2002 Audi S8

In many ways, to me the D2 S8 is the last of the great 1980s Audis. But wait, you say – it wasn’t built in the 1980s. It may have shared little design with the original Quattro other than the drivetrain layout and the Vier Ringe on the grill, but at its heart the S8 was the culmination of the mission of the original car – to cover ground at high speed in a luxurious 4-seater regardless of the weather conditions. Now, truth told newer Audis are bigger, badder and faster. Some even look better, though not many in my eyes. They have more technology, power and luxury than ever. So, it would be natural to say that they, too, accomplish the mission of the Quattro – and they do. But, the essence of what was Audi somehow was lost along the way. The D2 S8 didn’t sell in great numbers, but that wasn’t because it was the most expensive option and it certainly wasn’t because it was unattractive or slow. Perhaps it lacked the raw driver connection of cars like the contemporary E39 M5 and the physical grunt of the AMG E55 and S55 models. But as an all around package, the S8 is surely one of the best Audis produced. It’s quick, driver oriented, supremely comfortable, all-weather capable and even (dare I say) reliable relative to other VAG packages. It’s not so tech-heavy that it feels outdated the moment you step in the cabin; rather, it feels like the most up-to-date version of the C4 chassis and that’s generally a good thing. It sounds great, too, thanks to the silky smooth V8 under the hood. The only downside is that with low residuals, locating a really nice one any day of the week is not nearly as easy as finding a clean M5:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Audi S8 on Boulder Craigslist


Year: 2002
Model: S8
Engine: 4.2 liter V8
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 80,000 mi
Price: $14,000

Excellent condition 2002 Audi S8 Quattro with ~80K miles. Every factory option plus factory Audi rims (original “Fat 5’s” included). This was an $80K car in its day. I refreshed the paint with full clear-bra and have only put like 15K on it since. ~7K on the tires. No problems at all. I just have had it since 2010 and time for something else.

80,000 miles is certainly below average compared to how many D2s come to market, and this one is claimed to be loaded though from the photos it’s tough to see if it has all the options. What we can see is that it appears to be Pearlescent White Metallic with Platinum leather which has been paired with the optional Alcantara package. It’s a pretty rare combination all told, and it wasn’t cheap – $1,200 for the paintwork and $3,500 for the Alcantara option. If loaded, the car should also have the Premium Package which was a further $700 and gave you heated seats all around and window shades, the rear being power. It does appear to have the Audi Navigation system from the rear shot, which would be another $1,350 though today most would probably prefer the car without that option. It would also need the Solar roof ($850) and tire pressure monitoring ($390). All told, if fully spec’d out this car would have had about $10,000 in options and taxes levied upon it – around the asking price that most come to market. This particular S8 has had a respray which it’s hard to see the quality of, along with what appear to be chromed RS6 wheels (rather than the slightly higher offset 2003 spec Celebration wheels). The seller claims the “original” Fat Fives come with the car, but it would correctly still wear the Avus 6-spoke design in 2002, and I miss it here. $14,000 is pretty much all the money for a 2002 these days, and I’d want to see the quality and cause of the repaint before plunking down that amount. Despite that, relative to the competition these still offer a lot of value for the money, and are certainly one of the great unsung heros of the German enthusiast motoring world.

Thanks to our reader John for the spot!

-Carter

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10 Comments

  1. I looked at this car about a month ago. It is a very pretty S8. The owner is definitely a car guy and understands the significance of these cars. It was spotless. The paint was glossy, interior was very clean. $14k may seem a little high for a 14 year german car, but my son sold his B5 6sp avant for similar money, and that was 2 years ago. I’m always amazed at the sheer number of mass produced, people movers sitting at every corner car lot for $14k, just waiting for the time when they are worth nothing. This S8 will make someone a fantastic road car for years to come.

  2. Thanks for the first hand report, Tim! Good to hear the paintwork was done well. If it’s correct I don’t think this car is unreasonably priced at all considering how rarely you can come across a good one. Personally, I’d prefer another color combination and no-nav, no Alcantara with the Avus 6-spokes but it’s not like you can roll down to a dealership and order one up today.

    I think if I was in the market for an ’02 I’d try to get Espresso Brown https://germancarsforsaleblog.com/2002-audi-s8-3/ or maybe Burgundy Red, either with the tan Sport. Not that I’m picky.

  3. Carter, would you call it the American s6 plus?

  4. An Audi should never ever have chrome wheels. That applies to Saabs, Porsches and BMWs too.

  5. Hmm… I guess from an owner’s perspective (and one who’s reconditioned a 2003 that started with 87,000 miles at purchase), I’d be interested in seeing what documented work the car has on its books. At this age, routine maintenance as per the manual begins to share billing with proactive maintenance and replacement of generally long-lived hardware items whose useful service lives have lapsed. These are the kind of longterm parts and service jobs that first and even second owners never had to contemplate. A few come to mind:

    -Documented swap of timing and accessory drive belts, idlers and tensioners for the timing belt?
    -Water pump, thermostat, cam seals replaced when the car was apart for the belts (or risk another major disassembly)?
    -Transmission fluid, filters, lower seals, replaced recently?
    -Oil cooler, seals, and hoses replaced (otherwise, be on watch for gelatinous contaminated coolant)?
    -How are the upper and lower control arms, sway bar end links, and tie rods plus all bushings?
    -Is it still on its original shock and strut assemblies? Can you sense this in routine rebound damping?
    -Is there any evidence of water lines in the footwells or spare tire recess of the trunk?
    -When were the front discs changed? By 80,000, they should be toast.
    -Have the wheel bearings been replaced? By 80,000, at least one original will be screaming.
    -It would be nice to see a photo of a functional radio display plus instrument binnacle digits fully lit. These tend to pixelate.

