by Michael Butler
You have to tip your hat to car manufacturers such as Audi for committing to the high-performance full-size sedan, a breed that is slowly, but surely losing relevance in a world dominated by hybrid creations that resemble part SUV, and part sports coupe. The S8, having taken a break in 2019, is back in full swing and packs a 563-horsepower punch from its new 4.0-liter twin-turbo engine. Power figures are lower than rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG S63, but Audi is well known for its ability to put the power down, and the result is a car that feels just as fast. The rest of the car is typically Audi: the quattro all-wheel-drive system is still in play, the interior is still refined, and the tech on offer is seriously impressive. The 2020 S8 brings the heat and is more than ready to bring the fight to Mercedes-AMG and BMW.
The Audi S8 is back with a bang after taking a gap year in 2019. For 2020, the most significant change is the new power plant: Audi has fitted the S8 with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine coupled to a mild hybrid system for breathtaking performance. The exterior of the S8 also receives a refresh in the form of more aggressive front, and rear bumpers styled side mirrors and S-Line quad exhaust tips. For those in the know, these exterior modifications are enough to set the S8 apart from the regular A8, but we still think it looks a bit understated.
|L 4.0 TFSI||
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Hybrid
Don't let the brochures and salespeople fool you: the 2020 Audi S8 doesn't look that different to the standard A8. This can be good or bad depending on your personality type, as extroverts will want something more distinctive, while others might appreciate its stealth bomber appeal. We're siding with the latter. The S8 is a handsome car whichever way you look at it, and the addition of a revised front and rear bumper, as well as tweaks to the side sills and side mirrors, give the S8 just enough spunk to let you know that there's something special going on here. Some exterior features we think work really well are the standard 20-inch five double-spoke S-design wheels which fill up the arches nicely, as well as the S-model quad exhaust tips, and HD Matrix-design LED headlights. It's not shouty, but we think it perfectly suits the personality of the 2020 S8.
Classified as a full-size luxury executive sedan, or junior limousine for short, the S8 offers the measurements to suit the title. Total length comes in at 209 inches, which is half an inch longer than the Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan, but its wheelbase of 123.2 inches is shorter by over an inch. With the mirrors included, the S8 measures 83.9 inches in total width, and 76.6 inches when the mirrors are excluded. Height is measured at 58.6 inches, the front track is 64.1 inches while the rear track is a slightly narrower 63.7 inches. Far from being a carbon fiber-clad lightweight sports car, the 2020 Audi S8 tips the scales at a hefty 5,302 pounds.
The S8 isn't a sports car; its a large luxury sedan that can go really, really fast, but its personality doesn't suit the traditional in-your-face styling of smaller performance-orientated vehicles, so with that in mind, let's chat about the exterior colors on offer for 2020. Audi offers the S8 in twelve no-cost options. These include your basics such as Brilliant Black, Florett Silver Metallic, and Glacier White Metallic, but more adventurous colors such as Navarra Blue Metallic and Seville Red Metallic are also available. New buyers who want something more unique can pay $3,900 for the option of painting their S8 in any color under the sun.
If you have even the slightest interest in Audi cars, then you'll know that it's business time when there's an S badge stuck to the trunk lid. S models might not be as wild as their RS siblings, but they offer a notable step up in terms of performance and dynamic ability, and we feel as if the 2020 S8 is basically just an RS8 in disguise in the way that it performs. The new 4.0-liter twin-turbo engine produces 563 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, which is enough to make this 5,000-pound luxury limo rocket to sixty miles per hour in only 3.8 seconds and continue on to a top speed which is limited to 155 mph. Thanks to a wide torque band, the S8 feels fast wherever you go. In the city, the large S8 can take gaps in traffic with surprising ease, but out on the highway, this car truly shines. Miles simply melt away, and the S8's insulated cabin disguises speed so that you have to be reminded on a regular basis to slow down.
The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 engine found under the hood of the 2020 S8 makes use of a 'hot V' style turbo setup that places the turbochargers between the cylinder banks. This goes a long way in improving the throttle response. Total power output is 563 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. The V8 powertrain is augmented by a mild 48-volt hybrid system and a Lithium-ion battery. Among other features, this system is responsible for the engine's stop/start system and speeds up the rate at which the engine can be restarted. As with the rest of Audi's performance lineup, power is sent to all four wheels via a quattro AWD system, and in the S8, there's also a sports rear differential in play. Channeling all that power and torque to the wheels is the responsibility of an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. This engine is a torque monster, and with quick throttle response, it is easy to live with in slow traffic, but it most certainly prefers to breathe out on the open road.
