Powerful & Precise Motoring
Audi’s S8 4.0T Quattro is an interesting pick in the performance luxury segment
Over the last decade, Audi has clearly established its credibility as a true luxury brand, equal to the best from its German rivals. For the S8, the best expression of this attainment is to go right up against the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG 4MATIC and BMW’s Alpina B7 xDrive — and prevail. The big Audi has the quickest dash to 60MPH in just 3.9 seconds, along with the best fuel economy. Some may be quick to point out that Tesla’s Model S P85d will top those numbers, but Elon’s electric has less than half the 585-mile range of the Audi and less luxury refinement.
Big luxury models are a brand’s statement of its best technology and craftsmanship. The top German makes add an extra ingredient to the mix, especially in their performance models: the ability to travel at speeds well north of triple digits on the Autobahn with quiet authority and control. While that’s not an attribute that seems essential on our continent with maximum speed limits that seldom exceed 80MPH, at our highway speeds, the Audi S8 exudes confidence.
During my week in the S8, I had the opportunity to journey to the Napa Valley with my nephew and his wife as pampered passengers. They are both professional classically-trained musicians, and aside from enjoying the Audi’s sumptuous accommodations, they brought music files to test the $6,300 optional Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System. This is the component array where the tweeters rise from the dashboard to add visual amusement to the sound. The challenging Gallic and orchestral selections were well- reproduced, although I would prefer a bit more digital signal control than B&O offers, but that’s a small nit.
The latest S8 has grown into Audi’s big new grille tastefully, with a sculptured hood surrounded by LED headlights and lower air vents. Big 21-inch wheels with performance tires are just the right size to establish curb appeal, and the integrated deck lid spoiler and four-pipe exhaust send the performance message to the rear. Although a variety of color choices are available, silver seems just right to convey a car carved from an aluminum billet.
Audi’s alloy bodywork is an important attribute to attain superior acceleration and fuel economy performance figures from its steel-bodied competitors. But the S8 doesn’t behave like a lightweight, tilting the scales at 4,685 pounds. That’s plenty of heft to feel like an iron beam at speed, but with its Quattro all-wheel-drive and low center of gravity, it’s a stable car that’s also fun on a twisty road.
While Audi has earned the privilege to play in the big luxury leagues, it still doesn’t have quite the panache of its rivals. If you’re a buyer that’s not concerned about this, you’re in luck. The Audi S8’s retail price is $16,470 less than BMW’s Alpina 7-Series and $28,350 less than the Mercedes S63 AMG. Brian Douglas
2016 Audi S8 4.0T Quattro
ENGINE: 4.0-liter Twin Turbo V8
HORSEPOWER: 520@ 5,800 RPM
TORQUE: 481 lb.-ft. @ 1,700 RPM
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 17-City/27-Highway/20- Combined
BASE PRICE: $114,900
AS TESTED: $132,225
Photography courtesy of Audi