    My car had been a guy’s third or fourth vehicle and rarely got out any more, so it was very original BUT needed to have 13 years of aged components worked out of it. Realizing up front that the car would need a full recommissioning, I was able to buy it at the right price while keeping some powder dry for many of the above-referenced service items.

    It’s important to remember that at this point, 2001-2003 D2 S8s (and many cars of the Y2K era) are beginning to enter a netherworld between routine service and restoration requirements. They’re old enough that the original factory maintenance schedules no longer provide a clear roadmap to upkeep, but the cars aren’t quite so old that true tear-down restorations are being considered (low residual values are a contributor). That’s one reason why I keep calling my project with my own S8 “reconditioning”; it’s an age appropriate regiment that’s more then maintenance but less than restoration.

    With all of the above written, I still agree with Carter that these D2 S8s rank among the best built and longest lived VAG products of all time. My car still smells new inside; the leather, wood, and metal surfaces look newer than the interiors of Audis built as late at 2010. Many of the other cars in the Audi model lineup around the same time as my 2003 S8 (e.g. B5 S4, C5 RS6, Allroad 2.7) are FAR more troublesome and congenitally defective in ways D2 owners simply never encounter. The first generation A8 and derivatives were built as a proof-of-concept for the aluminum space frame, and the assembly, materials, and long-term solidity reflect this.

    Even better, the S8’s modified ZF box seems to dodge the common failure patterns of the standard D2 models. Whether this is due to different ratios, internal speeds, stall speeds, or whatever, it’s well documented, and I’ve never had a brush with transmission issues in my two stints aboard D2 S8s. Consider how analog the car is: the suspension is just springs/shocks (nothing electronic or fluid dynamic); the engine has no complex forced induction; there’s no direct injection to induce carbon buildup; the interior of the car isn’t built around an electronics package that’s tied to a disposable item like a specific generation of cell phone; there are no electronic clutch packs or electric motors inside the axles or differentials to age and fail.

    As a final note, I can’t get over just how low-slung the belt line of my S8 looks next to modern cars. My car runs standard ride height, but it almost looks slammed alongside something like a current-generation Honda Civic. There’s an ageless creased elegance in the D2 design that has seems destined to draw retrospective mainstream auto media acclaim someday… Someday.

    Best,
    Tim

  6. Richard Skipshift

    Wow, great comments from Tim Mosso. I love this pearl color on all Audi cars, especially the 200TQ, and I think it work great here. I have looked at these and I think you can get a lot of car for the money. The transmission has kept me from pulling the trigger. Is there something that can be done to safegaurd against failure, or is it all luck of the draw? Will every A8/S8 zf trans eventually go bang by a certain mileage? Tim, I had never heard that the S8 had better reliability with the zf. I figured it would be worse with the higher hp and torque.

  7. 2nd on Tim’s awesome comment, thank you. And also 2nd on less transmission failures; a friend has one with 200K on the original box. Some do fail, but the S8 seems much less prone to transmission failure from what I’ve seen.

  8. I’d have to disagree with the idea the S8 transmissions are less prone to fail. My failed at the 115,XXX miles and I’ve read, not witnessed because these cars are rare, other owners (A8/S8) fail by 150,XXX miles.

    I purchased my 2001 S8 Black on Black in February 2013 with 89,XXX mile on the clock. The car was actually feature on the FCFSB https://germancarsforsaleblog.com/2001-audi-s8-2/ The laundry list of items that need/will need attention by Tim is very accurate.

    Since owning my S8 I’ve done the following:
    – Complete Timing Belt Service (belt, water pump, thermostat, rollers, seals, etc…)
    – Replaced front engine mount
    – Replaced all 8 spark plugs
    – Replaced all fluids (transmission, power steering, rear differential)
    – Replaced fuel filter
    – Recharged the AC
    – 4 new Continental DWS tires
    – New break pads all around, front break rotors, rear caliper, front break lines
    – New coolant temperature sensor
    – Replaced two power steering hoses
    – New front upper forward and rear control arms on driver and passenger side
    – Replaced both upstream oxygen sensors
    – Rebuilt transmission (lost reverse: which is a known issue across the D2 product line)
    – Replaced drive belt tensioner and drive belt
    – Replaced passenger’s inner and outer CV joint boots
    – 6 oil changes, 2 sets of cabin filters

    Items on my To-Do list are: both downstream oxygen sensors, driver and passenger front lower forward and rear control arms, front struts and bump stops, sway bar bushings, 8 ignition coils, both HID headlight bulbs.

    Items on my Watch list are: fuel pump and oil cooler pipe

    This car has been fun to own but loves to rob my savings account. Every time I look at my car, I think it doesn’t look like a 15 year-old car or drive like a 15 year-old car. As stated before, the interior materials used never age/wear out. I plan on keeping my S8 for another 6-7 years and hope a majority of the maintenance headaches are behind me.

    Keep up the good work Carter. I enjoy reading your posts, especially the one’s about Audi’s D2 S8.

  9. Awesome input, thanks David! I guess I’ll start saving (more!)

  10. Great post Tim Mosso! It’s funny to me how your “to do list” is remarkably similar to the list I had for my ’90 V8. My father had an ’01 S8 that I logged a few thousand miles with and I recall how impressive it was. Looking back now, I would love a D2 S8, preferably with an oxblood sport interior.

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