2001 Audi S8 Road Test & Review & Car and Driver

22 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2001 Audi S8 Road Test & Review & Car and Driver
Audi S8

An ‘S’ for super. As in super Audi duty.

Scarcity, thy number is eight. For reasons unclear, Audi’s big A8 sedans have sold dismally in the U.S. since the model’s inception in 1996. The company sells only a couple thousand annually — 2362 last year.

By way of comparison, that’s as many Prowlers as poor, beleaguered Plymouth licensed 12 months prior. Jeez.

Of A8 variants, there now exist three: There’s the $63,740 entry-level A8, with which we enjoyed a largely blissful long-term relationship (September 1998) and which finished third in our Dowsters comparo (November 1999). Shortly thereafter, Audi silenced our carping about back-seat space when it whipped out the longer-wheelbase $69,668 A8 L (June 2000). And now there’s the flagship depicted here — the $76,220 S8, in short-wheelbase guise only — with the S denoting Audi’s tuning division, analogous to Benz’s AMG and BMW’s Motorsport.

Gluing that prefix to the decklid is nearly a 12-grand operation. That’s a chunk, but the investment earns a 50-horse bump in grits — this, courtesy of a new intake manifold, higher-lift cams, lower-friction followers, and a less restrictive exhaust. The package’s taut new suspenders comprise thicker anti-roll bars, 30-percent stiffer springs, and shocks with 40-percent firmer compression.

Ride height is sliced by 0.8 inch — somehow imbuing the tail with a squatter and seemingly less bulbous countenance, suggesting more menace than luxury. And 18-inch Dunlops are fitted, replacing the noisy 17-inch Continentals on our Dowsters A8. Beyond that, the S8 offers larger-diameter rotors all around and Brembo calipers up front, which, we’re trashy enough to admit, we wish were painted red.

That’s because the S8 otherwise announces its pedigree in the subtlest of affectations: AVUS-inspired six-spoke wheels and a pair of brushed-aluminum mirrors that jut out a little like sore thumbs and a lot like Prince Charles’s ears.

If the under-the-skin upgrades fail to arouse neighborly envy, casually mention that your Audi’s packin’ not only 40 valves but also eight airbags — possibly sufficient to peg the seismometers at Cal State — and an array of acronyms that would floor even Web developers: ABS, ASF, EBD, EDL, ESP, DIS, DSP, ASR, and ALR.

But first things first. Let’s talk about the newfound power. The S8 attains 60 mph in 5.8 seconds — a 1.2-second improvement over the A8, a 0.8-second improvement over the A8 L. And the car now swallows the quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds at 99 mph — meaning this elegantly posh luxury sedan is as quick as a Honda S2000.

Audi S8

At 0.88 g, skidpad grip is way up, too — a huge improvement over the A8’s mediocre 0.77 g and a useful step beyond the A8 L’s 0.81 g. And braking from 70 mph now requires only 173 feet, rather than the A8’s lackluster 202 feet and the A8 L’s 180 feet.

Around town, the rejuvenated V-8 is as tractable and docile as a dairy cow. Power manifests in the same seamless and fluid arc — there’s just more of it at all engine speeds, from step-off to liftoff. And the five-speed automatic clicks off wide-open-throttle upshifts that are as serene and flowing as any in our experience — at a spine-tingling 7000 rpm, no less.

Meanwhile, all of this is attended by an exhaust note right out of a Bocelli aria — half Lotus Esprit V-8 wail, half Mustang Cobra ballsy bellow. True aural inspiration.

Downshifts, unfortunately, are less satisfying. Two- and three-gear kickdowns are slow to develop, as if the S8 were urging you to meditate a moment before somebody loses an eye. Of course, you can mitigate the frustration by shifting manually, courtesy of redundant Tiptronic rockers on the steering spokes. But even those are peculiarly shaped to encourage upshifts and discourage downshifts.


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