As Spring was arriving fast and summer was not arriving rapidly enough, we decided to test drive a luxury vehicle that is capable in any weather. The new Audi S8 left an extremely positive impression when we first saw it at the Ingolstad plants in Germany a few days prior to its 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show reveal. Since then, the car has raised a stir thanks to its very high-quality interior design and incredible performance. Although during our test drive we had a snow storm and the car had studded winter tires that limited our test drive, it was obvious that the S8 is a rocket.
Appearance and interior
The aggressive-looking and highly-efficient LED Matrix headlights dominate the appearance from the front and the gliding indicator lights familiar from the Audi R8 sportscar give it a very modern and stylish appearance. Unlike with the Audi A7 and Porsche Panamera, this car does not only look good in real life, but the S8 is also very photogenic. The silver mirrors exclusive to the S-models are the first clue that this is a very special A8. In the rear its potential is emphasized by the pleasant rumble of the potent V8 engine. The appearance of the S8 hints of performance potential, but nothing prepares the driver for how potent this car really is.
The car is also very practical, as it is a 5-seater. At first, it seems that the car can accommodate only two in the rear, but surprisingly the rear center console can be conveniently raised to accommodate one more passenger. We believe that luxury limousines should always have three rear seats even if the middle seat is not very comfortable. It is hilarious that these 5 meter long wagons often can accommodate as many passengers as a Porsche 911 (2+2). That said, with the rear console lowered, the back seats offer a comfortable and luxurious environment for rear seat passengers. The rear seats cannot be tilted for more cargo space and that reminds us that this is no family wagon. The wide center console divides the car in half and gives each passenger their own peace and provides high class passenger comfort. In heavy traffic and when driving long distances the driver and passenger are pampered by a large variety of massage options, making the Audi S8 seats an excellent place to be in. The cabin comfort is on par with the class leader, the new Mercedes-Benz S-class.
Driveability and performance
As you start the 520 horsepower 4.0- liter V8 biturbo, the driver is rewarded by a pleasant low growl. The 8-speed automatic transmission works like a dream and it is understandable why all the dual-clutch gearboxes are slowly being replaced in the Audi lineup with the 8-speed automatic gearbox. In the manual mode gear changes are immediate and in the automatic mode one doesn’t notice its function at all. The rapid gas response and the cornering capabilities of the S8 are impressive. While the back seats are nice, we strongly urge you to drive this car yourself. Even the brakes didn’t show signs of fatigue and performed perfectly even under rapid driving. In fact, even though we thought we would never take such car to the track, we have to admit that this car impressed us so thoroughly that we actually considered it. The image of an S8 going at 160 km/h in a bend, keeping up with a few years old Ferrari while the driver is listening to Mozart from the high quality Bang and Olufsen speakers and enjoying a shoulder massage underneath the race helmet, is comical. However, we have no doubt that this car would be able to do that. Because of the studded tires and winter storm we only had one go at the 0-100 km/h acceleration figures. The result of 4 seconds flat confirmed our suspicions that this luxury limo can keep up with the fastest supersedans and even sportscars in a straight line. Amazing!
The Audi S8 has the same basic annoyances as all Audis have: the front parking sensors must be activated manually, the cruise control speed can be adjusted only with 10 km/h increments, the auto hold function is reset every time you start, and the speed limit display shows the speed incorrectly surprisingly often. But these issues were the only criticism we could find in this car in addition to the high base price caused by the unique Finnish car taxation system. However, the S8 is such a ridiculously good package that the small imperfections are forgotten immediately once you press the accelerator pedal. The S8’s performance is difficult to describe, it is that impressive. We, however, know now why there is no Audi RS8. This car is it for all intents and purposes. It is obvious that the engine produces a lot more horsepower than the promised 520 hp and owners of BMW M, AUDI RS and Mercedes-Benz AMG models need to be awake if they see a S8 alongside.
This car is a unique combination of power, luxury, and elegance masked by it’s subtle appearance. We believe that supersedan lovers who have had to compromise comfort, a long equipment list and luxury for performance, may be interested in the S8 in the luxury car category. Although we love the autobahn sedans, with age one learns to appreciate a long list of options and the car class earlier affiliated mainly to old wealthy men is quickly experiencing a transition, as car companies produce more and more of these high performance luxury limousines. We have yet to test drive the new Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MATIC, but we believe the S8 will interest a whole new customer base and we hope its success will force BMW to make a M-model of the 7-series. We had great difficulty in returning this Audi S8, as it delivered everything we asked of it and more.
0-100 km/h: 4.0s (One try, studded tires, a full tank and 2 passengers without launch control! )
Test consumption: 15.1 l/100 km