Imagine, for a moment, that you are sitting in a very expensive armchair. You can tell it’s an expensive chair from the suppleness of the leather and the perfect amount of support in the seat. Perhaps you’re even enjoying a soothing warm massage. To accompany your fine seating arrangement, you’ve paired your favorite album playing through a high-fidelity sound system. Life, as you see it, is quite comfortable. Suddenly, with a twitch of your right foot, your head and neck are gently but firmly planted to the back of the seat. In well under four seconds, you’re covering 88 feet per second. In less than 12 seconds, you’ve covered all 1,320 feet in a quarter mile. You, your chair, and your sound system have covered a considerable distance in a remarkably short period of time.
The Audi S8 requires some context before it can be fully appreciated. In a world of six-figure flagship sport sedans, there are two extremes. On one end, the Porsche Panamera Turbo is a four door sports car. It is precise, focused. Our last experience with it was in the depth of winter, where it managed to put on an impressive performance in a week that brought two feet of snow. But we’ve also experienced the Panamera on the track, where it certainly didn’t act as big as it is. On the other end, the Mercedes S63 is a luxury car first. While it stacks the stats sheet in its favor, there’s always a feeling that your driving commands are filtered through the helmsman. “Left rudder, 20 degrees.” “Aye sir, 20 degrees left rudder.” The Audi sits comfortably between these two extremes. But if you ask us, it’s more sports car than land yacht.
2015 brought a mid-cycle refresh to the S8. A revised front fascia incorporates redesigned LED headlights, a larger grille and larger intakes. A new hood and reshaped side sills incorporate sharper design lines. New taillights with a chrome accent, a new rear diffuser, and wider-set tailpipes complete the refresher around back. Inside, the addition of a new Audi design selection package and optional Vermont Brown leather interior compliment extra contrast stitching and redesigned shift paddles. We were first introduced to the new S8 at the NAIAS last year. Be it on the show floor or the street corner, the S8’s new look is bolder and more imposing.
Our tester featured the attractive Vermont Brown interior with the complete Audi design selection interior. Audi has some of the most attractively modern interiors in the industry. The combination of leather sport seats, alcantara, piano black trim, and gorgeous Carbon Twill copper inlay blend luxury comforts with the S8’s performance intentions. While the shift lever and MMI control knob remain bafflingly complex, the array of buttons and touchpad functionality are straightforward. The S8 isn’t available in long wheelbase form, but rear passengers still have plenty of space to be comfortable. The $6,300 Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System is superb, but it falls short of life-changing experience that the $6,400 Burmester High-End 3D Surround Sound System in the Mercedes S63 delivered.
Beneath the aluminum skin of the S8, the 4.0L biturbo V8 emits a low burble at idle. We’re already familiar with this V8 – it’s essentially the same engine found in the sublime Bentley Continental GT V8 S. In this application, output is tuned to 520hp and 481 lb-ft torque. Power runs through a ZF 8-speed transmission to the quattro all-wheel drive system with sport differential. The S8 also includes sport air suspension and high performance brakes to ensure it can make the most of its power.
The S8 is too fast for the traffic around it. Other drivers don’t expect the colossal sedan to cover as much ground as it does. Multiple times during the week, people attempted to merge into the same space recently occupied by the S8. Once you learn to be more sensitive, maybe dial the Drive Select settings back from Auto to Comfort, things settle down. The S8 can be comfortable, relaxing even. It will play the part of a luxury sedan with grace. Even with the optional sport exhaust, unsuspecting passengers will have no idea there’s another side to this Audi.
In one of the most iconic car chases of all time, an S8 powers through the streets of Paris and Nice, France. 1998’s Ronin demonstrated the Audi’s power and grip to a wide audience. When you dial the 2015 S8 to Dynamic, it changes. The same locomotive-like acceleration is now accented with a tighter suspension and heavier steering. To add to the effect, the rear differential adjusts to reduce understeer and the sport exhaust breathes just a bit easier. It’s as if the car has shrunk a few sizes. Only at the extremes does the S8 reveal its true weight and size. But whatever mass is felt, the twin-turbo V8’s relentless torque overcomes all.
It’s difficult to throw the word “value” around when we talk about flagships, but the S8 benefits from an as-tested $30k advantage over the S63 and a $50k advantage over the Panamera Turbo. It also consumed the least amount of fuel, averaging 18.6 mpg over 567 miles. So as far as six-figure super sedans go, the Audi represents the most for your money. But if money is no object, the Audi still comes out ahead. The S8 can relax you on the way home from work and thrill you on the way back the next morning. You can ferry your guests in supreme comfort or chase down a getaway car. All without getting out of your favorite chair.
|2015 Audi S8
|Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System||$6,300|
|Audi design selection, S8||$5,500|
|Driver Assistance package, S8||$2,100|
|Sport exhaust w/ black finishers||$1,500|
|Cold Weather package||$750|
|21-inch wheel package||$250|
|As Tested MSRP||$132,225|