By JIM PARKER
The Post and Courier
Pedal pressed down firmly, the new Audi S8 Sport quietly gathered speed on a Charleston roadway last week: no squealing tires or ear-splitting mufflers.
This wasn’t on the clock, and the 0-60 mph figure would have trailed its official listed time of 3.9 seconds anyway. But that took nothing away from the estimated $130,000 luxury sedan’s effortless acceleration and eminent comfort.
Just 500 of the 2013 S8s will be crafted this year for the U.S. market. The base price is $110,000. One of the factory models spent a day at McDaniels Audi of Charleston on Savannah Highway last week before being shipped to its eventual owner.
With such a limited supply, the demand is rarefied as well, said Justin Glenn, Audi brand specialist at McDaniels. “We have one coming to us,” he said. Any others would be on special order. The luxury four-door is for “a discriminating buyer that can have it the way they want it,” Glenn said, “somebody who likes all the luxuries of an executive sedan but loves the sports car, all that luxury and speed. It does a lot of things sports cars do.”
The new Audi, which is being released this month, is the top of the carmaker’s S lineup.
Powered by a 4.0-liter V-8 engine churning out 520 horsepower, the chic model — like its A8 four-door sister — sports the manufacturer’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission can be switched to manual without foot clutch and controlled by paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Supporting the car are extra-large 21-inch alloy rims.
Also boosting the vehicle’s speed is its lightweight, high strength all-aluminum body.
Posh features enwrap the Audi. Carbon fiber trim acts as a replacement to fine wood grain. The sedan showcases heated, ventilated and massaging perforated seats with hand-stitched leather.
The center console controls audio, climate and other perks with knobs and buttons, some of which are found on the steering wheel. Voice commands also control functions, such as destinations. Steering wheel gauges call up the driving information system, which lists data such as mpg.
An extra on the McDaniels model was the top-notch $6,300 Bang & Olufsen sound system which includes tweeters in either corner of the front dash that lift and close when the engine turns on and off.
The S8 carries many of Audi’s innovative technological enhancements, such as:
• Adaptive air suspension that pulls the car through twists and turns.
• Sports differential that applies additional torque — get-up-and-go power — to the rear cornering wheel.
• All light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps.
• Communications-navigation system with screen that pops up when the vehicle is started. The screen shows views from five cameras around the car, including behind, in front and overhead.
• Real-life navigation images, which are provided via Google Earth.
• Audi Side Assist, a blind spot warning system where a light comes on the side-view mirror when cars are approaching from the back.
• Audi Drive Selection where the motorist, via the navigation system, can adjust the steering sensitivity, shift point and suspension to fine-tune the ride to his or her liking. A button can adjust the power from normal to fuel-saving economy or to racing-esque dynamic with tighter handling. The motorist can “adjust it on the fly,” Glenn said.
• Touch pad technology, where people can spell out letters on the tiny tablet next to the gear shifter using their fingers. For instance, they may want to write out a destination for the navigation system.
• Ample rear seats including a separate center console that controls climate and entertainment, notably the two DVR viewing screens on the rear of the front seat headrests that can also display streaming video.
• A smart key that allows the driver to enter the car without pushing a button to unlock it. The car also has push-button start and stop.
• In a case of turning the clock back, Audi includes a fashionable analog timepiece built into the dashboard.
The new S8, judging by an afternoon trip one day last week, is up to the task of pleasing buyers’ tastes for speed and luxury all in one package.
A longer body stance and lightly sloped roofline give the new sedan a stately yet ready-for-the-Autobahn look.
Handling is satisfying with just a light body lean on curves. The brakes worked stoutly: They’re supplemented by a warning light when you come up too fast on a car stopped in traffic.
The seats were mighty comfortable, and leg and head room more than sufficient. Trunk space was ample, easily holding a few pieces of luggage.
As mentioned earlier, the sedan’s acceleration is superb, not so much for a burst of speed but for a quick yet gradual increase in mph. The speedometer is at 60 before you know it — actually about 4 seconds.
Maybe the most enjoyable feature was the camera, which on a split screen can show the roof of the car and what’s going on around the vehicle.
If Audi were to tweak the S8, however, it should start by realizing that a luxury sport sedan should be all that: plush interior, stunning exterior and race-car like drive and handling especially with a $110,000 plus pricetag.
For instance, the insides are soothing and supple yet staples such as the cupholders are average in design. Similarly, the sedan pushes the envelope in its “dynamic” drive and in the manual mode but the normal category is, well, a bit too normal (at the same token, the economy mode was a pleasant surprise with much less power dropoff than expected).
The S8 is a very good car that could be a great driving vehicle. Remember, this is a new model — and “very good” is a promising first spin for what’s expected to be a model with a few more generations in it.
To learn more, visit your local Audi dealer.
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or email@example.com