2015 Audi S8 Review: Incredible Luxury Meets Awe-Inspring Performance
While the new Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat has rocketed the American sport sedan to the top of the high performance 4-door segment, European models like the Audi S8 have long been the leaders in high performance sedans – particularly when you wanted just as much luxury as you did performance. That hasn’t changed any with the 2015 models, as the newest Audi S8 is everything great that you have ever heard about the German luxury sport sedans. It is stylish on the outside, beautifully plush and luxurious on the inside and the twin turbocharged V8 makes this car one of the most entertaining large sedans I’ve ever driven.
Before I get into all of the loveable aspects of the 2015 Audi S8, I should touch on the only real downside. My 2015 S8 had a base price of $114,900. The Bang & Olufsen sound system adds $6,300, the full leather and Alcantara interior package adds $5,500, the Driver’s Assistance package adds $2,100, the Sport Exhaust system adds $1,500, the Cold Weather Package adds $750 and the optional titanium 21 inch wheel package adds $250. When you add up the base price, the many options mentioned above and the $925 destination fee, the price as tested of this awesome super sedan comes to $132,225. Obviously, with a price north of $132k, this isn’t a car for everyone, but for those who can deal with the payments – the 2015 Audi S8 is worth every cent.
When compared to the 2015 Audi A8, the high performance S8 exterior design isn’t all that different. The majority of the lines and design cues are shared across the entire large Audi sedan lineup, but the S8 features a collection of exterior bits that give this car a more powerful look, but it isn’t extreme enough to stray far from the distinct luxury feel.
Across the front end, the 2015 S8 has the same cool looking LED segmented headlights and a big, bold grille opening the stretches from the hood lip to the bottom of the front fascia. Unique to the S8 is a lower front fascia that extends further to the ground with large vents on each side offering added cooling to the high performance engine and braking system.
Along the sides, the S8 has the same low, sleek profile as the A8, but the lowered stance that comes with the sport suspension and the 21 inch titanium painted wheels gives this big sedan a ready to rock look. Also, the titanium 21 inch wheels wrapped in low profile rubber just plain look awesome with the S8 branded brake calipers poking from behind.
Out back, the changes that come with the S8 package are limited to the badges and the lower rear fascia, which has four oval exhaust tips with a dark finish poking from the unique lower fascia. This quad tip setup looks great and while it isn’t quite as loud as I would like, it allows the twin turbo V8 a chance to roar under hard throttle.
I have heard some complaints that the Audi S8 doesn’t have an aggressive enough design when compared to the A8, but the minor changes made around the outside do a fine job of balancing sport and luxury in a way that makes for one beautiful large luxury sedan.
While the 2015 Audi S8 is a high performance sedan, it still comes from one of the world’s premium luxury brands and the cabin of this large sedan has everything that you could expect from a vehicle of this caliber.
Seats and Seating Space
The Audi S8 is a large luxury sedan, so you would expect that it would have plenty of space and very comfortable seats. You would be right, as there is more than enough room at all four main seating positions to comfortably seat four all adults at once. There is also a middle rear seat that will accommodate an adult, although that will make the back seat a little tight for three bigger adults. However, if you only have two people seated in the rear, they will surely find plenty of leg, knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and head room. Also, when you fold down the rear center arm rest, you will find a panel that lets rear riders control every aspect of the dual zone rear climate control – including heated surfaces.
The front seats also have gobs of space in every direction with plush padding and super soft leather surfaces that are both heated and cooled, but the real “wow factory” comes in the incredible levels of adjustability for the front seats. Using a system of buttons and knobs on the sides of the seat and the large infotainment screen, the driver and front passenger can adjust every portion of the seats – including the side and base bolsters, the front leg support, the angle of the upper back area and all of the normal adjustments such as height, angle, etc. This system allows you to adjust every bit of the front seats to fit your figure and as a result, I find the seats in the S8 to be the most comfortable seats Ive experienced while testing new cars. The lighter brown leather with the black carpeting, black trim and black Alcantara headliner look great as well, but the star of the show here is the incredible level of comfort for front and rear riders.
Oh, the front seats also have an adjustable massage feature that just makes riding in the 2015 S8 that much more comfortable.
Pretty much every aspect of the 2015 Audi S8 cockpit is controlled through a simple panel in the center stack and the infotainment screen that raises out of the dashboard when you start the car. Other Audi products have the control knobs and buttons located closer to the center armrest, but the S8 has it further forward. The centerpiece of the control system is the large knob that allows you to scroll through whatever is displayed on the screen with the buttons around the knob giving you the ability to bounce from screen to screen.
This system integrates the sound system (including satellite radio and the Bluetooth sound system access), the navigation, the hands free phone system and the Drive mode selector into one easy to use location. Also, the steering wheel has controls that work in conjunction with the information screen mounted between the large speedometer and tachometer, allowing you to scroll through a variety of information screens. Best of all, the steering wheel controls allow you to flip through the radio stations without worrying about presets, so whether you are listening to AM, FM or satellite radio – you can easily bounce from station to station without taking your hands off of the wheel or your eyes off of the road.
The infotainment screen of the S8 also incorporates the multi-zone climate control system, but it uses its own panel of buttons and knobs that is located just above the other infotainment controls. This includes the heated and cooled seats, fan speed, air direction and all of the other settings, but for someone who hasn’t used it before – it can take some time to learn at first. For each setting, be it fan speed, temperature or air direction, you use the same knobs, but you push a button to adjust the different aspects of the system.
