Used 2002 Audi S8 Review

Edmunds expert 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 for 2002

The S8 is Audi's high-performance version of the flagship A8. For 2002, Audi has made an in-dash six-disc CD changer standard, and an OnStar telematics system and a tire-pressure monitor optional fare. It has also improved the stability control system and updated the navigation system software. New exterior and interior colors round out the changes.

Vehicle overview

Audi is making a dedicated effort toward bringing more performance-oriented cars to American consumers. The S8 is a massaged 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 motor 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 pound-feet 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 modifications make the S8 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 automanual transmission and quattro, Audi's all-wheel-drive system. Additionally, Electronic Differential Locking (EDL) provides low-speed traction control and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) corrects understeer and oversteer. 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 constructed 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 5 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 seat, exterior mirrors, driver headrest height and steering wheel position. An in-dash six-disc CD changer stores all your tunes. 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.