If you like the idea of a luxury full-size sedan that is part limo and part sports car, the Audi S8 is one of the best offerings out there. This particular segment may be dying due to the ever-increasing popularity of SUVs and hybrids, but that hasn't stopped Audi from putting its best foot forward with a car that is big, powerful, and athletic. Sure, the S8's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 has had to turn to a 48-volt mild-hybrid electric system of its own, but that takes nothing away from the character that a 563-horsepower system with 590 lb-ft of torque offers. But is the understated brute a little too good at being a sleeper, or should you rather opt for a Mercedes-AMG S63 or a BMW M760i?
Audi's updates for the 2021 model year are rather subtle, but this should come as no surprise considering that the 2020 Audi S8 was a complete overhaul of all that came before. For 2021, Audi adds 21-inch wheels wrapped in summer tires as standard. Also newly standard is the inclusion of heated front armrests to complement the seats and steering wheel. The available Black Optic package also gets a new design for its 21-inch wheels.
|L 4.0 TFSI quattro||
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
Looking at the S8 next to the regular A8, it's nearly impossible to tell the two apart. Sure, the S8 gains brushed aluminum-look mirror caps, some slight massaging of the front and rear fascias and side sills, but nothing jumps out at you and shouts performance. The LED headlights in front can be joined by OLED taillights at the rear with animation that show how far this tech has come over the last generations. A panoramic sunroof is standard, but these features can be found on the regular A8 too. The most obvious sign that this is an S model is the quad-exit exhaust arrangement. Along with 21-inch wheels, the entire package is subtle and classy, but those who like for everyone to know that they're driving the fastest and best in a model line should probably look at other options.
The S8 is a big car with big dimensions. Including the mirrors, its width measures well over 80 inches, and the measurement without them is an expansive 76.6 inches. Height measures 58.6 inches while the entire car is 209 inches in length with a wheelbase of 123.2 inches. Curb weight is unsurprisingly high, with the S8 tipping the scales at a monumental 5,302 pounds.
When you're paying over $130,000 for a car, you can expect some things to be available at no extra charge. For the S8, that includes paint. 12 different shades are on offer, with Brilliant Black joined by metallic hues such as Florett Silver, Glacier White, Monsoon Gray, Moonlight Blue, Mythos Black, Navarra Blue, Seville Red, Terra Gray, and Vesuvius Gray. Also available on the palette are two pearl finishes in Daytona Gray and Savannah Beige. If you want something a little more special, you can get an exclusive special paint color mixed up, but that will cost $3,900 extra. The available Black Optic package will delete most chrome and silver accents in favor of high gloss black.
Just one configuration is offered for the S8, but it's a good one. Under the hood is a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 along with a 48-volt mild-hybrid electric system that produces a total of 563 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. Despite its immense weight, the S8 will get from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, according to Audi, although real-world tests have shown that it's actually quicker, managing the sprint in around three and a half seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, but this luxury sedan is about more than just acceleration. Thanks to a sport rear differential on the quattro all-wheel-drive system, the S8 handles remarkably well. It is also aided by the standard inclusion of all-wheel steering, while the eight-speed automatic makes it easy to keep both hands on the wheel and take full advantage of this car's surprisingly good athleticism.
The 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 in the S8 is one commonly used by Audi, and one drive in the S8 makes it clear why. This engine has a wide powerband that makes it easy to overtake just about anything without even having to downshift. It's pretty good off the line, too, as that mild-hybrid electric system does a good job of hiding any hint of turbo lag. Throttle response is pretty good in any case, as the turbochargers are set in a hot-vee configuration, so an immense curb weight measurement is easily overcome, making the S8 feel anything but lethargic. Overall, you won't find yourself getting frustrated with this car's performance at all. That said, an impressive engine is nothing without a good transmission to make the most of it. There's no manual, but fortunately, the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic in this car does a brilliant job of changing gears smoothly and quickly in all scenarios. When you take control via the steering-mounted paddles, you won't be disappointed either. This gearbox is eager and refined, obeying your every command without hesitation or complaint.
Looking at the sheer size of this machine, there's no doubt that getting a car like this to handle well must have been quite the challenge. Yet Audi has made it seem effortless. This car hides its mass with style, reacting to subtle and aggressive steering inputs with remarkable alacrity. Despite this, it's never twitchy and feels planted and well-weighted at all times. Thanks to a sport rear diff and all-wheel steering, this car has tremendous grip and poise, and it's only in slow and tight corners that the car's weight really becomes noticeable. Still, put your foot down on the exit of a corner and it pulls itself out with determination and astonishing acceleration. This is also a luxury car, though, and its active suspension setup does an incredible job of isolating occupants from road imperfections, whether big or small. Dual-pane acoustic glass helps keep things quiet too, although there aren't many people who would mind hearing that V8 roar. Stopping power is more than adequate, although excessive hard stops will see the brakes exhibiting some fade. To combat this, a carbon-ceramic upgrade is available.