No one in their right mind would throw a standard A8 around a track and expect it to deliver record-breaking lap times. Audi's largest sedan offering is meant to chauffeur its passengers in serene comfort and class, and is not designed to clip apexes. That whole idea is thrown out of the window when it comes to the 2020 S8, which, despite its weight, will surprise with its handling capability. The active suspension system on offer in the S8 has been recalibrated from the standard A8 set up to deliver more dynamic performance. Throw the S8 into a set of bends, and it will respond with sharp and pointy steering and minimal body roll. Don't get us wrong; the S8 still makes its weight known through tight counters, but it makes up for it with masses of grip and strong corner exit acceleration. The large ventilated brakes offer good stopping power but start to fade when pushed to the limit. Thankfully Audi offers a ceramic upgrade.
The 2020 S8 might feature the term 'hybrid' somewhere in the brochure, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this German leviathan has the ability to cruise around on electric-only power. It's all V8 muscle here. With over 5,000 pounds to haul around town and a twin-turbo V8 that's eager to get into boost, the S8 offers a disappointingly heavy fuel consumption rating of 13/22/16 mpg city/highway/combined as rated by the EPA. Audi makes up for this low figure via a large 21.7-gallon fuel tank, which in theory, should give the S8 a maximum range of 347.2 miles.
The handsomely-styled exterior of the 2020 Audi S8 hides an equally impressive interior that does the Audi name proud, after all, the S8 is Audi's largest sedan offering, so we would expect nothing less. Once you step inside the beautifully appointed cabin of the 2020 S8, the first thing you'll notice is the abundance of space both in the front and back. After you're done admiring the sheer size of the space, the next thing you'll notice is the sleek and modern design language that dominates the interior. Unlike Mercedes-AMG, which takes on a more emotional style when it comes to interior design, the Audi keeps things cool, calm, and collected while still managing to convey a sense of speed and performance. The build quality, fit and finish, and choice of materials are all top-notch. We think the interior could have done with more sporty design elements, but on the other hand, the interior complements the overall sleeper style of the S8.
This five-seater, full-size luxury sedan offers more than enough space to seat five average-sized adults in supreme comfort. Even those taller than six feet will find no problem getting in and out of the S8, and will easily find a comfortable seating position both in the front and back. Those in the front are treated to a set of heated and ventilated 22-way power sport seats with power lumbar adjustment, seat memory, and massage functionality, as well as power-adjustable head restraints. These seats suit the fast-cruiser characteristics of the car and offer good support. The headroom in the front is 38.3 inches, while the rear gets even more at 38.5 inches. Legroom in the front is a decent 41.5 inches, but those in the back get a massive 44.3 inches to stretch out.
If it's German, it has got to be good, right? Right. The pinnacle of Audi's sedan range offers the pinnacle in interior materials, and it's clear from the outset that Audi has spared little expense in making the interior of the S8 stand out. In terms of fit and finish, you'll struggle to find anything better in this price range, and we think that's saying something, especially when you consider the competition. Unless otherwise specified, the 2020 Audi S8 is offered with an all-black interior with Pastel Silver material highlights. Still, Audi will allow new owners the choice of Merlot Red, Nutmeg Brown, Saiga Beige, or Sarda Brown for seat upholstery, all at no cost. In terms of inlay materials, Audi keeps things simple by offering only carbon vector and Piano Black wood inlays, and you also get a standard Alcantara headliner.
Full-size luxury sedans place their focus on passenger space and comfort and seeing as these cars tend to live their lives in and around town, there is never a great need for masses of trunk space. Those who require the extra space usually go for large luxury SUVs. That doesn't mean that these cars are completely impractical. Pop the trunk of the 2020 Audi S8, and you'll be greeted by 12.5 cubic feet of trunk space. That doesn't sound like much, but with a wide trunk opening, the space is more usable than one might think. We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases in the trunk.
Small-item storage is average for the class: front and rear passengers get deep door pockets, and back seat occupants also get seatback pockets, cupholders, and a fold-out center console. In the front, there's a storage bin under the armrest, a glovebox, and a storage nook next to the shift knob.
