2023 Audi S8 review

16 minutes, 33 seconds Read

Audi’s luxury highway crusher is as effortless as it is comfortable. But does it still have a place in today’s auto landscape?

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What we love
  • Powerful twin-turbo V8 makes driving effortless
  • Superb ride and comfort on air suspension
  • Beautifully appointed cabin
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What we don’t
  • A little bit understated unlike some rivals
  • No spare tyre, merely an inflation kit
  • Unlikely to be around for much longer

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2023 Audi S8

It passed with barely a ripple, a gentle fading away so quiet, and so soft in its demise hardly anyone noticed. Audi Australia confirmed in October this year that its A8 range of large, luxury limousines would no longer form part of its local line-up.

With one exception. This car, the twin-turbo V8-powered Audi S8, the German brand’s ultimate sleeper sedan. It will live on in Australia, for now at least, a staunch S8-shaped middle finger to modern tastes that dictate SUVs are the new kings and queens of the road and that battery-electric power is here to save the world.

Of course, Audi isn’t shying away from electrification, and it’s almost certain the next-generation A8 limousine will do away with internal combustion and instead be purely electric driven.

That leaves this, the 2023 Audi S8, as the model’s swansong in Australia. And what a fitting finale it is.

How much does the Audi S8 cost in Australia?

The 2023 Audi S8 is the most expensive Audi your money can buy in Australia today. Starting at $273,400 plus on-road costs, the S8’s list price eclipses that of the newly anointed flagship from Ingolstadt, the Audi RS E-Tron GT, which gets underway at $248,200 before options and on-road costs. Different animals, of course, the E-Tron a battery-electric powerhouse, while the S8 treads the path of V8 internal combustion.

So is the Audi S8 ready to relinquish its ‘flagship’ tag to a new-generation electric car? Judging by the equipment list, not just yet.

As befitting a car that will cost you over $300,000 once options and on-road costs are factored in, the Audi S8 is overflowing with standard equipment.

Highlights include 21-inch alloy wheels, HD matrix LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, Valcona leather seat upholstery, heated front seats with heated armrests (nice!), four-zone climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electric sunblinds for rear door windows as well as the rear window, a Bang & Olufsen premium 3D sound system, and a full suite of Audi’s advanced safety assist systems, which we’ll delve into a little further on in this review.

Of course, being a luxury limo, the Audi S8 hasn’t escaped the red pen of optional equipment. Our test car, finished in a no-cost shade of Firmament Blue, was fitted with the $19,000 Sensory Package that adds an ‘advanced’ Bang & Olufsen sound system, heated outer rear seats, seat ventilation with massage function at rear, electric adjustment and lumbar support for the outboard rear seats, and a full nappa leather interior pack with contrast stitching.

All up, the Audi S8 we have here is priced at $292,400 before on-road costs, or approximately $315,000 drive-away in NSW.

The S8’s obvious rivals also hail from Germany. Leading the charge is the venerable and iconic Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which in S450 4Matic trim is priced at around $242,000 before on-road costs.

The BMW 7 Series has also been a mainstay for those who lust after a statement-making big sedan. With a dollop of M Sport goodness without going full-cream ‘M’, the BMW 740i M Sport asks for $272,900 before on-road costs and options.

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Circa-$300,000 on the road will also get you a lot of Porsche Panamera, Stuttgart’s take on upper large luxury, has been renewed for 2024 As either the eponymous Panamera ($227,000), or the powerhouse Turbo E-Hybrid model (from a more lofty $402,300).

Of that rival trio, the Audi S8 is arguably the most austere, the least in your face, but also the most potent (Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid aside). And that’s no bad thing.

Key details 2023 Audi S8
Price $273,400 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Firmament Blue
Options Sensory Package – $19,000
– Full leather package includes extended interior elements in leather with contrast stitching
– Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced Sound System
– Rear heated seats
– Seat ventilation with massage function at rear
– Electric rear outer seats with lumbar support
Price as tested $292,400 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $315,000 (estimated, NSW)
Rivals Mercedes-Benz S-Class | BMW 7 Series | Porsche Panamera

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How much space does the Audi S8 have inside?