Despite that mild-hybrid system, the S8 is still an insanely thirsty car with horrendous gas mileage figures. Official EPA estimates say that S8 will return 13/22/16 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. As a result, it's fitted with a rather large gas tank, but even so, the 21.7-gallon tank will only return an average of around 347 miles with mixed driving.
When you're deep into six-figure territory, you expect the car you're buying to have a great interior. When that car is an Audi, you already know that it's going to look great and be built to the highest standards. A sumptuous mix of exotic and high-quality materials cover nearly every inch of the cabin. Once you look at the finer details, the interior becomes even more impressive. A fully digital driver info display is stunningly complemented by another pair of screens for climate control and the standard four-zone climate control system. A Bang & Olufsen sound system is also included, but it's the small details like a perfect leather-covered dash that really make this cabin feel special.
The Audi S8 seats five in its standard configuration, offering plenty of headroom and legroom for all occupants. Those in the front benefit from more than just a spacious cabin, though. There's also a heated steering wheel, heated armrests, and sport seats that feature heating, ventilation, and massage functions. Comfort is the name of the game, yet you still feel supported in the corners. If those in the back want some of that lavish lifestyle, a four-seat configuration is available. This deletes the middle seat in favor of two luxurious chairs with heated and ventilated massaging seats, 22-way power adjustment, plusher headrests, and even a heated foot massage function for the seat behind the front passenger. However, if you spec this package, the person riding shotgun loses their massage function and only gets ten-way seat adjustment in place of the standard 22.
As we've alluded to already, the cabin is dressed in swanky materials. The standard upholstery is luscious Valcona leather with a diamond-stitched pattern. This is available in Nutmeg Brown with a Pastel Silver headliner, Merlot Red, Black, Saiga Beige, or Sarder Brown. Plenty of brushed aluminum breaks up the mix of leather and the occasional soft plastic while the decorative inlays are Carbon Vector as standard with Piano Black available as a no-cost option.
Despite its immense size, the S8 doesn't offer a huge trunk as most space is reserved to increase rear legroom. Still, with 12.5 cubic feet of volume and a large trunk opening (which is power-operated), it offers enough space for you to bring carry-on luggage for each passenger with space left over. The BMW M760i offers more on paper with 18.2 cubic feet, but its shape means that it's less practical in the real world. On the other end of the spectrum, the S7, with its coupe-like Sportback styling, offers double what the S8 does.
In the cabin, each door offers storage and each row gets a pair of cupholders while front occupants also get a spot for smartphones in the center console, a glove box, and center armrest storage. With the Executive package, rear passengers also get a full-length center console with additional storage solutions.
If you want a long list of standard features, the S8 offers them in abundance. HD Matrix-design LED headlights with auto high beams are complemented by available OLED taillights with animation, while other standard features include soft-close doors, a 12.3-inch driver info display, and an 8.6-inch touch display for the quad-zone automatic climate control system. A heated steering wheel, heated armrests, and 22-way power front seats with heating, ventilation, and massaging are also standard. You also get power-folding heated mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, power rear sunshades, active noise cancellation, multicolor ambient LED interior lighting, cruise control, a head-up display, a surround-view camera, and a power trunk lid, along with park assist, parking sensors, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking. Although rain-sensing wipers are standard, adaptive wipers are available. Also available are heating, ventilating, and massaging functions for the rear seats, laser headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and predictive efficiency, front cross-traffic alert, a night vision camera, and lane keep assist.
As standard, the 2021 Audi S8's infotainment system features a 10.1-inch touchscreen display and a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system fed with media by Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Bluetooth and USB connections are also enabled along with wireless charging and navigation. Still, that's not enough for some, which is why a B&O 3D Advanced sound system with 23 speakers is available. The Rear Seat Connectivity package also adds dual rear-seat entertainment tablets, a DVD changer, and additional USB port specs.
You'll be pleased to know that the both the 2020 and latest 2021 Audi S8 have both been completely free of recalls thus far, showing good reliability.
In the event of something going awry, the S8 comes with a limited and powertrain warranty providing coverage for four years/50,000 miles. Hybrid components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles. Also included is one year or 10,000 miles of complimentary maintenance.
