The 2014 Audi S8 has a very tough act to follow. After all, it's based on the regular A8, which is already one of the best sedans in the world. But the folks at Audi clearly thought there was room for improvement, and the S8's twin-turbo V8 offers 520 robust reasons why they were right.
We're talking about horsepower, of course, which is about the only thing that the standard A8 doesn't have in abundance. To wit, unless you spring for a long-wheelbase A8 L with the rare W12 engine, 420 horsepower is the best you can do. You may think that would be more than enough, but these days it's barely adequate in this exclusive segment. There's no doubt about the 520-hp S8's speed, though -- it's a seriously swift sedan by practically any measure.
Naturally, the engine isn't the only thing that's special about the S8. Subtle styling tweaks abound inside and out, and both the suspension and the brakes have been sportified. Yet the S8 is hardly a punishing performance sedan. On the contrary, it's basically an A8 with the world-class acceleration it deserves. In other words, cars don't get much better than this.
What's New for 2014?
Following its debut last year, the S8 is largely unchanged.
What We Like
Lovely twin-turbo V8; even better handling than the ordinary A8; standard all-wheel drive; stellar interior; technology galore
What We Don't
We'll get back to you.
The all-wheel-drive 2014 Audi S8 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that generates 520 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed conventional automatic is the only available transmission.
The Environmental Protection Agency rates fuel economy at 15 miles per gallon city/26 mpg hwy, which is pretty good for the 500-hp club.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Audi S8 is offered in one well-equipped trim level that's based on the short-wheelbase A8 sedan.
Standard equipment includes 21-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlamps with LED running lights, LED taillights, an adjustable air suspension, a sport rear differential, quad exhaust tips, a blind spot warning system, Drive Select (which provides electronically adjustable steering, suspension and throttle settings), a sunroof, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, 22-way power heated and cooled front seats with massage, a Bose audio system, mobile Wi-Fi capability and Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) with an 8-in power-retracting TFT display screen, full iPod/Bluetooth integration, twin SD-card slots and a navigation system with Google Earth street views.
Notable options include a Bang & Olufsen audio system (with motorized dash-mounted tweeters), adaptive cruise control and a Night Vision collision-warning system that identifies pedestrians in the dark at a distance of up to 300 feet.
Alas, the S8 shares the A8's compact-sized trunk (13.2 cu ft), so if you're thinking that a big Audi sedan must have a boot to match, think again.
The 2014 Audi S8 comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, active front head restraints and 10 airbags (front, front side, front knee, rear side, full-length side curtain). A blind spot warning system joins the roster of standard features for 2014.
The A8 family has not been crash-tested in the U.S.
The regular A8 already had one of the nicest cabins in the automotive world, and the S8 differs only in its sporting accents. Unique carbon trim adorns the dashboard, and the "S8" badges and classic gray-faced "S" gauges never let you forget that you're driving something special. The materials used are uniformly superb; practically everything looks and feels expensive. The 8-in power-retracting MMI display screen is a work of art, especially when you call up Google Earth via the navigation system to get a 3D street view of your destination.
If you're familiar with Audi's other high-end S cars, the S6 and S7, you'll notice that the S8's engine has the same displacement (4.0 liters) but makes considerably more power. Audi wanted its flagship sedan to stand apart. Indeed, the S8 actually accelerates more quickly than its smaller, lighter brethren, even though it uses a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission instead of their dual-clutch automated manuals. Audi projects a 0-to-60 miles per hour sprint of just 3.9 seconds.
But speed is cheap and plentiful these days, so what really sets the S8's drivetrain apart is its refinement. There's a supreme confidence in the way the S8 gathers velocity, reminding us of a high-speed German train more than anything else. This ultra-refined power defines the car's character, making it feel massively capable in virtually any situation.
On the handling front, the S8 isn't dramatically better than the already agile A8, but its standard sport rear differential, sport-tuned dampers and meaty 21-in tires maximize grip in all situations, whether you're navigating a rainstorm or attacking corners on your favorite road. Predictably, the ride is firm atop such large, low-profile rubber, but the adjustable suspension makes it more than tolerable.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW 7 Series -- BMW doesn't have a direct S8 equivalent, but the twin-turbocharged 750i with the Sport package is pretty similar. And the exclusive Alpina B7 might do the Audi one better.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class -- The new S-Class can't keep up with the Audi on tight roads, but in a straight line, few cars can touch the big Benz (especially in AMG trim).
Porsche Panamera -- If you don't mind driving a hatchback, and specifically a rather controversially styled hatchback, make sure you give the Panamera a shot. It's arguably the most athletic luxo-liner on the road today.
How could we not recommend the 2014 S8? It's one of the finest automobiles in the world. If you're lucky enough to own one, you'll likely never regret it.