What's New for 2008
The 2008 Audi S8 receives minor upgrades. The exterior sees restyled foglights and taillights as well as side mirror-mounted turn signals, while the cabin receives more aluminum accents and the addition of satellite radio and heated rear seats to the standard features list.
Get a bunch of wealthy car enthusiasts talking about ultra-performance sedans and they'll typically start spewing four-letter...well, just four letters: AMG and M. The former refers to Mercedes-Benz's in-house tuning division and the latter to BMW's. However, there's another letter worthy of inclusion among those "19th hole" conversations: S. As in Audi's S badge, which signifies a performance-enhanced version of a given model.
Having been around more than a few years now, Audi's S team has baked up a number of sweet automotive pastries, among them the S8. Certainly the 2008 Audi S8 is most tempting, as it comes stuffed with a Lamborghini-derived V10 engine along with a roomy, handsome cabin and every luxury feature one could want.
The S8 is a high-performance version of the standard-wheelbase A8 (as opposed to the longer "L" version), and sends its 450 horsepower to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission and Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Car geeks may note that the V10's peak output isn't as high as it is in the high-strung Lambo Gallardo, as it has been tuned for a broader powerband that's better suited to a luxury car. No worries about performance -- this executive express can sprint to 60 mph in the mid-5-second range and will effortlessly run at autobahn speeds all day long.
More than just a powerhouse engine, the S8's features list also includes a sport-tuned adjustable air suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, upgraded brakes, unique styling tweaks (including distinctive front and rear fascias) and aggressively bolstered, multiadjustable front sport seats.
Of course, potential buyers will want to look at all their options. Hardcore driving enthusiasts will probably gravitate toward a BMW Alpina B7, which boasts blistering performance along with sports-car handling. Mercedes-Benz offers the S63 AMG with more than 500 hp, though like the B7, it's considerably more expensive than the Audi S8. If quietly clicking off miles at a rapid clip is more one's style than clipping apexes, there is the Jaguar XJR, which charms with its classic styling and plush cabin. With its sexy Italian style and Ferrari-sourced V8, the Maserati Quattroporte is another strong choice.
The 2008 Audi S8 sits squarely in the middle of this group, not as overly sporty as the B7, though more so than the Jaguar. Compared to all but the XJR, the S8 lists for around $20 to $30 grand less. In the real world of city traffic and a 70 mph maximum speed limit, the finely crafted Audi S8 doesn't give much away to its pricier rivals. And let's face it; those well-to-do folks chatting it up at the country club didn't get to be that way by ignoring value.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Audi S8 is a high-performance version of Audi's A8 luxury sedan. The S8 comes one way -- loaded. Standard features include unique front and rear fascias, 20-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon adaptive HID headlights, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity. Additional standard features include a sunroof, a power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, auto-dimming mirrors, two-tone leather seating, heated/power front seats, heated rear seats and a Bose audio system (with satellite radio and a glovebox-mounted CD changer).
Options include keyless start, adaptive cruise control, rear climate control, a premium Bang & Olufsen audio system, front-and-rear park assist with a back-up camera, power door-close assist, upgraded leather upholstery and a power rear sunshade.
Powertrains and Performance
The Audi S8's 5.2-liter V10 makes 450 hp and 398 pound-feet of torque. That thrust is sent to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission that allows manual gearchanges via paddles behind the steering wheel. We've clocked the 0-60-mph sprint in 5.6 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and a full complement of airbags (side curtain, front-seat side, rear-seat side and dual front knee) are all standard. A front and rear park-assist system is optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
Beautifully designed and furnished, the Audi S8's interior is hard to fault. Alcantara covers the ceiling and rear package shelf, and along with leather, aluminum and wood accents lends a sumptuous feel to the cabin. Double-paned side windows contribute to the hushed ride while devouring interstates, while the 16-way adjustable sport seats provide long-trip comfort and twisty road support in equal measure. Audi's MMI (Multi Media Interface) control for the climate and audio systems is fairly intuitive, unlike the systems in its homeland competitors. Trunk capacity stands at 15 cubic feet, while a ski pass-through adds versatility.
Crack the whip and the V10 engine pulls hard from idle to redline without letting up. The power delivery is so linear that the performance is deceiving -- the S8 is even quicker than it feels. The automatic provides smooth and quick changes, although it can hesitate a bit when prodded for a downshift. Take matters into your own hands via the steering-wheel shift paddles and the transmission responds quickly to your commands.
The S8 rides slightly lower on a sportier variation of the A8's adaptive air suspension. It still offers four suspension profiles to choose from -- Automatic, Comfort, Dynamic and Lift -- but each level rides a bit firmer compared to the standard A8 setup. In any mode, the handling is confident with minimal body roll, and the ride quality is impressive, especially for a car wearing 20-inch alloy wheels.
The only dynamic downside to the 2008 Audi S8 is brake pedal feel. Though the S8 certainly has capable stoppers (halting the 4,600-pound sedan in 112 feet from 60 mph), brake pedal feel is too soft upon initial application and somewhat out of step with the solid, confidence-inspiring sensation of the chassis as a whole.