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- Highs Mega twin-turbo V-8, high-tech interior, shockingly athletic for a full-size luxury car.
- Lows Guzzles fuel, undercover styling, six-figure price tag.
- Verdict Powerful and poised, the 2021 Audi S8 offers sport sedan moves and limo-like luxury.
For speed freaks with a penchant for comfort and luxury, there's few flagship sedans that do it as well as the 2021 Audi S8. With a twin-turbocharged V-8 quietly toiling away under the hood, the S8 can effortlessly blast you and three others to high speeds. And when the going gets twisty, Audi's big four-door can gobble pavement at an eye-opening pace. Based on the more mellow A8 luxury sedan, the S8 receives a performance suspension, upgraded brakes, and a punchier powertrain, but its exterior styling barely whispers "high-performance"—which makes it a stealth bomber for the road. Inside, the S8 offers just as much space and as many creature comforts as rivals such as the BMW 7-series and the Mercedes-Benz S-class, including massaging front and rear seats, the latest in infotainment features, high-quality materials, and excellent fit and finish.
What's New for 2021?
The S8 is coming off a complete redesign for the 2020 model year so it sees few changes for 2021. New standard equipment includes 21-inch wheels, summer tires, and heated armrests for the front-seat passengers. The Black Optic package receives a new 21-inch wheel design.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
That six-figure starting price is steep, but the S8 comes fairly well-equipped even by luxury car standards. We'd suggest the Cold Weather package to buyers in northern climes as it adds heated rear seats and adaptive windshield wipers; the Executive package is also appealing and comes with Audi's cool laser headlamps, automatic high-beams, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. It also includes Audi's OLED taillamps, which stage a quick light show when you unlock the car with the fob.
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Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The S8's sole engine choice is a potent one: a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 engine making 563 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive is standard, and the transmission is an eight-speed automatic. Audi claims a top speed of 155 mph, and there are fuel-saving systems, too, including cylinder deactivation and a mild-hybrid setup with a small electric motor and battery. At our test track, the S8 blasted to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds. An active suspension system can control each wheel individually to improve ride quality, and it is tuned differently than that of the standard A8, promising improved cornering prowess thanks to reduced body roll. Audi also includes equipment such as a torque-vectoring rear differential and rear-wheel steering to increase agility; powerful carbon-ceramic brakes are optional.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
Even though the S8 is technically a hybrid, buyers shouldn't expect Toyota Prius-level fuel efficiency. The EPA estimates that the best we can expect is 22 mpg on the highway, with the city rating dropping down to just 13 mpg. Ouch. We haven't had the chance to test the S8 on our 200-mile highway fuel economy route, but when we do, we'll update this story with results.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Fine materials line nearly every square inch of the S8's cabin, including diamond-stitched leather upholstery, a faux-suede headliner, and a stitched leather dash cover. The front seats offer standard heating, cooling, and massage, while the rear cabin offers tons of space for passengers to stretch out. To pamper those in the back seat even more, consider the Rear Seat Comfort package, which adds power-adjustable outboard seats with heat, ventilation, and massage, plusher headrests, heated armrests, and a remote control for the car's infotainment system. Four-zone automatic climate control is standard, as is a multi-color ambient interior lighting system. The trunk is generously sized and identical to that of the A8, which proved its mettle in our testing by holding six carry-on suitcases. For comparison the S-class held 5 and the 7-series held just three.
Infotainment and Connectivity
As with the standard A8, the S8's interior is a rolling tech showpiece. Multiple touchscreens control climate, audio, navigation, and myriad connectivity functions. Audi's 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster is standard, as is a 10.1-inch upper infotainment system and an 8.6-inch lower display. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an on-board Wi-Fi hotspot, and in-dash navigation are all standard, and occupants can charge their compatible smartphones wirelessly using the S8's charging pad. Audiophiles will be happy to find that a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen system is standard; for $5900, Audi will substitute a 23-speaker setup.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have performed crash tests on the S8. Audi offers several safety features as standard, but more desirable driver-assistance technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are optional. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning
- Available adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Like its stablemates, the S8 is covered by a four-year/50,000-mile warranty policy. Buyers may find more value in the BMW 7-series' or Volvo S90's three-year complimentary maintenance plans.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance
2020 Audi S8
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED
$148,045 (base price: $131,495)
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
244 in3, 3996 cm3
563 hp @ 6000 rpm
590 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Suspension (F/R): multilink/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 15.8-in vented disc/13.8-in vented disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4, 265/35R-21 101Y AO
Wheelbase: 123.2 in
Length: 209.0 in
Width: 76.6 in
Height: 58.6 in
Passenger volume: 111 ft3
Trunk volume: 13 ft3
Curb weight: 5256 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec
60 mph: 3.2 sec
100 mph: 8.1 sec
150 mph: 20.7 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.6 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.2 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.1 sec
¼-mile: 11.6 sec @ 119 mph
Top speed (governor limited, mfr's claim): 155 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 162 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.94 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 12 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 16/13/22 mpg