Around corners, the lightweight aluminum construction of the S8 ensures it feels nimble, at least compared to its rivals. With a curb weight of around 4,400 pounds (as tested), however, this is still a heavy car and you’ll feel this when heading into a turn with too much speed.
Understeer and body roll is notable close to the limit, but not unreasonable for a car of this size. Slowing rapidly is no problem, however, thanks to strong braking performance from massive 15.7-inch ventilated steel discs up front and 14-inch discs at the rear.
To aid handling, the S8 features adaptive air suspension with variable damping, which varies ride height of the body between three levels. The steering is equally reactive, adapting its steering ratio and boost to the driving speed to provide tighter cornering. Combine all this with quattro all-wheel drive, with a 40/60 front to rear split, and you're looking at one of the best handlers in the full-size sedan segment.
Furthermore, five driving modes—Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual and Efficiency—allow you to change everything from the suspension damping, to the steering, throttle response, transmission speed and even the Sport Differential. Dynamic is the one you want to leave it in. This gives a nice weighty feel to the steering, a firmer—yet still comfortable—ride, and optimal engine response.
The latest-generation A8 is a very handsome car, and thankfully designers of the S8 haven’t strayed far from the elegant, purposeful look of the standard car. Exterior design accents of note include the body-color trim strips on the sills, polished aluminum-look mirror housings and chrome-look dual oval tailpipes. Some may find the look a little too subtle, though we think its sleeper status is perfectly suited for such a car. Our test model was also fitted with chunky five-spoke alloys measuring 20-inches in diameter. U.S.-spec models come standard with 21-inch wheels with 265/35 all–season tires.
Inside, the S8 delivers on its promise of a sporty but luxurious ride with multi-way, power-adjustable comfort sport seats built exclusively for the S8, a leather sport steering wheel with contrasting stitching and aluminum-look finish shift paddles and pedals. The multimedia interface (MMI) system has an 8-inch high-res display, Bluetooth networking and Audi connect wireless Internet.
One of the most brilliant features was the around view monitor, which made parking a breeze, even in some of the narrow spots we encountered. Our test car also had the available Bang & Olufsen sound system. It was impressive, though it may not be worth the upgrade from the standard Bose system if you mainly listen to radio.
You’ll find acres of space in the cabin, despite the S8 only coming in the A8’s short-wheelbase body. Our only criticism is the odd combination of carbon fiber, aluminum and wood trim our test car featured. Storage capacity is 13.2 cubic feet.
For full-size sedans, the S8 is near the top of the class. It handles brilliantly for its size, it’s got abundant power and torque, and when desired it’s also extremely fuel efficient. However, unless you really need the space of a full-size sedan, or the prestige factor, we’d argue that you’d be just as happy, if not more so, in the S6 or drop-dead gorgeous S7.
Pricing on the 2013 Audi S8 starts at $110,895 including destination.