The S8 from Audi is a high performance version of the Audi A8 four-door executive sedan that the German auto manufacturer has been producing since 1994. The Audi A8 was originally designed as a replacement for the Audi V8, and was also named to fit better with the brand’s overall naming convention. The S8 was first made available for sale in 1996, and it was, at first, intended only for the European market. The Audi S8 was not exported to North America until 1999. The Audi S8 is produced exclusively at Audi’s Neckarsulm, Germany assembly plant.
The S8 is based on the same frame as the Audi A8, which is notable because the A8 was the first mass produced car to use an aluminum chassis, known as the Audi Space Frame. The Audi Space Frame has since become the basis for many other Audi models. Unlike the A8, however, the higher performance and more luxurious S8 has only been available in short wheelbase form, and it is only available equipped with Audi’s Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system.
The first generation of the Audi S8 was equipped with a 4.2-liter V8 that produced 335 horsepower. The engine was originally designed with four valves per cylinder, but to coincide with the 1999 model year facelift, Audi increased the engine to five valves per cylinder and an additional 20 horsepower. The European version of the S8 came equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, but most other global markets got only a five-speed Tiptronic gearbox. For the third generation, the 2006 to 2009 model years, the Audi S8 was powered by a 5.2-liter V10 FSI engine that produced 444 horsepower and had an electronically limited top speed of 155 miles per hour. This engine was based on a similar powerplant found in the Lamborghini Gallardo, available for borrowing thanks to the fact that Volkswagen Group owned both the Lamborghini and Audi brands. The drivetrain was completed with a six-speed Tiptronic transmission. The third generation of the Audi S8, which is still available as of the 2014 model year, was revealed at the 2011 Franfurt Motor Show and released in 2012. It is powered by a 4-liter bi-turbo V8 TFSI engine that yields 512 horsepower and a 0-62 acceleration time of 4.2 seconds.
Though the two cars share a chassis, a lot of sheet metal, and the same basic profile, Audi makes the S8 stand out from the A8 with exterior modifications such as aluminum side mirror housings, chrome grille trim, polished exhaust pipes, an integrated rear trunk lid spoiler, xenon and HID headlights with LED daytime running lamps, and exclusive S8 and V10 badges. The interior of the S8 is typically fitted with luxury features such as high bolstered sport seats that feature 14-way power adjustments and memory functions. Seat heaters are typical on the back seats as well as on the fronts. Factory alloy wheel options range from upwards of 18 inches, fitted over anti-lock Bosch performance brakes. A sport suspension, featuring higher performance components than the standard A8, as well as electronic stability control and speed-sensitive power assisted steering help enhance the S8’s drivability.