Sporty, Sophisticated, and Subtle
Decisions, decisions. Audi’s bumper crop of new offerings forced the Robb Report editors to choose between the RS5, S7, and S8—each the best variant of its respective model—as the carmaker’s entrant for the Car of the Year contest. Each was worthy indeed of participating in the competition, but the S8 seemed the best choice for showcasing Audi’s technology, craftsmanship, and charisma.
The previous S8, which Audi retired in 2010, used the pugnacious V-10 that is familiar to R8 and Lamborghini Gallardo drivers. The latest S8 is powered by the company’s new 4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. It is the same engine found in a fellow Car of the Year contestant, Bentley’s Continental GT V8. This powerplant is more tractable than the V-10—not so brutal in its delivery of power off the line. It provides ample power and torque, and it is efficient. The engine-management system deactivates four of the eight cylinders during highway driving to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
Straight-line performance and excellent handling are expected from any six-figure sedan, and the S8 does not disappoint. While not as hard-edged and purpose-built as, for instance, BMW’s M5, the big Audi is a true driver’s car. The S8 offers sporting luxury, with an emphasis on luxury, but this is Audi’s take on luxury. The interior is refined and understated, not opulent and exaggerated. The forms and surfaces will appeal to those who appreciate the design of a Bang & Olufsen entertainment system or a Gaggenau oven.
While a fully decked A8 W12 can cost close to $200,000, the S8 must be counted a relative bargain in the universe of high-end sedans.
Configuration Front-engine, all-wheel-drive sedan Engine 4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 Transmission 8-speed automatic Power 520 hp at 6,000 rpm Torque 481 ft lbs at 1,700–5,500 rpm Curb weight 4,641 pounds Zero to 60 mph 3.9 seconds Top speed 155 mph Base price $110,000 Audi, www.audiusa.com