Used 2001 Audi S8 Review

Want to drive the hero car from the movie Ronin instead of the BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class? This is it -- minus the dual-tank nitrous system.




what's new

The S8 is Audi's new high-performance version of the flagship A8. It's armed with more horsepower, a stiffer suspension and more powerful brakes. As with other 2001 A8s, the 2001 S8 has the Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) and the new multifunctional steering wheel as standard equipment.

vehicle overview

Audi is making a dedicated effort towards bringing more performance-oriented car to United States consumers. This trend started in 2000 with the S4, and it continues in 2001 with the new S8.

The S8 is a high-performance version of Audi's flagship luxury sedan, the A8.At the heart of the S8 is a five-valve, 4.2-liter V8 engine. Its modifications over the standard A8's engine include optimized intake paths, a new two-stage variable intake manifold, revised camshafts and a free flowing exhaust system. Thanks to these improvements, the S8's engine makes 360 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 317 foot-pounds of torque at 3,400 rpm. Other performance enhancements on the S8 include larger brakes, 18-inch wheels and a stiffer suspension.

All of these improvements make the S8 even more fun to drive than the A8. This doesn't mean that the S8 has lost any of its real-world edge, however. It is still equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission and Quattro, Audi's all-wheel-drive system. Additionally, Electronic Differential Locking (EDL) provides low-speed traction control operating through the standard antilock braking system (ABS). Electronic Braking-Pressure Distribution (EBD) is included with the ABS system, and ensures that maximum braking capacity can be utilized whenever needed, regardless of road or load conditions.

Like the A8, the S8's body structure is made out of aluminum and is designed to provide lighter weight, superior structural rigidity, improved handling and responsiveness, better fuel efficiency and easier recycling. For safety, the S8 has dual-stage front airbags and side airbags for front and rear outboard occupants. Audi's Sideguard head airbag system consists of inflatable curtain airbags installed in the headliner along each side of the car, which cover the windows in the event of an accident and remain inflated for five seconds to protect the head in case the vehicle rolls over.

Inside, drivers will find an interior slathered in real wood and Valcona leather upholstery. Front seats (with more supportive bolstering than the A8's seats) are power adjustable in 14 different ways, and a memory feature accommodates four different settings for the driver's seat, exterior mirrors, driver's headrest height and steering wheel position. The steering wheel tilts out of the way when the key is removed from the ignition. The automatic dual-zone temperature controls employ two sunlight sensors to help maintain accuracy.

With 360 horsepower, the S8 is aimed directly at other high-performance luxury sedans like the Jaguar XJR and the Mercedes-Benz S55. The S8 is shy on torque compared to these cars, but its all-wheel drive, lightweight structure, and long list of standard equipment should prove desirable enough to make it a worthy competitor.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.