My key complaint with the Audi S8 is that it does not have a USB connection and the cell phone connection cable uses a proprietary design that prevented me from plugging my phone into the car. Fortunately, I was able to connect my phone through the Bluetooth system to access my music, but it doesn’t offer the same level of access and control as a vehicle that accepts a USB drive.
It is hard to put into perspective just how good the interior of the 2015 Audi S8 is, but let me put it this way. When I drive around the Metro Detroit area, I know where there is going to be traffic and I avoid those areas to minimize my driving time. When I had the Audi S8, I went ahead and sat in traffic, while the air conditioned seats massaged my back and the Bang & Olufsen sound system provided sound quality that is as close to live music as you can get. The driver’s seat is the most exciting, as that person is in control of the high performance V8, but every other seating position in the S8 provides the same stunning levels of comfort as the driver’s seat so being stuck in traffic isn’t a problem unless you are in a hurry. This is a $132,000 car with a $132,000 interior, leaving you wanting nothing in any driving situation.
the 2015 Audi S8 is powered by a twin turbocharged V8 measuring 4.0 liters and offering a combination of 520 horsepower and 481lb-ft of torque. This power is sent to the road via an advanced all-wheel drive system and an 8-speed automatic with a paddle-shifted manual mode that gives you precision control of each gear selection. Also, the selectable drive mode system allows you to pick between Sport, Auto and Comfort, with the Dynamic mode stiffening up the suspension, the steering, the throttle input and stretching the shift points for the best performance possible. Comfort mode softens everything up and Auto makes the decision for you based on how you are driving at any given moment, but the ride quality drop is so slight in Sport mode, that I expect most drivers to leave it in the highest performance setting all of the time.
The S8 is a big, roomy luxury sedan, but the incredible engine twin turbo V8 mated to the high tech AWD system and the quick shifting automatic transmission make for one seriously quick vehicle. Audi promises that the S8 will dash from 0-60 in just 3.9 seconds and while I wasn’t able to measure the 0-60 times, I can definitively say that this big sedan moves out as well as any car I’ve ever driven – 2-doors or 4. Most importantly, while other cars will dip under 4 seconds when making a 0-60 run, the all-wheel drive system makes the S8 a breeze to launch, so when you put the hammer to the floor, all 520 horsepower get you moving in a serious hurry. In addition to being a beast from a stop, the response of the twin turbo V8 while cruising at speed is hardly hampered whatsoever, allowing the S8 to blast well beyond any posted speed limit in the United States with a quick stomp of the gas pedal. Really, there is no point in the drive cycle where the S8 doesn’t offer shove-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration forces so whether you are looking to blow away a new Corvette at a stop light or blast around slower moving traffic on the highway – the S8 is always happy to answer the bell.
Best of all, the 2015 Audi S8 was designed to conform to European expectations, so it is far, far more than just a straight line missile. The Audi Drive Select system allows you to tune the suspension and steering to your preferences, so if you want the most ride quality possible, the Comfort mode has you covered. When you want the best handling performance with the greatest level of feedback, the Dynamic mode is the choice for you and the Auto mode will make adjustments on the fly between the Comfort and Dynamic modes. This way, it is comfortable most of the time, but when you start to push the S8 hard, the steering, transmission, throttle and suspension all adjust for improved performance. In Dynamic mode, you can carve through turns with ease, whether they are long, sweeping turns or tight turns that require hard braking.
Mind you, this is still a large luxury sedan so it isn’t going to hang with something like the Audi R8 – but it will handle the corners as well as any large sedan I’ve ever driven. The suspension keeps the car comfortably in control as you push through the corners, allowing you to steer and accelerate with confidence. The steering system is very acute in any mode, but the Dynamic mode allows the greatest road feel and the most feedback, both of which bolster the high performance feel of the S8. Best of all, since this is still a premium luxury sedan, even Dynamic mode is smooth and comfortable – even on the rough Detroit area highways. When blasting along a back country road, the big brakes and high performance suspension bits are aided by the paddle shifted 8-speed transmission, which offers incredibly accurate upshifts and downshifts. It will shift by itself and offer just as much performance, but using the paddles will allow you to approach corners better while also adding that little extra fun factor to this beautiful machine.
I can safely say that I have only driven a few cars that will accelerate and handle like the 2015 Audi S8 and none of those that have offered comparable performance could comfortably seat four adults. If you are shopping for a full sized luxury sedan performance capabilities are your key deciding factor, the S8 is hard to beat. When you add in the impeccable level of ride quality with the awe inspiring performance – this big Audi sedan is easily one of the best options for your money. I don’t mean to gush, but this is most certainly a car worth gushing about for anyone who loves driving.
The Final Word
If you are looking for a high performance luxury sedan that will hang with almost any car on the road on a clear summer day while also being fantastic in the snow – all while wrapping you and your passengers in the lap of luxury – the 2015 Audi S8 could be your next new car. The S8 can drive like a supercar and hand out beatings at the drag strip one day while conquering the worst road conditions while going to pick up the kids the next. The exterior design is subdued as high performance cars go, but the changes made to the A8 for the S8 package go a long way in giving this car a powerful silhouette from every angle and in terms of the interior – this is truly one of the nicest, most comfortable cars I’ve tested.
All of those stereotypes about German luxury sport sedans being the best in the world are true – and the 2015 Audi S8 is a rolling reminder of why the world feels the way that it does about the big, powerful European luxury sedans. I loved every single second of driving the 2015 S8 and I bet that you will too. It is expensive, but when you consider the level of luxury, the level of performance and the year-round capabilities of this roomy luxury sedan, there are few other cars sold in the world that can truly compete.