If you follow these pages, it goes without saying that Iím a pretty strong Ingolstadt devotee. My first car was an Audi 4000CS quattro and since then Iíve owned an absurd 9 models along the way. But that doesnít mean I buy everything from the company hook, line and sinker. Indeed, Iíve been less than impressed with many of the newer models. Sure, sometimes they look slick, go like stink or are really pretty inside. But would I want to own one? In most cases, no Ė outside of a few very select models, I donít really desire to own much post ĎY2Kí.
One exception to that rule Ė and itís literally and figuratively a huge exception Ė is the S8. Everything about this car was just spot on to me. In an age when increasingly the offerings from the competition were unattractive and overly complicated, the S8 was to me the last of the great original quattros. It was an analog offering in a digital age; simple, blunt force from a 360 horsepower V8 in front driving all the wheels with a luxurious driver-oriented cockpit. Sure, there were plenty of computers. Probably there are too many. But compared to the new luxo-suites? The D2 seems downright cart-like. And the proportions of the car were just perfect; lowered, menacing stance, huge yet delicate-appearing wheels, just the right amount of bling, yet an understated car which easily fades into the background. So even though Iím still probably a long way from ownership, I often find myself dreaming about being behind the wheel of one.
The pool of candidates that remain is beginning to dwindle; the newest of the D2 S8s are now 16 years old and parts are already getting hard to source. Getting into an enthusiast owned one is the way to go at this point, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll break the budget:
The Audi S8 is, at its heart, just about the opposite of beige. Beige is neutral, calming, blends into its surroundings to the point where it becomes less a color and more a sickly feeling. None of those ideas represent the D2. It is beautifully sculpted and built, exhilarating to drive and listen to, distinctive in its presence. Yet, in many ways, it’s also a car not befitting the brilliant Solar Orange I just looked at. So perhaps the Melange Metallic of this 2001 is the perfect tone?
There’s something else odd about beige S8s. Amazingly, several of the best I’ve seen in recent years have been draped in blah. The Canvas Beige Metallic 2002 with a scant 13,000 miles was certainly one of, if not the best, used D2s on the market recently. I believe it’s the same car that recently sold on Bring A Trailer for $25,200 with 23,000 miles. Since there were only five imported in that color combination, the odds of there being another seem improbably low. Then there was the ’01 in Melange I looked at back in 2016. With 54,000 miles on the clock it looked near perfect. Well, here’s another Melange Metallic 2001 with 55,600 miles:
I don’t think we need much of an excuse to look at a clean Audi S8. But in case you haven’t been paying attention, the D2 S8 is one of my very favorite Audi models. It’s also one that I haven’t owned, and at some point I’d very much like to change that. Unfortunately for me, time continues to march on and I feel as though every day the chances of finding a very nice S8 that is the perfect fit for me becomes more remote.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great ones that come up for sale, though, and today’s example certainly appears to be ticking the right boxes. From the last year of production, this is one of the 100 Ming Blue over Platinum models brought to the U.S.. Since only 300 made it here in total, any 2003 is worth a look, but this one is especially nice – and, shockingly affordable:
Audi’s S products from the early 2000s are a conundrum for me. I think the S6 Avant is neat, but I don’t love it. I think the S4 is neat, but I don’t love it. Even the mighty RS4 should capture all of my attention – but it doesn’t. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is about these cars that I find lacking, but collectively they all fall short for me.
But the S8? I love the S8. And for the same reason that I can’t quite identify what’s missing from the other models, I’m at a loss to fully quantify what it is I find so perfect about the D2. But it is just about perfect; arguably the best looking big-body Audi made to date, and though newer cars have far more power, when it came to the early 2000s this was the punchy package you wanted if you liked to drive rather than be chauffeured.
Unlike some other early 2000s big executives, the S8 still looks the boss today. Mean, low and long, it is remarkably fresh despite the design being the best part of 20 years old. Yet they remain some of the best values out there. Find a good one, and you’ll have class, speed and style which defy the price you paid:
The V8 quattro was notoriously innovative. It was also quite complicated (read: expensive) and therefore painfully slow selling. At a time when all European imports were suffering from the global recession, the range-topping V8 busted budgets. Introduced for the 1990 model year in the U.S., the launch year was really the only marginally successful one; just shy of 3,000 were sold between 1989 and 1990. However, even light revisions in 1991 and a major engine upgrade to 4.2 liters failed to bring buyers to dealerships. Audi sold 527 1991s, 270 1992s, 170 ’93s and a scant 78 ’94s. Statistically speaking, you’re about as likely to run across a 4.2 V8 quattro on the road as you are a BMW M1.
By 1994 there was no denying that the Type 44-derived D11 chassis was quite old. Audi admitted it themselves with the big splash of their new ASF concept in 1994 – a thoroughly modern large executive again full of innovation, this time with its extensive use of aluminum. Audi brought that design to market largely unchanged in the all new D2 A8 range. And to help keep costs in check, while the V8 quattro had only been available in one configuration each model year, Audi introduced options in the A8 range. The one that got the headlines was Audi’s signature all-aluminum 4.2 V8 mated to the all-wheel drive quattro drivetrain. But if you wanted range-topping looks and didn’t need the sure-footed nature of the quattro system, you could briefly opt out.