Cars in this price bracket are not usually rated for safety by either the NHTSA or the IIHS, and the relevant review of the new Audi S8 also hasn't been conducted. However, a long list of standard and available safety features will undoubtedly keep you safe.
As standard, the Audi S8 comes with a whopping eight airbags, forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, a surround-view camera, park assist, front and rear parking sensors, a head-up display, and HD Matrix-design LED headlights with auto high beams. Available features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning, lane keep assist, HD Matrix LED headlights with laser light, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, front cross-traffic alert, and a night vision camera.
If you're looking for drama and that wow factor, Audi is generally one of the last brands you should consider. Even the R8 supercar is a relatively understated machine, although it has got more extreme as the years have gone by. With the new RS6 Avant wagon and the RS7, styling has gotten meaner too. However, that RS aggression never trickles down to the S-badged models and the S8 is no different. For a luxury limo, we think that's a great thing. The S8 is luxurious, impeccably built, fast, more athletic than you'd expect, and classy. The cabin is a wonder of technological style, and the available options are just what you'd expect in an executive sedan of this caliber. All in all, the S8 may be lacking in drama, but that gives it character. With every other aspect of the car similarly restrained yet brilliant, we can't help but love it.
The 2021 Audi S8 has an MSRP of $130,900 before a $995 destination charge. By comparison, the BMW M760i is on sale for $157,800, while the 2020 Merc-AMG S63 started at over $150,000. We expect the 2021 S63 to be even pricier, so the price of the Audi S8 is quite competitive - it's affordable enough to buy your kid their first car with the difference. Naturally, ticking plenty of options boxes will change that, and a fully loaded model will see you have an Audi S8 with a cost that sets you back over $180k.
The 2021 Audi S8 is only available in a single configuration in the USA. It is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 563 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. This is delivered to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and is kept in check with the aid of all-wheel steering and a sport rear differential. Standard features include HD Matrix-design LED headlights, Valcona leather upholstery, carbon vector inlays, heated, ventilated, and massaging front seats, quad-zone automatic climate control, a head-up display, a 12.3-inch driver info display, a 17-speaker sound system from Bang & Olufsen, and quad-zone climate control. Performance claims show that the car will achieve 60 mph from rest in 3.8 seconds and keep accelerating to a top speed of 155 mph.
One of the common packages available on almost every Audi model is the Black Optic package. This deletes many of the chrome accents and highlights on the exterior of the car and replaces them with high gloss black elements. The Rear Seat Connectivity package will suit those sitting in the back by adding dual rear screens, a DVD player, and two additional USB ports for charging and data. The Driver Assistance package is another good choice, adding adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, traffic sign recognition, and lane keep assist.
The Audi S8 sedan may have a number of optional extras available to it, but the standard equipment is equally impressive. For this reason, we would avoid going too crazy with the options and would recommend adding those that you will use most often. If you're going to be spending most of your time in the back seat, then yes, the Rear Seat Connectivity Package and the Rear Seat Comfort package will be worthwhile. If not, we'd suggest opting for the Driver Assistance package with its adaptive cruise control and additional safety aids.
The BMW M760i is Bavaria's idea of a fast luxury limo, and its 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 certainly rams that point home in spectacular fashion. With 600 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque, it's certainly not a slow car, and the fact that all of the torque is available from well below 2,000 rpm reinforces the idea that you can cruise in near silence with little effort. Although aesthetics are subjective, we have to say that the Audi has a more resolved design, both inside and out. In addition, the Bimmer starts at almost $160,000. However, for those who want a more engaging driving experience, the M760i is even better at hiding its size and weight, feeling more dynamic than it has a right too. It also comes with a long list of standard and available features and is a spectacular car, but on balance, the Audi is arguably better, if only marginally.
We love the concept of big, fast, luxury sedans. However, if the only reason you have to consider the S8 is because it's the most expensive model in the range, then its performance won't matter too much. For those who want luxury and plenty of features, the regular A8 is just as impressive. Obviously, it costs less with a base price of $86,500. In addition, more economical engines are available, like the base 3.0-liter turbocharged V6. This model returns around five mpg more on average and is still refined and is also powerful enough to belie the car's hefty mass. Most of the features offered on the S8 can be had with the A8 too, and thanks to the restrained styling of the former model, most wouldn't notice that you're not in an S model. Overall, it makes more financial sense to opt for the A8. Still, the character of a performance-enhanced luxury sedan is hard to ignore.