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.
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.
See trim levels and configurations:
|L 4.0 TFSI quattro||
4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
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.
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 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.
The most popular competitors of 2021 Audi S8: