If the 2014 Audi S8 ($112,000) were a person, he’d be the CEO of a tech conglomerate who lives in Manhattan, competes in triathlons, dates supermodels and always finds himself surrounded at the coolest who’s who parties; that’s the level of mechanical swagger we’re talking about here. The S8 has daily driver looks with supercar stats, making it arguably the perfect car for those who can drop $112k. Lucky for us, we didn’t have to sell our Apple stock to get some wheel time in this 520-horsepower German statement.
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The S8 has been in America since the early 2000s, but never at this level of performance. The 4.0-liter TFSI V8 dishes out a roaring 520 horsepower, taking the driver and occupants from a standstill to 60 in 3.9 seconds. Audi managed to hunt down contortionist dragons to cram inside the aluminum engine block, taming them into fuel economy submission by way of Audi cylinder on demand, which deactivates four cylinders when they aren’t needed. This mechanical shutdown could (gasp) create noise, so Audi employs active engine mounts and pipes in opposing waveforms (think noise canceling headphones) through the 1900-watt Bang and Olufsen sound system to ensure you aren’t disturbed. Couple their cylinder shutdown technology with their racing-derived TFSI setup, which injects fuel directly into the combustion chamber, and you end up with 26 mpg on the freeway. Those numbers aren’t winning awards from Greenpeace, but they’re decidedly impressive.
This 2.5-ton five-seater is stout but insanely athletic, the Lebron James of luxury sedans.
This 2.5-ton five-seater is stout but insanely athletic, sort of like the Lebron James of luxury sedans. Its intimidation begins with the Singleframe grill, about the size of a jailroom door, and angular LEDs; the signature S-line silver mirrors, chin spoiler and rear diffuser make an appearance as well. Though the exterior has panache, all those after-school specials would have us remember it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and Audi interiors are just about the best in the business. Carbon Atlas inlays, Alcantara headliner, perforated diamond-stitched 22-way adjustable massaging seats, wi-fi, Google Maps with street view for navigation and the aforementioned Bang and Olufsen 19-speaker (each with individual amp) sound system create a cabin so encompassing it’s as if Audi took a high-end modern flat and dropped it on 21-inch wheels.
Hanging around LA racing from red light to red light in this luxo-barge was fine and dandy, but there was only one place deserving of this beast’s sport differential, multi-mode drive settings and eight-speed Tiptronic: El Mirage dry lake bed. No speed limit and $15 for admission made the 1.5-hour drive outside of LA well worth the extra gas. Once we arrived, we switched into Dynamic mode (tightens suspension/steering/throttle response) and secured all loose objects, then dropped the hammer…to a relatively small fanfare. The full grip from the Quattro all-wheel-drive, smooth and quick shifts, air suspension and purposely insulated cabin had us thinking, “that was 120 mph?”
Admittedly, we were expecting an experience closer to a raucous Lambo or peacocking Ferrari, especially given this prime location, but alas, that’s not the heart of the S8. It’s a car meant to be respected by those who appreciate ingenuity and thoughtful power, not trendy nightclub fodder. It’s safe to say that if Jason “how did he just do that” Statham had the option of the 2014 S8 rather than the heavier W12s in Transporter 2 and 3, his choice would be obvious. Then again, if the A8L Security is on the table, it’s hard to pass up bulletproof doors that explode off their hinges if the occupants need a quick escape. Imagine a test drive in that.