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First Drive:2013 Audi S8

A gold medal contender.

by on Feb.19, 2013

Audi delivers a new flagship with the 2013 S8.

The Auto Union was an amalgamation of four German automobile manufacturers, founded during the Great Depression. The company eventually evolved into present day Audi, and the four rings that adorn the grilles of the brand’s modern offerings represent the four original companies of Auto Union: Audi, Wanderer, DKW and Horch.

Each company brought specific technology to the Union, and today Audi is widely known for building All-Wheel Drive cars that feature safety, prodigious performance and superior technology – as well as for its benchmark interiors.

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When you look at the four-ringed Audi grille, you can’t help but compare it to the Olympic symbol — five interlaced rings.  For 2013, just imagine that the Auto Union had an additional company–adding that fifth ring, as the all-new Audi S8 is truly a gold medal contender.

The fast-beating heart of the 2013 Audi S8, a new twin-turbo V-8 that replaces the older model's V-10.

Upstate New York served as the scenic backdrop for our test drive of the new 2013 Audi S8.  The “S” designation signifies this is performance variant of the already impressive Audi A8.  Think more power, more luxury and a great price, and you’ve pretty much summed up the new S8.

The biggest news for the S8 starts under the hood, where the previous generation’s powerful V-10 has been replaced with a smaller but more powerful twin-turbo V8.  Horsepower numbers jump from 450 with the V10 to 520 with the new 4.0-liter engine – which also churns out an impressive 481 pound-feet of torque at just 1,700 rpm.

This is a full-size luxury sedan that can challenge some of the best performance machines on the market. Zero to sixty takes a scant 3.9 seconds.  Most impressive is the feeling of power you get under full acceleration on both sides of the front row.

Typically, when you are in a performance automobile and you nail the throttle, your passenger reaches out to hold on to anything they can grab as they were not expecting the rush of power. With the S8, you as the driver find yourself also holding on to the steering wheel tighter as the power just comes on.  It’s as if someone decided you need to reach the moon now.

Handsome and fast, 0-60 times rated at 3.9 seconds.

Under full acceleration, a symphony of sounds emanates from under the hood and to the rear, as the baffling in the exhaust system serves two functions: 1) stay quiet and unobtrusive when you are in steady-state cruising and 2) roar like a lion when you get down on it.  This is one sweet sounding automobile!

The 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo engine features TFSI direct injection and makes the S8 the most powerful sedan in Audi history – all the more impressive if that triggers thoughts of the German maker’s R8 supercar.  The V-8’s innovative cylinder head design packages the turbochargers and intercooler between the “V” to provide shorter exhaust paths to the twin turbochargers for enhanced performance.

The engine provides 16% more power and delivers 27% greater fuel economy than the previous V10 model.  In addition to slashing mass, Audi engineers also added “Cylinder on Demand” to the S8.  This deactivates fours of the eight cylinders at lower loads, reducing fuel consumption by as much as ten percent.  While we’re waiting for final numbers, initial estimates suggest you’ll see around 15 mpg in the City and 24 mpg in the EPA Highway cycle.

The 2013 Audi S8 visually distinguishes itself with a distinctive single-frame grille.

The S8’s power is channeled through a seven-speed “S tronic” automatic transmission with sport program, manual shift capability, launch control and a crown differential.  Of course, handling prowess is courtesy of Audi’s renowned quattro All-Wheel Drive system.

The S8 features a standard rear sport differential with mechanical torque vectoring that actively distributes torque between the rear wheels.  When turning into or accelerating in a curve, the majority of torque flows to the outside wheel and pushes the vehicle into the curve, while guiding the vehicle through and out of the curve, minimizing oversteer and understeer.

And the new S8 is not just about performance.  This is a very handsome automobile.  To differentiate it from the base A8, Audi added a unique “Singleframe” grille with double horizontal chrome slats; lower single blade trim in platinum gray; larger, lower side apron air intakes with single, aluminum twin blade fin and high gloss black surround; and side mirrors finished with “aluminum optic” paint.

As always, Audi aimed to deliver the benchmark interior with its performance flagship.

Inside, press the start/stop button and magic happens.  The telematics screen rises from the center console, and tweeters from the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system rise from dashboard nacelles. Audi builds some of the most impressive interiors in the business, and the S8 is the pinnacle of what they can do.  High quality leather, metal and carbon fiber accent this beautiful interior.

The S8 features Carbon Atlas trim on the upper inlays and shift lever, white on gray dial displays, three spoke multifunction sport steering wheel, aluminum pedals with aluminum shift paddles, and Alcantara headliner.  Useful LED trim lights adorn the ceiling and interior waist rail, providing sumptuous lighting at night.  Even the largest of drivers will be comfortable in the S8, as it is spacious inside.

The Audi S8 is a late 2013 entry.

On the road, the S8 is just plain smooth.  Adaptive damping means you can select the best handling parameters for the type of driving you want to do, or simply leave it up to the S8’s myriad computers to select the best program based on the input from road conditions and from your right foot.  Handling is crisp, and the car is very quiet and comfortable.

And no Audi leaves the factory without a full suite of safety gear.  Rest assured, should you ever get into a serious collision in the S8, or any Audi for that matter, your chances of survival are very, very good.  The A8/S8 Aluminum Spaceframe also plays a role here, as it is light, yet very strong to help ride down the forces of a collision.

The 2013 Audi S8 is a magnificent automobile. Prices begin at $110,000.

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3 Responses to “First Drive:2013 Audi S8”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    Cool car until all the concealed gadgets start to fail. What a nightmare for service techs.

    The V10 was a really wonderful driving/sounding engine so if the V8 is similar but with more power, the new S8 should be a great car to flog.

    • Paul A. Eisenstein says:

      I’m currently driving the S6. If that engine is a prelude I can only imagine what the S8 will be like. As to tech cars…welcome to the potentially very costly future, Jorge.

      Paul E.

  2. Jorge M. says:

    The future is now and it is costly. :(