Even in standard A8 guise, this Audi comes stuffed with features, both inside and out. For 2020, the Audi S8 sports notable exterior features such as HD Matrix-design LED headlights with high-beam assist and soft-close doors, but the real fun starts once you get inside. The first thing that grabs your eyes is the array of displays, both in the center console, as well as behind the steering wheel, but more on that later. The front seats offer heating, ventilation, and 22 different ways of adjustment, and there's four-zone climate control with active shutters in play. The four-spoke steering wheel gets shift paddles and is power-adjustable with a memory system included as well. Dual-pane acoustic glass keeps road noise low, and the panoramic sunroof with blackout sunshades gives the cabin an added sense of space. Standard driver assistance features include parking assistance with front and rear sensors, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display, and lane departure warning.
The 2020 Audi S8 doesn't traditionally attract the type of buyer who likes to blast Eminem at 3 AM on a Tuesday morning on their way to pick up some pick-me-ups, but Audi has made sure that the S8 can do exactly that, just in case. The infotainment system on this car consists of an Audi Virtual Cockpit 12.3 -inch display behind the steering wheel, as well as dual MMI touch response displays split into a 10.1-inch upper, and 8.6-inch lower screen. With all these displays on the go, the dashboard can get a tad busy, to say the least. Infotainment features include integrated navigation with a natural voice system, Audi Connect Care assistance, and security services, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as dual front USB charging ports. HD and SiriusXM satellite radio, as well as Bluetooth streaming, are also standard features. Sound is channeled through a high-end Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 17 speakers, a 16-channel amplifier, and 730 watts of power. Slow Ride by rock n roll legends Foghat sounds great on this system. For those with a need for more, there's a 23-speaker system from Bang & Olufsen on offer.
Despite all its technical intricacies, the 2020 Audi S8 has proven to be a reliable beast thus far, and shows no signs of being recalled although there are still a good few months left in the year, so things might change. Buying such an expensive set of wheels can be an intimidating ordeal, so Audi makes things a bit easier by offering a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, as well as a 12-year corrosion warranty, a four-year/50,000-mile drivetrain warranty, an eight-year/100,000 warranty on all hybrid components, and a one-year maintenance plan as well as a four-year roadside assistance plan.
When you're talking about triple-figure luxury performance sedans, it is very seldom that you will find an official safety rating attached. This is the case with the 2020 Audi S8, which has not been tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS. Even the base A8 is yet to be tested by either. What goes without saying however, is that, like its smaller siblings who show excellent levels of crash protection when tested, the S8 will keep you safe in case of a serious accident. Audi builds some of the safest cars on the road, and the S8 should prove to be one, too.
So it might not be tested, but the Audi S8 sure does come with a bucket load of safety features, both in the traditional sense and in terms of advanced driver assistance safety features. Standard equipment includes a nine airbag system with curtain row and driver knee airbags. You also get an advanced electronic stability control and traction control system with collision brake assist. Driver assistance features include park assist with front and rear acoustic sensors, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display unit with integrated navigation information as well as blind-spot monitoring, lane departure assist, and traffic sign recognition. Optional extras include rear cross-traffic alert, vehicle exit warning, as well as adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, intersection assist, and night vision assist with large animal and pedestrian detection.
The 2020 Audi S8 occupies a very niche segment of the car market, and unlike Audi's range of smaller sedans, will prove harder to justify, especially in a world economy on the brink of a serious recession. If you forget about all that, the S8 absolutely shines. The exterior is typically restrained, as is the interior, but what new buyers can expect is a stunningly crafted product that feels every bit as good as its price tag suggests. The S8 will decimate the open road, but is civil enough to live with on a daily basis, and you can even have some fun in the corners. We like its tech-packed interior with its multitude of displays and the overall sense of premium craftsmanship. We applaud Audi for sticking to their guns: large luxury sedans with supercar levels of performance are cool as hell, and we hope that they never die.
Owning a 2020 Audi S8 is a privilege only a few will ever get the chance to experience, and goes for more than most Americans make in a couple of years. This German brute will set you back an eye-watering $129,500, which excludes tax, registration, and a destination fee of $995. Tick all the options, and you'll end up with an Audi that costs closer to $180,000. For comparison's sake, the Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan will set you back $151,600.