Understated is the order of the day inside the Audi S8. Forget the sometimes garish and unnecessarily tech-heavy interiors of some of its rivals. Instead, the Audi treads a refined yet demure path when it comes to interior design.

And it starts when entering the big limo-like sedan with the ride height automatically increased by 50mm when you pull on the door handle, making for an easier time when getting in and out.

The quality of the materials throughout are effortlessly understated – soft-touch leather, acres of gloss black, complemented by subtle and distinctive brushed aluminium accents. It all feels rather premium without being obvious.

The (optional) nappa leather seats are artfully quilted and perforated, and provide both heating and cooling functions as well as massage programs for those long stretches behind the wheel. As you’d expect in a car like this, the seats are electrically adjustable making for an easy time finding the ideal driving position.

The perforated leather-cloaked steering wheel looks so good, and feels even better in hand. There’s something satisfying about the feeling of a nicely crafted steering wheel in hand, one you are compelled to stroke as you fire up the lusty V8 under the bonnet.

Storage options are adequate, with a central bin with a padded – and heated! – lid that feels like overkill. I don’t ever recall having cold elbows before, but a circa $300,000 price tag demands sumptuous inclusions not usually afforded the hoi polloi, so here we are.

There’s a pair of cupholders next to the carbon-fibre-trimmed gear selector and the door pockets can easily accommodate bottles.

The second row feels spacious provided you’re sitting in one of the two outboard seats. While there is a middle ‘seat’, it’s firm and compromised by the rather large transmission tunnel that eats into available foot room. 

The outboard seats are primo, though, and can be reclined for extra lounging ability that’s great on long road trips. They’re heated, too, while the dual-zone climate controls for the second row ensure there’ll be no squabbling in the back about temperature or fan speed.

A fold-down central armrest reveals a pair of cupholders as well as a small touchscreen where second-row occupants can tailor their experience, with features like ambient lighting, seat heating, recline angle, privacy blinds/sunscreens, and climate controls all individually configurable.

The whole centre section of the second row can open up, too, ideal for carrying longer items such as skis. The rest of the boot measures in at a generous 505 litres, although that’s the extent of it with only the ‘ski port’ offering any extra space. The second row does not fold away.

There are handy nets and tie-down points in the boot, ensuring you can secure your stuff neatly, while accessing the boot itself is a breeze with gesture-control functionality. It works by waving your foot under the rear bumper, although it proved haphazard in execution and sometimes simply refusing to open.

Don’t go looking for a spare wheel either, an inflation kit the only thing standing between your flat tyre and you getting home (or to the nearest tyre shop) in one piece.

Overall, the interior of the Audi S8 speaks to an understated quality that’s hard not to like. It looks a little spartan compared to some of its blingy rivals, but there are features and creature comforts in abundance.

2023 Audi S8
Seats Five
Boot volume 505L
Length 5190mm
Width 1945mm
Height 1475mm
Wheelbase 2998mm

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Does the Audi S8 have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The screen count inside the Audi S8 runs to four. The central 10.1-inch touchscreen integrated into the dash hosts Audi’s excellent ‘connect plus’ operating system running wireless (or wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as inbuilt satellite navigation, a digital TV (only operable when parked), digital DAB+ radio, as well acting as the S8’s nerve centre for a variety of functions.

We found pairing Apple CarPlay wirelessly faultless, with a fast and seamless connection every single time. That’s not something we can say about all such systems from a variety of manufacturers.

The second screen, measuring in at 8.6 inches, hosts the S8’s climate-control functions. While usually we’d decry having to effect changes via screen inputs as opposed to traditional dials and switches, Audi’s set-up works particularly well, primarily because it is always on display and not buried inside a screen with menus and sub-menus like so many other car makers are wont to do these days. It’s all rather simple and easy to use, even on the fly.

