After introducing an all-new generation of its flagship A8 sedan for 2019, Audi is rolling out the latest version of the S8 for the 2020 model year. A well-established model line in the full-size luxury sedan segment, the 2020 Audi S8 and A8 count the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class as their main competitors. Altogether, either vehicle offers opulence all around, with loads of tech inside the cockpit and a back seating area that can be configured with two reclining outboard seats and a fixed center console, for a limousine experience. While the A8 offers two available powertrains that already offer big performance, the S8 gets a twin-turbo V8 that’s tuned for performance and makes big power to go with its comfortable cabin.
The S8 comes loaded with tech. Its dual-touchscreen infotainment system behaves much like a smartphone. In addition to offering touch controls, it also accepts handwritten inputs via a touchpad or voice commands using natural speech. Like the A8, the S8 also gets the second generation of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and what Audi refers to as “predictive active suspension,” where if the car senses an imminent side collision, its adjustable suspension will lift the entire car by 3.1 inches in half a second so the strongest parts of the frame absorb any impact.
The A8 and S8 are also among the first vehicles to deploy a laser scanner. This is part of an array of sensors that keep tabs on the vehicle’s perimeter and make possible a partially autonomous driving experience, although keep in mind that no vehicle is fully autonomous.
The regular A8 is reviewed separately.
What’s New for 2020?
While the 4th-generation A8 debuted in the U.S. for the 2019 model year, the performance-oriented 4th-gen S8 makes its debut for 2020. Compared to the new A8, the redesigned S8 will seem pretty similar, save for its more raucous powertrain and ever-so-slightly more aggressive styling. As with the new A8, the 2020 S8 offers a screen-heavy cockpit, with screens used for both the infotainment system and center-stack HVAC controls, plus another screen taking the place of a traditional gauge cluster. All the active safety features you could want are available, although most of them are offered as part of a Driver Assistance package. Other new features available with the latest-generation S8 include a predictive adaptive suspension, 4-wheel steering and a clever feature called Pre Sense Side that will raise the suspension in a split second if it senses an impact coming from the side. See the 2020 Audi S8 models for sale near you
What We Like
- Excellent interior
- Mixes performance with premium luxury
- Lots of interesting tech
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Super exclusive
What We Don’t
- Full-size European sedans depreciate quickly
- Relatively small trunk
- Cost approaches R8 territory
The S8 makes use of a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 putting out 563 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. This comes paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard AWD.
The engine also features cylinder deactivation and a 48-volt mild-hybrid system with a lithium-ion battery that powers the stop/start system along with other features like the infotainment system, active safety features and active suspension. The EPA rates the 2020 S8 at 13 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 16 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The A8 and S8 are offered exclusively in their elongated ‘L’ body style here in the U.S. Just one trim level of the S8 is offered, which starts at $130,495. That figure rises quickly, though, when you start adding options.
Standard features offered on the 2020 Audi S8 include a predictive active suspension, a quattro sport rear differential, Audi’s dynamic all-wheel steering system, a 730-watt Bang & Olufsen premium audio system with 17 speakers, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit fully digital gauge cluster, a navigation system, dual MMI touch-response displays for the infotainment system and HVAC controls, wirelessApple CarPlay, Android Auto, HD Radio, Sirius Satellite radio, Bluetooth, a wireless charging pad and signal booster, an integrated garage door opener, Audi’s Advanced Key system with a hands-free trunk release, rain-sensing windshield wipers, automatic headlights, different drive modes, automatic emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, a top-down 360-degree camera system, a head-up display, four-zone automatic climate control, active climate control shutters, a power tilt-and-telescopic heated steering wheel, paddle shifters, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a panoramic sunroof, an Alcantara headliner, LED ambient interior lighting, Valcona leather upholstery with diamond stitching, heated and ventilated 22-way power sport seats with memory and massage functions, an air purification system, power rear and side window sunshades and nine airbags.
Available packages are as follows:
The Executive package includes special Matrix-design LED headlights with laser light and automatic high beams, OLED taillights with animation, headlight washers and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection.
A Piano Black interior package adds piano black upper inlays, roof grab handles and gear selector.
There’s an available Red Brake package that gets you red brake calipers, while a Ceramic Brake package brings ceramic brakes, which offer impressive stopping capability, but are very expensive to maintain.
A Cold Weather package comes with heated front door armrests and a heated center console, heated rear seats and an adaptive windshield wiping system.