Audi makes things easy for new buyers by offering the 2020 S8 in a single trim. That means you get a ton of standard features included in the asking price of $129,500. Under the hood of the 2020 S8, you'll get a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine and quattro all-wheel drive, as well as adaptive suspension and a set of large ventilated disks. The exterior features LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, soft close doors, and a set of 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the S8 offers heated and ventilated front seats with 22-way power adjustability, a four-zone automatic climate control system, and you also get power rear sunshades. The infotainment system consists of a dual-screen display system with built-in navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto integration, voice recognition, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Driver assistance features include park assist with front and rear acoustic sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure assist, a surround-view camera system, a head-up display unit with integrated navigation information as well as traffic sign recognition.
There might only be one trim on offer, but Audi still provides several nifty optional packages, and some less nifty. Certain standalone options, as well as certain packages, are required to be specced with other options. Options such as the Red Brake package, which, for $500, will bag you a set of red brake calipers feel gimmicky. The Gray Ceramic Brake package, on the other hand, adds a set of ceramic performance brake disks for a cool $9,900. In terms of styling, the S8 can be kitted-out with the $1,800 Black Optic package, which adds 20-inch Audi Sport five-V-spoke-star design high-gloss anthracite black finish wheels, wrapped in summer performance tires, as well as high-gloss black exterior mirror housings. For infotainment buffs, the $3,250 Rear Seat Connectivity package which is only available in conjunction with the Rear Seat Comfort Package adds dual infotainment screens in the back, along with a DVD changer, two rear USB ports, and a rear center console power outlet. The Executive package adds safety features such as rear cross-traffic assist and vehicle exit warning, and HD matrix-design headlights with laser light and high-beam assist.
Well, there's only one S8 on offer, so you don't have to do much thinking, and if you're not happy with the bog-standard package, you can always hit up the options list. If we had the money in our bank account, we'd spec the S8 as follows. Starting with the exterior, we'd paint ours Vesuvius Gray metallic and get the 21-inch Audi Sport ten-Y-spoke design black finish wheels which requires one to also go for the Black Optic Package. On the inside, we'd get our seats upholstered in Merlot red, and go for the carbon fiber inlays. Delving into the package options, we would get the red brake calipers because why not, and we'd also get the Executive package which adds rear cross-traffic monitoring and Matrix-design LED headlights amongst others. With all these options selected, the final price comes in at $137,295.
Mercedes-AMG is another manufacturer that bucks the trend by offering a full-size luxury sedan with a performance-minded attitude. The Mercedes-AMG S63 Sedan is a powerhouse of note and takes dynamic ability as seriously as it does comfort and luxury. Below the hood of the S63 Sedan lies a handcrafted 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 with 603 hp, which is sent to all four wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. This engine might be more powerful, but it will sip less fuel than the Audi while delivering similar performance. The S63 has been around the block, but still manages to look good, and the same can be said for its beautifully designed interior that we would choose over that of the Audis any day of the week. Ride comfort is exceptional, and there's enough interior space to keep most happy. In terms of technology, the S63 can be intimidating: there's a dizzying amount on offer, and the list of standard safety gear is also top class. We do, however, find that the drive is not as involving, and a new S-Class is around the corner. Despite that, we would go with the Merc.
The BMW 7 Series is a serious contender in the full-size luxury sedan class and is offered with a generous number of engine options. For comparison sake, we'll focus on the 750i xDrive Sedan. The 750i xDrive is powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 engine producing 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque and will shove you back in your seat with furious efficiency. Unlike the S8, the 750i is less focused on all-out performance and places more importance on offering a comfortable, and luxurious driving experience. On the road, the BMW offers good feedback and is dynamically one of the best in its class. As with the other premium full-size sedan offerings from Audi and Mercedes-AMG, the BMW includes a ton of standard features inside and out, but it's in the cabin that the BMW truly shines. The cabin design is a cross between the restrained Audi and the more opulent Mercedes-AMG S63, and we think it works well. Unfortunately, BMW has left Android Auto out of the mix, and Apple CarPlay is only available on a subscription. If you're looking for a more dynamic experience, then the less expensive BMW 750i xDrive is the one to get.
Check out some informative Audi S8 video reviews below.