What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Audi S8 returns to the lineup, sporting a twin-turbo V8 and all the luxury features one could want in a flagship luxury performance sedan.
After taking a few years off, Audi's big performance sedan returns stronger and quicker than ever. The 2013 Audi S8 features a twin-turbocharged V8, just like its S6 and S7 siblings. But in S8 trim, it makes considerably more power -- 520 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. That's enough muscle to (according to Audi) allow the S8 sprint to 60 mph in a blindingly quick 3.9 seconds. At 19 mpg for combined city/highway driving, the S8 is also relatively frugal with fuel, considering its size and blistering performance.
Naturally, the S8 is not some one-dimensional brute. Polished road manners come via a sport-tuned air suspension (with three levels of damping and five driver-selectable modes) that provides a comfortable ride and sporty handling. As with the regular A8 on which the S8 is based, aluminum is used extensively throughout the car's structure -- only the B-pillars are made of high-strength steel. As a result, the S8 weighs about 4,600 pounds, which isn't bad for a full-size, all-wheel-drive luxury sedan loaded up with luxury and safety features.
As expected, the S8 offers traditional Audi ambience within, boasting tasteful combinations of colors, textures and accents. Pampering features in this land-locked Lear jet include front seats that both cool and massage their occupants. The cabin's serenity is assured via dual-pane side windows and active noise cancellation (which uses the audio system to emit inaudible frequencies that cancel out tire and wind noise). All the better to enjoy the available 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system as it delivers 1,400 watts of enveloping sonic clarity.
Classy style, effortless performance and a pampering cabin are all requirements of a luxury performance sedan, and the 2013 Audi S8 has them all. Still, it has worthy rivals in the form of the 2013 Jaguar XJ Supersport and considerably more expensive 2013 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG. We could think of worse ways to spend a weekend than test-driving all three before making a decision.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Audi S8 is a luxury performance sedan that comes in a single trim level. Unlike the A8 on which it is based, the S8 does not offer the option of a longer-wheelbase variant.
Standard features include 21-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, LED headlights/turn signals/running lights, automatic high beams, top-view camera, front/rear park assist, headlight washers, a sunroof, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, a power trunk lid, soft-close power doors, keyless ignition/entry, diamond-stitched leather upholstery, four-zone automatic climate control, heated 22-way adjustable front seats (with power lumbar support, ventilation and massage functions), a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, aluminum and Carbon Atlas interior accents and power rear side/rear sunshades.
Electronic features include a navigation system, Audi's MMI electronics interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a Bose surround-sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and an iPod interface. Also included is Audi Connect (enhanced Web-based navigation, information and WiFi access).
Options include a number of packages. The Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and a rear-seat pass-through with ski bag. The Driver Assistance package features adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitor, a lane-departure warning system and Pre-sense plus (which alerts the driver if a potential collision is detected and automatically applies the brakes if necessary).
Individual option highlights include different wheel designs, a rear seat DVD entertainment system (with dual screens), night vision assist, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and various wood accents.
Powertrains and Performance
A twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with 520 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque powers the S8. Managing all this power are an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Audi claims the S8 can sprint from zero to 60 mph 3.9 seconds, which is even quicker than the company's speedy R8 exotic sports car. Equally impressive is the fact that this engine is 16 percent more powerful than the engine it replaces even as it delivers a peak improvement in fuel efficiency of 27 percent. Thanks to a very refined example of cylinder deactivation technology, the S8 is capable of 15 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment on the 2013 Audi S8 includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, front and rear parking sensors, a top-view camera, front-seat side airbags, rear-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front knee airbags.
Blind-spot and lane departure systems are optional, as is the Audi Pre-sense Plus system, which can warn the driver and automatically activate the brakes and adjust the front seats for maximum protection if a crash is deemed imminent.
Interior Design and Special Features
As it is based on Audi's flagship A8, the S8 is expectedly dressed in the finest materials. A clean design with superb fit and finish helps affirm that this is simply one of the finest cabins in any luxury sedan, regardless of cost.
Comfort is as important as performance in the S8. The front seats adjust 20 ways to Sunday, and ensure that drivers of any size or shape will find an ideal position to motor away countless miles. Rear-seat comfort is also noteworthy, with plenty of legroom even for taller passengers.
For technophiles, Audi's Multi Media Interface provides a long list of functions through a crystal-clear display. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you are acclimated, the task of coordinating the various systems becomes second nature. The unique remote touchpad, which doubles as a radio preset panel, might seem like a novelty at first, but it proves to be as useful as it is cool. And to greatly reduce parking stress, the top-view camera uses four cameras to form a single composite image in the 8-inch console display.
The one glaring fault we can find in the S8 is its surprising lack of trunk space. At a paltry 13.2 cubic feet, the cargo capacity is less than that of many compact sedans and not nearly adequate to accommodate luggage for four adults.
There's no question here about speed, as the 2013 Audi S8 is blindingly quick. Just like the twin-turbo V8 BMW uses for its 7 Series, this Audi V8 spools up to speed so quickly that you'd never guess this to be a forced-induction power plant. The eight-speed automatic transmission heightens the effect by quickly and seamlessly cycling through the ratios. All-wheel drive, upgraded brakes and high-performance tires complete the package.
Yet the real magic here lies in the S8's ability to drive slowly. The standard air suspension filters out the harshness from the low-profile 21-inch tires, while the engine's cylinder-deactivation system enhances mpg even as noise cancellation technology keeps you from noticing its operation. In the end, the 2013 Audi S8 furnishes high-speed cross-country transportation that's so refined you can hear every musical note played through the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system.