
  • 2018 BMW 7-Series
  • 2018 Jaguar XJ
  • 2018 Lexus LS

Reason Why:

The Audi S8 competes in rarefied air with the BMW Alpina 7 and Mercedes-AMG S63. Both are newer cars with updated tech, but all three are relatively on par when it comes to performance. None of the three are particularly flashy, but the S8 is even more subdued—almost to a fault. The Jaguar XJR and Lexus LS F-Sport may not turn the same lap times, but they can turn heads. There’s not a bad pick among them, but the Lexus is quickly approaching a newer version.

The Bottom Line:

The 2018 Audi S8 is a speed machine that's the ultimate sleeper. Spot one and stare—it'll likely be gone just as quickly.

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