A Driver Assistance package adds Audi’s adaptive cruise control with low-speed functionality, lane-keeping assist, intersection assist, traffic sign recognition and Audi’s clever Pre Sense Side feature.
A Rear Seat Connectivity package brings a tablet-style entertainment system, a DVD changer, two USB ports and a center console power outlet to the rear seats.
A Rear Seat Comfort package adds to 5-passenger models heated, ventilated and massaging power outboard rear seats with lumbar adjustment, comfort head restraints, front passenger seat adjustment from the rear seating area, rear heated door armrests and center console, rear smart remote control and Matrix LED reading lights for the rear passengers as well.
A 1,920-watt 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and Audi’s night vision system along with unique wheels and interior colors are available as standalone options.
The trunk space measures 12.5 cu ft., which is less than impressive. The 7 Series comes with 14.8 cu ft., the S-Class has 16.3 cu ft. and the Lexus LS 500 offers 17 cu ft.
Standard safety equipment includes stability/traction control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, active front head restraints and seven airbags, including a front-center airbag. Pre Sense (standard in all Audi cars) is a collision mitigation feature that closes the sunroof and windows and pre-tightens seat belts in the event of hard braking. The S8 is also available with the typical array of active safety tech, except many features are limited to the Driver Assistance package. These include full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, intersection assist, traffic sign recognition and Audi’s Pre Safe Side system.
As large luxury cars are rarely tested by U.S. crash-testing agencies, the A8 and S8 have not been evaluated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Behind the Wheel
The S8 offers the same smooth, quiet opulence as the A8, just with a much more powerful mill under its hood, more aggressive styling, greater exclusivity and an even higher price tag. While the regular A8 costs between $87,000 and $140,000, the S8 starts at $130,000 and tops out at just under $175,000. From a performance standpoint, the V6– and V8-equipped A8s go from 0-60 in an already quick 5.6 and 4.5 seconds, respectively, while the 563 hp S8 takes a mere 3.8 seconds.
Inside the S8’s cabin, expect an experience bested only by vehicles wearing a Rolls Royce or Bentley badge on their hoods. The seats are highly bolstered but also manage to remain comfortable. Three screens come standard on every model: one for the center-stack infotainment system, another just below it for use with the HVAC controls and a third serving as the gauge cluster for what Audi refers to as its Digital Cockpit.
Moving on to the back seat, and with the right options, the S8 can actually be made just as comfortable for back-seat passengers as it is for front-seat occupants. Available features include power sunshades for the rear windows and a rear center console that deletes the middle seat but adds controls for the rear outboard seats for adjustment, heating, ventilation, massage and more. You can even have a heated center console and heated door armrests in back.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Mercedes-Benz S 560 4Matic — Rounding out the triumvirate of German full-size saloons is the S-Class. Like the S8 and 750i, the S 560 is available with AWD and packs a twin-turbo V8, although it’s slightly down on power compared to the Audi and BMW.
2020 Mercedes S 63 AMG — A little more expensive and slightly more aggressive than the S8 and 750i, the S 63 AMG is the most hardcore version of Mercedes’ S-Class. Its hand-built twin-turbo V8 makes 603 hp and takes the rear-wheel-drive S 63 from 0-60 in just 3.5 seconds.
2020 Porsche Panamera 4S — The Panamera model most closely aligned with the S8 is either the GTS or Turbo. Either one prioritizes performance over luxury, if only slightly, and makes use of a twin-turbo V8. The GTS puts out 454 hp, while the Turbo makes 542 hp.
Used Bentley Flying Spur — One of just a few sedans in production that could be considered a level above the S8, the Flying Spur offers surprisingly good driving dynamics. A gently used example can be had for the price of a new S8.
The S8 is certainly one of the most refined sedans on sale today. It adds to the A8’s already posh package a more potent powertrain and a clearer focus on performance. While the A8 offers great acceleration and a premium experience that’s already more than enough for most buyers, if you’re looking for an Audi sedan that’s truly the best of the best, the S8 is at the front of the pack.
While most S8s will likely come fully optioned, we’d be certain ours came with the Driver Assistance package at the very least, and we’d have a hard time passing up the Executive package as well, given that Audi’s Matrix-design headlights are among the coolest pieces of automotive tech on the market. But yeah, if you’re buying an S8, you might as well just get it with everything. Find an Audi S8 for sale