If I asked you to rattle off all the premium, full-size luxury sedans available today, there’s a good chance you’d forget to mention the Audi A8. Against the backdrop of the sensuous Lexus LS, bombastic BMW 7 Series, and authoritative Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi’s current flagship sedan is a bit generic-looking, with a tech suite that’s adequate but not even slightly headline-grabbing.
Better avoid the standard model, then, and go for the lusty 2023 Audi S8, which compensates for its relative age with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 borrowed from the stellar RS6 Avant. With 563 horsepower, 590 pound-feet of torque, and a crackling exhaust note, the Audi S8 puts a little boogie back into the full-size sedan class – all for a relatively good value given its $118,995 starting price.
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|2023 Audi S8
|Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-Liter V8
|563 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet
|$116,900 + $1,095 Destination + $1,000 Gas Guzzler Tax
Gallery: 2023 Audi S8 Review
- Exterior Color: Ultra Blue Metallic
- Interior Color: Black
- Wheel Size: 21 Inches
The Audi A8 and S8 received some cosmetic tweaks for the 2022 model year, modernizing the sedan with kinked headlights, a wider grille design, and taillights with a pixelated motif. Those alterations make it look fussier to my eyes than the pre-facelift S8, though this is still a handsome vehicle overall thanks to an Audi-chic daylight opening, quad-oval exhaust outlets, and a sleek silhouette. My car’s $2,100 Black Optic package brought gloss black grille accents, window surrounds, and 21-inch wheels to the party – I prefer the standard matte aluminum trim, but diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.
Inside, the S8’s simple interior design will feel instantly familiar to anyone with a current Audi product. That might be a good thing for some, but if I were spending six figures on a luxury sedan, I’d want it to stand out visually from a more plebeian offering. Material quality is a step above lesser Audis with excellent plastics even in places you can’t see, and supple leather appears on the dash and door panels thanks to a $4,700 S8 Comfort pack. One neat touch on the S8 is HVAC vents that are half-hidden behind a slim strip of carbon fiber. Turn on the air and that trim rotates out of the way, revealing the vents in full.
- Seating Capacity: 5
- Seating Configuration: 2 / 3
- Cargo Capacity: 12.5 Cubic Feet
The Audi S8 offers a smooth ride, and the cabin is well-insulated from both sonic and kinetic intrusions outside the car – the exception being the muted growl of the exhaust when you dip your toe into it. Some credit goes to the $6,000 predictive active suspension, which scans the road ahead to soften or stiffen individual dampers in advance of speed bumps or rough pavement. The system worked maybe 60 percent of the time on the speed humps and gutters in my neighborhood, so I’m not totally convinced it’s worth the added cost, although it does jack the S8 up an inch or so when a door is opened to ease ingress.
The S8 comes standard with heated and ventilated front seats with adjustable bolsters and a decent massage function, striking a great balance between cushiness and long-haul support. Furthermore, the front armrests are rapid-heated, adding some comfort for your extremities. The aforementioned S8 Comfort package also includes heated rear seats, though an additional $4,200 will get you ventilation and massage as well ($5,900 if you want the full-length center console), making the most of the commodious legroom back there for a comfy, chauffeured ride.
- Center Display: 10.1-inch Touchscreen
- Instrument Cluster Display: 12.3 Inches
- Wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto: Yes
The S8 gets a 10.1-inch touchscreen display mounted high on the center stack, with a secondary 8.6-inch display mounted beneath it that handles climate controls and a few auxiliary functions. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is likewise standard, and its variety of information makes it one of the best such systems on the market: conventional gauges or a sporty bar-graph tachometer, a full-screen map, and lots of onboard computer data. A smallish head-up display is included in the aforementioned comfort pack.
But apart from the impressive Virtual Cockpit, there isn’t much in the S8 to differentiate it from its rivals. The S-Class and 7 Series get much larger infotainment systems, with some added googaws to impress their well-heeled buyers. For example, the Mercedes’ disco-themed ambient lights and augmented-reality head-up display go toe to toe with the BMW’s available rear theater screen. The S8, meanwhile, looks Luddite by comparison.
- Engine: Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-Liter V8
- Output: 563 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet
- Transmission: Eight-Speed Automatic
What the Audi S8 lacks in headline-grabbing technology, it makes up with great gobs of power and performance. Despite its sub-$120k starting price – less than the Star Award-winning Mercedes-Benz S580 and a bit more than the 760i – the S8 offers a shocking 563 hp and 590 lb-ft, giving it a 0-60 time in an Audi-estimated 3.8 seconds. Both the Bimmer and Benz are slower by at least three mini-ticks, and if you want to keep up with the Audi, you’ll have to either go electric or wait for the yet-more-expensive Mercedes-AMG S63 E-Performance.
In spite of a heady 5,126-pound curb weight, the 2023 S8 is a nimble full-size sedan thanks to Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires and multiple-personality adaptive dampers. Standard rear-axle steering helps both with around-town maneuverability and low-speed corner entry, and I found myself pleasantly surprised with the Audi’s predictable, nimble nature. My middling first impressions based on the car’s familiar styling and ho-hum tech suite began to melt away the harder I pushed. Composed and quick, the S8 is as thrilling as limousines get, even before you open up the active exhaust that accompanies every downshift with a bellicose crackle.
- Driver Assistance Level: SAE Level 2 (Hands On)
- NHTSA Rating: Not Rated
- IIHS Rating: Not Rated
And we’re back to being unimpressed. Even at its six-figure starting price, the Audi S8’s suite of active safety technology is bundled within a pricey $3,800 Executive package. But if you’re in the market for a big luxury sedan, you should absolutely tick that box, as Audi’s adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assistance, and lane-centering technology are among the best in the industry as far as hands-on systems are concerned.
- City: 26 MPG
- Highway: 33 MPG
- Combined: 29 MPG
|2023 Audi S8
|14 / 23 / 17 Miles Per Gallon
|2023 BMW 760i xDrive
|18 / 26 / 21 Miles Per Gallon
|2023 Mercedes-Benz S580
|16 / 24 / 19 Miles Per Gallon
- Base Price: $116,900 + $1,095 Destination + $1,000 Gas Guzzler Tax
- Trim Base Price: $118,995
- Price As Tested: $135,595
Including destination and a mandatory $1,000 gas guzzler charge, the 2023 Audi S8 starts at $118,995, undercutting both the S580 and the forthcoming AMG S63e by thousands of dollars. That’s true once you start ticking options, as well. My Ultra Blue tester featured the aforementioned $6,000 active suspension, $4,700 comfort package, and $3,800 executive package, plus $2,100 worth of black exterior accents for a total price of $135,595. An S580 with a similar level of equipment breaks into the 140s, despite having 67 fewer horses under the hood.
A BMW 760i xDrive, however, is a genuine threat to the S8 camp, coming in at $117,395 to start and just $122,045 comparably equipped. The BMW’s styling may not be to everyone’s tastes, and it’s slower and less overtly sporty than the S8. But once it’s grabbed your attention with design, it might keep it thanks to some pretty neat standard in-car tech.
Still, the Audi’s streamlined styling and familiar cabin will have their fans. Anyone still unimpressed need only point the rounded nose toward the closest on-ramp or canyon road, then ride that snarling V8 wave. As a technological showpiece, the S8 leaves a little to be desired. As a rolling lounge with RS-spec power and torque, it’s in a class of one.
S8 Competitor Reviews:
2023 Audi S8