Of course, Audi set the benchmark with digital driver displays with Virtual Cockpit in what seems like an eternity ago now. Others have emulated, and some have even come close, but Audi’s set-up, which allows for seemingly endless configurability, is still up there with the best.

Whether you want rich driving or trip data, a simple digital speed readout, or full widescreen mapping, Audi’s 12.3-inch driver display is easy to use, and clear to read thanks to crisp fonts and crisper graphics.

The final screen, as already touched on, lives in the second row, accessed by folding down the S8’s armrest. It measures in at 5.7 inches and can be used to change a number of back-row-specific functions such as seat heating, climate control and privacy blinds, among others.

In terms of keeping devices juiced up, a wireless charging pad lives in the centre console. It features a simple yet effective clip that holds your phone in place, stopping it from sliding about and breaking the connection.

Additionally, a pair of USB-C plugs inside the central storage bin provide options, while second-row passengers can access an additional two USB-C plugs as well as two 12V points.

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Is the Audi S8 a safe car?

The Audi S8 (and the broader A8 range) has not been tested by Australia’s independent safety body ANCAP. Nor has its European counterpart, Euro NCAP, put the S8 through its paces in terms of safety.

2023 Audi S8
ANCAP rating Untested

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What safety technology does the Audi S8 have?

The Audi S8 bundles plenty of advanced safety systems under its 5.19m-long skin.

Standard ADAS (advanced driver assist systems) includes low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, high-speed AEB that works at speeds up to 250km/h, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go functionality as well as traffic jam assistance).

There’s also tyre pressure monitoring, safe-exit warning (that signals when a vehicle or cyclist is approaching from behind just as you’re about to open the door), a driver attention monitor, an excellent 360-degree camera, plus front and rear parking sensors.

Audi’s systems, those that we experienced anyway, are nicely calibrated, never feeling overly intrusive when called upon. The lane-keeping assist offers a gentle nudge to remind you to keep within the lane markings, while the adaptive cruise control maintains set speed and distance beautifully, never feeling jerky or too intense like some systems we’ve experienced in the past.

But a highlight, certainly for me, was the clever integration of the blind-spot monitoring into the S8’s interior ambient lighting. Simply, when the system detects a vehicle in your blind spot, the ambient lighting strip running the length of the relevant door will turn bright red – easy to understand and hard to miss. Nice one, Audi.

A full complement of airbags covers both rows of occupants, including a front-centre airbag between the driver and passenger that mitigates head clashes between occupants in the event of an accident.

How much does the Audi S8 cost to maintain?

Audi covers the S8 with its standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Audi also provides five years of roadside assistance.

Servicing intervals are every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. A five-year service plan can be prepaid at time of purchase for $4520.

Perhaps due to the scarcity of the Audi S8, we were unable to obtain a comprehensive insurance quote. However, as a guide, comprehensive insurance for a 2023 Audi A8 runs to $5085 per annum, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Expect the S8 to attract slightly higher premiums. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

At a glance 2023 Audi S8
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $4520 (5 years)

Is the Audi S8 fuel-efficient?

Audi claims its V8-powered flagship will use 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, a mix of urban, highway and intra-urban driving. Audi recommends 98-octane premium unleaded for the S8’s 82-litre fuel tank.

Our week with the S8, encompassing a mix of driving in varying conditions, split roughly 60 per cent urban and 40 per cent motorway, returned an indicated 13.8L/100km, which is a fair bit above Audi’s claim. No doubt more highway running would see that number drop.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 10.4L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 13.8L/100km
Fuel type 98-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 82L

What is the Audi S8 like to drive?

Let’s be clear, the Audi S8 may use more of the premium unleaded than Audi claims, but I don’t care because the drive experience is simply superb.

Let’s start with the nuts and bolts.

Power comes from Audi’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that, in this spec, pumps out 420kW and 800Nm. An eight-speed automatic transmission, what Audi calls ‘tiptronic’, sends drive to all four wheels. It’s a match made in heaven.