That’s because Audi launched a FronTrak (front-wheel drive) A8 model. Instead of the larger 4.2 model, motivation was provided by destroked 3.7 liter unit. Rated at 230 horsepower and matched only to the 5-speed automatic tiptronic and weighing the best part of 4,000 lbs., it was pretty underwhelming in just about every respect. 0-60 was a leisurely 8.3 seconds, and despite the decrease in power, the 3.7 was no less thirsty than the 4.2. While it did save you about $7,500 ($56,900 v. $64,500 base price for the 4.2) it was no surprise, then, that the bulk of Audi’s deep-pocketed fanbase chose to the 4.2 quattro model, and the base 3.7 was dropped in the 2000 model year in favor of the long wheel base model. Early A8s are hard to find – Audi sold only about 6,000 over three model years before the refresh. But 3.7 have become a bit of an oddity that are almost never seen:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: on eBay
Only a week ago, I looked at a great example of an Audi S8. Granted, it was not perfect; but, the maintenance and ownership ticked the right boxes for proper consideration. Still, the unique Cashmere Pearl paint coupled with the Ecru interior weren’t most people’s favorite, nor were the C6 Speedline wheels the best match for the design. Does the cost of ownership mean you have to accept a good maintenance history at the expense of the color you want? Not necessarily, as witnessed by this Brilliant Black 2001:
Like more than a few Audi fans, my love affair with the S8 now spans 20 years since it first ‘shoved’ its way into my imagination via the thriller Ronin. It still seems to have set the bar for the most epic and reasonably realistic car chase movies out there, though Bullitt gets more attention and notoriety. That the S8 then came to the U.S. three years later made the dream more of a potential reality. Unfortunately, the S8 stickered for $78,000; approximately $76,000 more than my typical budget for Audis. It might have been geographically closer, but ownership was still a long way off.
Thanks to depreciation in the luxury market, though, over the past two decades these mega-S models have come tantalizingly closer to a price point that I can afford. But I’ve owned cheap executive Audis before a few times, and…well, it’s seldom a great idea. As the addage goes, ‘there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap (insert brand name here)’, and that certainly can apply to the S8. So while it’s very tempting to
briefly consider repeatedly look at that $2,000 example on my local Craigslist, the logical side of me says the one to get is one that’s been gone through. One, perhaps, just like this Cashmere Gray Metallic example:
The D2 Audi S8 is no stranger to these pages, as it’s one of my favorite designs from Ingolstadt – and considering my devotion to the brand, that’s actually saying something. So it’s no surprise that here I come with another. But this one tests my love of the model in several ways. First, it’s one of my least favorite color combinations on the S8. Light Silver Metallic over black, while classically understated and perhaps in keeping with the model’s character, is just plain boring considering some of the beautiful tones offered on the short production run. The mileage isn’t super low, either – while not the highest I’ve seen, with 138,000 miles on the odometer this is no spring chicken. It shows in several condition issues; worn seats, slightly scruffy bumper covers, and a few tack-ons like the rear spoiler and Brembo caliper stickers that are a little too boy-racer for the model. Though OEM wheels, the TT RS stock also seem out of place here to me.
So I really shouldn’t like this car, right?
If you follow these pages, it goes without saying that I’m a pretty strong Ingolstadt devotee. My first car was an Audi 4000CS quattro and since then I’ve owned an astounding 9 models along the way. But that doesn’t mean I buy everything from the company hook, line and sinker. Indeed, I’ve been less than impressed with many of the newer models. Sure, sometimes they look slick, go like stink or are really pretty inside. But would I want to own one? In most cases, no – outside of a few very select models, I don’t really desire to own much post ‘Y2K’.
One exception to that rule – and it’s literally and figuratively a huge exception – is the S8. Everything about this car was just spot on to me. In an age when increasingly the offerings from the competition were unattractive and overly complicated, the S8 was to me the last of the great original quattros. It was an analog offering in a digital age; simple, blunt force from a 360 horsepower V8 in front driving all the wheels with a luxurious driver-oriented cockpit. Sure, there were plenty of computers. Probably there are too many. But compared to the new luxo-suites? The D2 seems downright cart-like. And the proportions of the car were just perfect; lowered, menacing stance, huge yet delicate-appearing wheels, just the right amount of bling, yet an understated car which easily fades into the background. So even though I’m still probably a long way from ownership, I often find myself dreaming about being behind the wheel of one.
The pool of candidates that remain is beginning to dwindle; the newest of the D2 S8s is on the verge of being 15 years old and parts are already getting hard to source. As a result, if you want to get into one of these cars, you’ll want to find the best one available.
Here it is.
The Audi S8. Still, this car ranks as one of my favorite automotive designs from the company, from the 1990s and 2000s – heck, maybe even overall. While I’m not a huge sedan fan in general, there was just something so right about the proportions and presence of the D2 S8. Did it help that it was in a movie I also loved? Sure, without a doubt. But even without that aspect I think this car, and specifically the 2003 model year, are my favorite U.S. bound Audi.
I especially like the 2003 model year because of the limited Audi Exclusive package. Special colors and interiors were fit to the car, along with updated “RS” design wheels. Limited to only 100 copies each. my favorite for the past decade and a half has been the Avus Silver Pearl with Burgundy interior and I think I’ve pointed that out…well, more than a few times. However, at nearly 15 years old, these cars are far from new and we’re deep into a territory were plenty of neglected examples are coming to market. As a result, rather than just find one in the color you want, with the D2 S8 in today’s market condition and history needs to trump other considerations like location and color.