Rare Rides: An Almost New Audi S8 From 2001 (Part II)

rare rides an almost new audi s8 from 2001 part ii

In Part I of the D2 Audi S8 story, we covered the foundations of the A8 as Audi attempted a do-over after the V8 Quattro. Today we’re all about S8.

Coinciding with the development of the new 4.2-liter V8, Audi introduced the high-performance S8 to Europe in 1996. All examples were equipped with the 4.2, which was tuned to offer 335 horsepower over the standard car’s 300. 60 miles per hour arrived in 6.2 seconds, down to the Quattro all-wheel drive and the S8’s scant weight of 3,814 pounds. The lightness paid dividends over competition like the BMW 740i, which by comparison weighed between 4,255 and 4,553 pounds.

The S8’s looks were mostly about a sleeper style of performance. Exterior changes for the S8 were minimal and included some badging and special Avus wheels shared with other Audi S models. Inside, the S8 featured a three-spoke sports steering wheel with shift buttons, special gauges, and dark stained walnut trim. Alcantara seat inserts (shown below) were an option, but not often selected. S8 was updated with an increase in power for 1999, up to 364 horses courtesy of an additional valve in each cylinder. New power lessened the time to 60: 5.6 seconds. A visual rework in 2000 modernized the look of the headlamps and swapped the ribbed vertical seat stitching for a horizontal design.

The A8 and S8 remained unchanged for the latter part of their run and ended production after the 2003 model year. 2004 saw the debut of the D3 A/S8, which was in effect the genesis of the big grille design Audi uses to this day. The S8 established Audi as a performance sedan player, and the only large European performance sedan to offer all-wheel drive. It was also a star of the movie Ronin, where it performed some acrobatic stunts not entirely possible with an all-wheel-drive car.

On a personal note, I owned a 2000 A8L from 2009 to 2011, and I can tell you it was a superb car. The 4.2 was an excellent engine with plenty of power and torque and was matched very well to the five-speed auto. Driving around in mixed commuting usage, I’d often see an average of 23 miles per gallon. The handling was excellent, the seats very comfortable, and the fit and finish fantastic. I sold it in 2011 due to some (apparently unfounded) transmission concerns and got a 2001 GS 430 instead. An elderly couple bought the A8 after they saw it parked on the side of the road for sale, and thought it was a Buick. That car continues its life in southeastern Indiana today in daily driver use and has somewhere north of 200,000 miles on it. But it doesn’t look this good anymore.

Today’s Rare Ride is in spectacular condition, and since 2001 has accumulated just over 28,000 miles. In a taupe color with parchment leather, it asks for a full $25,000.

[Images: Audi]

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4 of 39 comments
  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.
  • Dlc65688410 Please stop, we can't take anymore of this. Think about doing something on the Spanish Pegaso.
  • MaintenanceCosts A few bits of context largely missing from this article:(1) For complicated historical reasons, the feds already end up paying much of the cost of buying new transit buses of all types. It is easier legally and politically to put capital funds than operating funds into the federal budget, so the model that has developed in most US agencies is that operational costs are raised from a combination of local taxes and fares while the feds pick up much of the agencies' capital needs. So this is not really new spending but a new direction for spending that's been going on for a long time.(2) Current electric buses are range-challenged. Depending on type of service they can realistically do 100-150 miles on a charge. That's just fine for commuter service where the buses typically do one or two trips in the morning, park through the midday, and do one or two trips in the evening. It doesn't work well for all-day service. Instead of having one bus that can stay out from early in the morning until late at night (with a driver change or two) you need to bring the bus back to the garage once or twice during the day. That means you need quite a few more buses and also increases operating costs. Many agencies are saying for political reasons that they are going to go electric in this replacement cycle but the more realistic outcome is that half the buses can go electric while the other half need one more replacement cycle for battery density to improve. Once the buses can go 300 miles in all weather they will be fine for the vast majority of service.(3) With all that said, the transition to electric will be very good. Moving from straight diesel to hybrid already cut down substantially on emissions, but even reduced diesel emissions cause real public health damage in city settings. Transitioning both these buses and much of the urban truck fleet to electric will have measurable and meaningful impacts on public health.