There’s plenty of poke from the lusty, albeit muted, V8 lurking under the bonnet. Audi claims a 0–100km/h sprint time of just 3.8 seconds, which is blisteringly quick, quicker still in a 5.2m-long car tipping the scales at 2295kg with driver.

It’s a powerful engine, one that hums meekly at city speeds while still offering plenty of get-up-and-go from standstill, but one that can transform into a snarling yet still aurally restrained beast when given its full head of steam.

Its happy place is out on a German autobahn, cruising at speeds in excess of 250km/h which, I’d wager, it would do with commensurate ease.

Our Australian highways and their 110km/h maximum signposted limits offer a glimpse into that unbridled ability, the S8 simply purring along at cruising speeds without raising a sweat. Effortless is the word that keeps leaping to mind, front and centre.

The continuously adaptive air suspension, a system that uses cameras to read the road ahead and then adjust damping qualities accordingly, is sublime, the big limo wafting over road nasties and cresting rises with aplomb and comfort. 

It’s a similar story around town, where the usual obstacles offer futile resistance to the S8’s excellent damping qualities, the Audi traversing speed humps like a Sherpa climbing Everest.

The S8 is, of course, underpinned by Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which means buckets of grip in the wet and, pleasingly, a sure-footedness when cornering.

I did take the S8 to my favourite stretch of winding and twisting rural back road just because, why not? And the big limo actually surprised with its agility. Sure, it’s no pocket-sized corner carver, but with all-wheel grip under wheel and with Audi’s four-wheel steering system making light work of tight corners, the S8 proved pleasingly – and somewhat surprisingly – capable and fun.

That four-wheel steering system – which steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front at slow speed and with the front at higher speeds – helps around town, too, making easy toil of tighter corners and light work of parking.

It’s a remarkable car, really, one that prioritises comfort but does so with an effortless yet powerful driving experience. It’s quiet on the road and savage when it needs to be, all while still cocooning its occupants in an elegant luxury.

Key details 2023 Audi S8
Engine 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol
Power 420kW @ 6000rpm
Torque 800Nm @ 2050–4500rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission 8-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 183kW/t
Weight (kerb) 2295kg
Spare tyre type Tyre repair kit
Tow rating 2300kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.5m

Should I buy an Audi S8?

Cars like the Audi S8 are increasingly becoming an anachronism and more’s the pity. No one really needs a big, luxurious sedan, but those who do venture into this throwback territory – and at last count there were 14 new owners of any kind of A8 to the end of October this year – will be richly rewarded.

With a powerful drivetrain that’s as easy to drive slowly as it is dispatching long stretches of motorway, the Audi S8 harks back to another era, a time when those who wanted the very best in what the automotive world had to offer gravitated towards big limousine-like sedans.

They made a statement, an automotive nod to the world that you had ‘made it’.

Now, luxurious SUVs fill that role. And the world is a little poorer for it, because cars like this will soon be a thing of the past. And that’s a shame. Get one while you still can.

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How do I buy an Audi S8 – next steps?

The Audi S8 in its standard form is already an exceptionally well-specified car with enough luxury inclusions to satisfy even the most discerning of buyers. You can safely leave options unchecked and still be satisfied.

If, on the other hand, you want to build your own, Audi Australia’s online configurator is your friend. Here you can personalise your S8 to your heart’s content and find out what stock is currently on hand. We suspect most of the stock Audi Australia is holding will already be optioned to the hilt, as Aussie buyers typically like to have the best of everything at this end of the market.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 Audi S8 Sedan

8.0/ 10

Performance

Safety Technology

Ride Quality

Infotainment & Connectivity

Handling & Dynamics

Energy Efficiency

Driver Technology

Value for Money

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Fit for Purpose

Rob Margeit has been an automotive journalist for over 20 years, covering both motorsport and the car industry. Rob joined CarAdvice in 2016 after a long career at Australian Consolidated Press. Rob covers automotive news and car reviews while also writing in-depth feature articles on historically significant cars and auto manufacturers. He also loves discovering obscure models and researching their genesis and history.

Read more about Rob MargeitLinkIcon

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