2016 Audi S8 Review
Pros & Cons
- Staggeringly quick acceleration that pins you in the seat
- handles more like a car half its size
- cutting-edge technology features that keep you connected
- refined cabin with top-notch materials throughout
- standard all-wheel drive gives it solid all-weather capability.
- Only comes in short-wheelbase version with less rear legroom
- small trunk for this segment.
Edmunds' Expert Review
There are plenty of high-end luxury sedans, but there are few four-doors like the 2016 Audi S8. It packs an incredible turbocharged V8 that you'll never get tired of tapping into, and an interior that you won't want to leave. If you can afford the buy-in, this is a luxury sedan that we think is worth every penny. Read on to see why.
That the 2016 Audi S8 will outrun a Corvette to 60 mph says something about the potency of this modern performance sedan. That it rides as calmly and quietly as the sedate A8 on which it's based says something about Audi.
The S8's dominant trait is no doubt its 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 engine, which provides 520 horsepower in the "base" model or a truly astonishing 605 hp in the new S8 Plus. We've clocked the regular S8 at just 3.6 seconds from zero to 60 mph, and Audi says the S8 Plus should be a few tenths quicker. But the all-wheel-drive S8 represents far more than just an engine swap. Adjustable air springs and dampers coupled with military-grade steering precision shrink this large sedan to fit all but the tightest roads, yet the ride remains eminently civilized, as noted. It's this masterful all-around capability that sets the S8 apart.
There are competitors, most of which are bigger. When it comes to performance and driving reward, the 2016 Porsche Panamera is the S8's toughest rival. Offering multiple engines, two wheelbases and the option of all-wheel drive, it's a serious sedan. The supersized player in the segment is the 2016 Mercedes-AMG S63. The S-Class offers almost 7 additional inches between its wheels, which is worth considering in a class that's as much about comfort as it is performance. We also recommend the 2016 Jaguar XJR, which packs a stirring 550-hp supercharged V8. But any rival will have its hands full against the exceptional 2016 Audi S8.
2016 Audi S8 models
The 2016 Audi S8 is a high-performance full-size luxury sedan offered in a base and Plus trim levels. The standard A8 sedan offers a long-wheelbase variant (A8L), but the S8 comes solely with the short wheelbase.
Standard features on the S8 include 21-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, a sport-tuned adaptive air suspension, full LED exterior lighting (headlights, foglights, taillights and turn signals), automatic high-beam control, a top-view parking camera system with front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, a power trunklid, soft-close power doors, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, keyless ignition and entry, diamond-stitched leather upholstery, four-zone automatic climate control, 22-way multicontour front seats (with massage, heating and ventilation functions), a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and power rear side and rear window sunshades. Audi Drive Select allows tuning of the steering weight, suspension, throttle and transmission calibrations.
Infotainment features include a driver information center with a 7-inch screen between the gauges, a head-up display, Audi's Multi Media Interface ( MMI) infotainment system with voice control and handwriting-recognition technology and an 8-inch central screen, a navigation system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 14-speaker, 630-watt Bose surround-sound audio system with a CD player, DVD player, satellite radio, HD radio and an iPod interface. Also standard are Audi Connect (including enhanced web-based navigation and information services, plus mobile Wi-Fi capability), blind-spot monitoring and a basic collision mitigation system that includes pre-collision preparation measures and secondary automatic braking after a collision has been detected.
The Plus model adds a more powerful version of the V8 engine, different 21-inch wheels with slightly wider tires, sportier suspension and steering tuning, a rear lip spoiler and a black Alcantara (synthetic suede) headliner.
Some S8 options are grouped into packages. The Driver Assistance package features adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go functionality) and a more advanced collision mitigation system (Pre Sense Plus) with automatic pre-collision braking and active lane keeping assist. The Cold Weather package includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and a rear seat pass-through. The Full Leather package extends the already generous standard leather upholstery, while the Audi Design Selection packages include the Full Leather package and bundle unique trim elements into cohesive interior treatments.
Offered solely on the S8 Plus are a Black Optic package (providing various gloss-black exterior accents and darkened taillights) and a Dynamic package that includes ceramic brake rotors, a carbon-fiber rear lip spoiler, a sport exhaust and a top-speed increase to 190 mph.
Individual option highlights include different wheel designs, a rear-seat entertainment system (with dual screens and an additional MMI control panel), night-vision assist (with pedestrian and animal detection) and a 19-speaker, 1,400-watt Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system.
