2013 Audi S8 – Review and Road Test
What the Bundeskanzler Drives on Weekends
The first time I drove an Audi A8 (albeit the previous generation), I thought of former Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder, who was the first Federal Chancellor to pick a car other than a Mercedes as the official Kanzlerwagen. While his was far more armoured than the one I drove, the impression stuck.
When I recently sat behind the wheel of an Audi S8 (the S cars are a line of high-performance sport luxury vehicles that are more powerful and sporty compared to Audis designated with an A as part of their names), it came to me. This is the car that the Bundeskanzler drives on the weekend when his driver is away.
This feeling was reinforced by the interior, with carbon fiber and aluminum trim instead of the rich wood found in the A8. The supportive diamond-quilted 22-way seats, which heat, cool, and massage, were supremely comfortable. The Alcantara headliner matched the interior color and drivers can select ambient lighting from a menu of red, bright white, and soft white.
DRIVING THE 2013 AUDI S8
When you press the start/stop button the all-new 4.0-liter twin-turbo, direct-injection V8 springs into action. While this engine is shared amongst several S cars, in the S8 it is tuned to develop 520 horsepower and 481 pound-feet of torque, allowing the car to go from a standstill to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 3.9 seconds, quite respectable for this size beast.
While the S8 is large (room for the Bundeskanzler, his driver during the week, and a few foreign statesmen as guests), it doesn’t handle as a big sedan would be expected to. The sport-tuned adaptive air suspension is lowered by 10 mm (20 mm when dynamic mode is engaged), combined with Audi’s dynamic steering system, which not only adjusts the steering ratio based on speed but adjusts the steering torque to match the ratio, translates to excellent handling with ultra-precise steering. There’s no curve you can’t throw at the S8.
In my week with the S8, I had the opportunity to drive hundreds of miles on a variety of roads ranging from fun parkways with lots of twists to long stretches of highway with decent speed limits to rush-hour traffic. The S8 was at its best when it could let loose but it was truly a car for all roads and seasons.
The more I drove the S8, the more I came to appreciate and love the car, as did various passengers who came along for the ride. All I had to say to one of them was that the Bundeskanzler was in town and his immediate reply was: ”You have an A8,” to which I replied ”better than that!”