Audi aficionados knew exactly what was expected when the German purveyor of finely tuned luxury cars announced their new line of “S” performance vehicles including the S6, S7 and S8, which is the company’s 4-door bread winner in terms of power output and performance. But how could that be with the fierce and mighty V10 being supplanted for a smaller more efficient twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8? It’s called German evolution.
Located in Herndon, Virginia at their new U.S. headquarters of a few years now, Audi is enjoying success as it relates to vehicles sales, new model introductions and technology advancement. There was a time when an Audi purchase was considered revolutionary and beside the standard of a luxury automobile. Neighbors would question your decision with obscurity. Owners of German compatriots such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz would glance with curiosity. Isn’t it fascinating how the weather changes so abruptly as if Global Warming was a factor? Likewise, Audi changed degrees with enhancements to their renowned quattro all-wheel drive technology; introduced fascinating new products like the Q7, R8 and A7; enriched their interiors cabins from an already stellar platform; and introduced magnificent engineering technology to ascertain the drive experience is not only pleasurable, but safe! In fact, the Q7 TDI will be my household’s next SUV of choice to compliment our two growing and active daughters. One diesel fill-up will carry us an average of 600 miles! Not bad, right?
In addition to the aforementioned attributes, Audi’s measured ambition has led to a successful performance lineup of vehicles that trickles down from Audi Sport, which oversees Audi’s racing activities. They are so dominant in the famous 24-hour of LeMans motorsport event that it should be called Audi-LeMans. Filtering down in order are the R8 and RS vehicles made by quattro GmbH and then the S and S line models. Automotive Rhythms eventful day in upstate New York allowed us to explore the all-new 2013 S8, S7 and S6, admittedly with a focus on the S8. I personally have always been an A8 fan for its exclusiveness and quiet demeanor. Not so much the prior 2009 S8 because I didn’t feel it had the panache to fly neck and neck with the S55 AMG. It certainly didn’t have the power. Actually it was entire second slower than the current S8 and produced 450 horsepower from the V10. However, the 2013 S8 welcomes a new topic of conversation and euphoria to the discussion.
Let’s begin with the S8’s power and flair. The twin-turbo 4-liter V8 produces 520 horsepower and 481 pound-feet of torque at just 1,700 rpm allowing the aluminum space frame to scoot 0 mph to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. Elation and instant gratification was achieved when I pressured the aluminum sport accelerator pedal on the highway. It’s always mind-boggling when a vehicle so pure, so seductive, and so stately is able to grapple the asphalt and gracefully leap itself forward like rabbits dodging foxes. Mate the powerplant with Audi’s 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with manual shift mode, and the vehicle achieves 15 city mpg/26 hwy mpg. Cylinder on Demand also aids in this mileage by transitioning eight cylinders to four cylinders when full power is not required. For example, fuel reduction at 55 mph is 12%.
Indeed this was no place for LeMans trial laps so I held back more often than not using the S8’s high-performance braking system consisting of front perforated 15.7” rotors and matte black 6-piston calipers and rear 14” rotors paired with single piston calipers. Though with Tiptronic’s sport program and quattro’s sport rear differential, I’m sure the S8 would be honored to rip around any track, any time. The differential adds torque to the outside rear wheel to push the vehicle through fast turns. More control is available with Audi Drive Select which allows you to simultaneously alter the steering, shift points, damping and acceleration by selecting either Dynamic, Comfort, Automatic or Individual modes. For example, the air suspension borrowed from the A8 was tuned for sporty driving and lowered 10 mm in the S8. And it lowers by an additional 10 mm for a total of 20 mm when set in “dynamic” mode. So much to take in, in so little time, so for the remainder of the afternoon I would enjoy the quality of the ride and the comfort of the ultra-deluxe cabin.
Inside I felt special to say the least as the 22-way, diamond cross-stitched sport seats massaged me pleasantly. My mocha leather cabin was infused with a plethora of carbon fiber to intensify the level of craftsmanship of this German touring sedan including the gear selector, the seatbacks, the dash, and center console. As I gripped the thick 3-spoke leather wheel and ignited the red Start/Stop button, the needles on the gauges rotated, the LCD screen rose from its embedded position, and the acoustic lenses from Bang & Olufsen’s very expensive, concert themed sound system emerged out of the dash. As well, LED lights brighten up the cabin when needed.
Audi Connect launched in the “A” cars uses an array of various multi-media technologies along with Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) for driver convenience. MMI is one of the most advanced telematics systems in the auto industry. When inputting the address in the Google Earth navigation system which displays from the 8” LCD screen, superior visual computing takes over and guidance is considerably enhanced by displaying satellite imagery along with 3D images of buildings and places of interest. And now the system adds “Street View.” Online searches also come from Google just as on your smartphone or laptop. Of course you receive weather, gas prices, RSS news feeds, and sports scores. And speaking of your smartphone, up to eight devices can connect wirelessly and search the Web by way of the S8’s T-Mobile provided hotspot. The first six months of ownership are free and then a separate monthly fee is charged thereafter.
Once you reach your destination and look back at the vehicle then you know you have arrived properly. Its massive grille which dominates the fascia and front air intakes, the larger 21” 5-star bladed rims and matching aluminum optic side view mirrors, and quad exhaust announces that this is not a typical A8, yet an “S” driven by the very best. And that is all that is needed to justify your $110,000 purchase.