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2017 Audi S8 Overview
How do you define a no-compromise luxury car? On the one hand, you have performance; on the other, comfort and lavish appointments. By their very nature, full-size luxury flagship sedans err towards comfort at the expense of performance. But if you truly want it all, the 2017 Audi S8 is a no-compromise machine.
The Audi S8 competes with the likes of the BMW Alpina B7 and Mercedes-Benz S63 and S65 AMG. These vehicles represent one of the most unique market niches, where the models are big on both comfort and performance.
The S8 is based on Audi’s venerable A8 luxury flagship. In past years, the A8 was available in both short and long wheelbases (denoted by “L” badging), but for 2017 the A8 comes in only an L trim and the S8 is offered only in the short-wheelbase layout. That shorter wheelbase is more ideally suited for performance driving.
The S8 further differentiates itself from the A8 with a blacked-out grille, a more aggressive lower front valence, carbon fiber bits and vents here and there, smoked-out taillights, and “S8” badging throughout.
The 5-passenger S8 is available as the S8 and S8 Plus for 2017. Standard equipment includes 4-zone automatic climate control, a sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, dual-pane acoustic glass, power sunshades for the rear windows, and stunning ambient interior LED lighting.
The LEDs are one of the most visually fetching items on an interior that is itself a work of art, from the stitching to the wood finish. The 22-way power front seats are heated and ventilated and even feature massage functionality. The entire cabin is swathed in Valcona leather. Black leather seats with unique red stitching are also now optional.
All occupants are treated to a fantastic Bose entertainment system with 14 speakers and AudioPilot noise cancellation. Through this stereo, you can listen to HD Radio, SiriusXM satellite radio, or any manner of media streamed from a Bluetooth-connected smartphone.
At the center of the dash is the screen for Audi’s MMI, or Multi-Media Interface system. This is the gold standard of infotainment layouts, operated via the large central controller. From there, you can access music, phone functions, the navigation system, and much more. It also lets you toggle and tune many of the vehicle systems dictating the S8’s stunning performance.
The engine found under the S8's long hood is a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that makes 520 hp; the S8 Plus uses the same engine, but tuned to put out an astounding 605 hp. Power is routed through an 8-speed S-Tronic transmission to the quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi says this combination is good for a 0-60 mph time of 3.8 seconds, making the 2017 model the fastest S8 ever. Fuel economy has not yet been announced for the 2017 S8, but the 2016 edition got 15 mpg city/25 highway/19 combined.
As fast as it goes on the straights, the Audi S8 is masterful at taking on tight corners as well. Much of that is thanks to the quattro system, which sends power to each individual wheel as more grip is needed. A torque-vectoring rear-differential further manages power for optimal handling.
The adaptive air suspension is also key to the S8’s cornering ability. It keeps the car level through turns and can even raise and lower the body as a whole with a push of a button. This is important for highway driving, where low clearance means better downforce, control, and efficiency, and it's helpful for drivers in colder climates, where raising the suspension affords better traction in snow and helps avoid bottoming out over potholes.
A full suite of front- and side-impact airbags are available as standard equipment, delivering peace of mind. There are a whole host of optional safety features. One such feature is the Active Lane Assist, which alerts the driver when the car is drifting out of the lane and can even gently alter the steering to correct the vehicle's course. Audi Pre-Sense, a forward collision warning system, can alert the driver when it senses a quickly approaching obstacle; if the driver takes no action, this system can take over and apply the brakes.
The base MSRP for the 2017 Audi A8 has not yet been released, but the S8 Plus starts at $115,900. An available Dynamic Package raises the top speed to 189.5 mph (the norm for the German market). This pricing seriously undercuts the competition, as the BMW Alpina B7 costs $128,300 and the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG starts at $143,250. By contrast, the S8 is a high-performance bargain!
The expectations of the luxury market have changed during the last decade. No longer is it enough to deliver the utmost in comfort and convenience. Now, every car has to drive like a performance machine. Luckily, Audi has had a performance-luxury ace-in-the-hole with the S8 this entire time--and it's more powerful, lavish, and capable than ever!
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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