Subtle in appearance; ferocious in performance; all-wheel, all-weather practicality!
I purchased the car during the last couple thousand miles of warranty coverage, but I unfortunately ran out of warranty on a road trip, and missed a chance to get a few repairs covered.
One rear door interior handle did not work when I purchased the car; it was a relatively inexpensive fix from a non-dealer competent Audi mechanic.
Front disc brakes were noticeably warped when I purchased the car. I was shocked that they were able to be turned relatively inexpensively, so I did not have to immediately replace the monstrous 13.6" rotors.
There have been no engine or mechanical problems of any kind during the 10,000 miles that I have owned the car thus far.
The Audi S8 was literally in a class by itself during the years from 2001 to 2003, when the "S" version of the A8 was imported to the USA. Its closest competitors were the Mercedes S55 AMG, Jaguar XJR, and the BMW 740i Sport. However, the Audi was the only high performance full sized European luxury sedan offering all-wheel drive. The Audi Quattro system enables this 360 horsepower super-sedan to be a downright practical car for driving all year, even in the snowbelt, where I live. And the Quattro provides exceptional grip even in dry conditions.
I have an uncle whose standard A8 has been a disappointment in the handling and suspension department, due to an overly soft suspension. The S8 uses a significantly different suspension, including siffer springs, more compression dampening, and much more substantial anti-roll bars. The result is a seriously sporting suspension and a car that exhibits virtually no lean or plowing, even in pulse-pounding curves. Yet the car remains extremely comfortable on roads that are decent or better. If you intend to cruise on long straightaways on rough roads, such as stretches of highway overdue for maintenance, the ride can be too rough to be able to take a drink without spilling on yourself. Trust me, I failed this test myself with hot coffee on a terrible stretch of interstate. But overall, this car's balance of comfort and performance is extremely pleasing, remaining luxurious and comfortable while communicating planty of road feel.
This car has the same aluminum body as the A8. The S8/A8 were the first mass produced aluminum bodied cars on Earth. The all-wheel drive Quattro system partially, but not completely, offsets the 300 or so pounds of weight savings from the lighter aluminum versus steel body panels. The S8/A8 were some of the safest cars on the road, offering an unprecedented (at that time) eight airbags.
The interior is spectacular. Passengers in my car who don't know what it is have commented that the front seats are the most comfortable that they've ever encountered. The backseats would probably earn similar compliments, except that most of my passengers do not discover the 4-way power lumbar control and power headrest control. The interior looks expensive and classy by day, and it looks like a cockpit by night with every imaginable button softly illuminated in red. The interior has a few occasional squeaks and rattles, which I am not pleased to hear on a car that was originally about $80,000 as equipped. But the very stiff suspension makes occasional squeaks and rattles harder to mute.
The all-wheel drive is fantastic. I've driven many Quattro-equipped Audis over the years, but this is the first one that I have owned. The Quattro system, mated with the Electronic Stability Control (ESP), makes starts decidedly un-dramatic. The car can whip out of a gravel driveway into swift-moving traffic without kicking up a single stone. Peel-outs are simply impossible under most conditions, and ESP must be manually deactivated if you really, really want to kick up some gravel or get yourself into a four-wheeled skid. The stability and confidence inspired by this system is simply amazing.
The subtle styling turns very few heads. The car looks like a larger A4. Virtually no one realizes that it is a German hot-rod. But the 18" OEM wheels caused one observer to comment, "The thing looks fast just sitting still!"
On top of the hot-rod engine and performance specifications, the car is ridiculously practical. I sell real estate for a living, and it is a very commodious client-mobile. While the backseat is not as limousine-like as a BMW 7-series "L" car or the Audi A8L, it will comfortably accommodate two 6-footer rear seat passengers. I've had three adults in the rear seat for a short in-town drive with no complaints. Backseat passengers are also wowed by the power rear sun shade and manual sunshades in the rear doors. There are also four dedicated rear seat air vents. The trunk is enormous, with nearly 18 cubic feet of capacity, plus a full-sized alloy spare!
This car offers an exceptionally well refined, high-performance automobile with miraculously practical utility for everyday use. That is why I purchased it: I get a German hotrod that my wife could not find any reason to veto!
Finally, the super-fast depreciation on this rare car makes it a spectacular used car buy. It sold new for $80,000 with the various options that it has. I purchased it three years old still under warranty for $34,000.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 24th September, 2005