Performance & mpg
Powering the 2016 Audi S8 is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 in one of two states of tune. The base S8 is rated at 520 horsepower and 517 pound-feet of torque. The S8 Plus raises its game to 605 hp and 517 lb-ft of torque (553 lb-ft in brief "overboost" spurts when you floor it). Either way, an eight-speed automatic transmission drives all four wheels through a standard all-wheel-drive system.
In Edmunds instrumented testing, the base S8 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, an extremely quick time for any car, let alone one this large. Even so, the S8 somehow manages a respectable EPA fuel economy estimate of 19 mpg combined (15 city/25 highway). Only a select few cars are as fast and frugal as Audi's largest performance sedan.
Standard safety features for the 2016 Audi S8 include antilock disc brakes, stability control, front and rear parking sensors, a top- and corner-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, collision alert (which detects potential collisions and engages certain passenger protection features), front seat side airbags, rear seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, and Pre Sense Basic and Rear (providing pre-crash vehicle preparation and post-crash automatic braking).
Optional via the Driver Assistance package is a collision mitigation system (Pre Sense Plus) that monitors traffic and alerts the driver if it detects a potential collision. It can then apply the brakes (to a standstill when the vehicle speed is below 20 mph) if a collision seems imminent and the driver hasn't reacted. Lane keeping assist is also included in the package.
Night-vision assist is also available as a stand-alone option.
In Edmunds brake testing, an S8 equipped with the standard summer tires and cast-iron brakes came to a stop from 60 mph in 105 feet. This is a very good distance for an elite sedan, though the Audi's brake pedal feel doesn't inspire as much confidence as some rivals. The pedal travel is surprisingly long, and the pedal itself is surprisingly soft. In a performance sedan of this caliber, we'd expect a shorter-travel brake pedal with a firmer feel. Though we haven't tested them yet, the Dynamic Package's ceramic brakes may feel and perform better.
Forget big-sedan standards. The 2016 Audi S8 is blindingly fast by any standard. The turbocharged V8 spools up so quickly that you almost forget it's a forced-induction powerplant. The eight-speed automatic transmission heightens the effect by quickly and seamlessly cycling through the ratios, though the trade-off is a lack of smoothness in some situations. Use the manual paddle shifters to select gears yourself and you'll be rewarded with throttle blips on downshifts. We also like the electronically adjustable settings (Audi Drive Select) for the chassis and engine calibration, as they provide a useful degree of driver customization. The V8 engine sounds mean yet subdued when you put the pedal to the floor, and when you're cruising along at highway speeds, it settles into near silence.
With its standard all-wheel-drive system, well-tuned suspension and crisp steering response, the S8 handles like a smaller, lighter sedan. It's only around truly tight turns that you'll be reminded of the car's substantial size and weight, but even so, the S8 has the reflexes and grip to keep up with sports cars on challenging roads. In low-speed city traffic, the standard air suspension's ability to filter out harshness borders on magical, especially considering that the Audi S8 wears low-profile, 21-inch summer performance tires. In Comfort mode, you could easily fool people into thinking you were driving a regular A8. Until you open the throttle, that is.
Much like the A8 on which it's based, the S8 has an excellent cabin design. Top-grade materials unite with expert craftsmanship and assembly to form one of the finest interiors in the automotive world. Comfort is exceptional, thanks to 22-way-adjustable front seats with heating/ventilation, massage and memory functions. Rear seat passengers won't feel left out either, as there's a wealth of head- and legroom for taller adults — although some buyers would surely prefer more rear legroom.
Audi's MMI interface is a boon for technophiles, as it controls a multitude of functions with its high-resolution screen and slick, knob-based control layout. The menus might take a little more getting used to than some other high-end infotainment systems, but once you're acclimated, complicated tasks can be executed with ease. Also included is a remote touchpad that allows you to trace letters with your fingertips as a way of inputting or finding phone, music or navigation data. The software behind this system is starting to feel a little dated, though, as the navigation system isn't able to read street names aloud, while the standard Wi-Fi is only capable of 3G speeds (versus 4G LTE in some other Audis). The price of the premium Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system may cause some initial sticker shock, but discerning ears will note that it is one of the finest audio systems on the market.
The one glaring fault in the S8 is its lack of trunk space. At 14.2 cubic feet, its cargo capacity is less than some midsize sedans and well below what's available in similarly sized rivals.