I still have this dream of getting a S8. This seems like a strange thing to dream about, I admit. And, it also seems like a quite attainable dream. My father-in-law often tells me about some day procuring his ‘dream truck’ – a manual mid-90s six-cylinder F150. I’ve found several for him that seem like good prospects, and none are ever more than a few thousand dollars. As I’ve said to him several times, ‘If you’re $4,000 away from your dream, what’s holding you back?’
Well, that comment coming from me is riddled with hypocrisy. I certainly could sell my very reliable Passat, save a bit of coin, and buy a S8. The problem increasingly inherent in that plan is that the S8 I can afford will probably not be the S8 I want. See, in the early 2000s I fell in love with the design. In the mid-2000s I lusted over lightly used examples that were out of my price range. S8s are now in a range I can afford, but it’s no longer the early 2000s and most are, to be frank, pretty used up. And though they’re far from the most technologically advanced vehicle, they aren’t exactly an F150 either in terms of complexity and parts availability (not to mention pricing). So looking at a S8 means you automatically need to budget in probably double the asking price or more in potential repairs between the transmission, timing belt service, and other deferred maintenance. Or, you can find one where that’s been done for you:
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:
My fascination with really high mile cars knows no bounds and today’s car is no different. This 2007 Audi S8 is a one-owner car that shows a little over 308,000 miles and looks like it did a quarter of that. How or why this happened, I have no idea. What I do know is that I absolutely shiver at the thought of maintaining an Audi V10 for over 300,000 miles. Just doing the quick math on the gas bill alone, 308,000 miles driven averaging 17 mpg, means this thirsty monster has consumed roughly $65,000 worth of gas in 12 years. The crazy thing is, all of the registration is just outside of Chicago. Naturally this assumes some kind of traveling salesperson, but of all the cars to pick, a giant V10 Audi? What is even more crazy is the condition of this D3. Just wait until you see it.
There’s no denying that I’m a huge fan of the equally huge Audi S8. However, if I’m completely honest I must admit that the last two generations of S8 haven’t done all that much to impress me. Are they faster than the original? Without doubt. Are they more luxurious, too? Certainly. But to me the D2 S8 was just the right combination of punch, style and presence which somehow has been lost on the newer generations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to them.
Hard to believe though it may be, 2019 marks the year of the introduction of the 5th generation of S8. The new one will undoubtedly carry some time-warp inducing drivetrain just like the fourth generation did. The 4.0T may appear in a bunch of Audis, but when equipped in the S8 – especially the Plus model – it creates a large executive capable of altering physics. With 605 horsepower on tap driven through the predictable ZF 8-speed automatic to all four wheels via the most clever iteration of quattro, Audi claimed a 3.3 second 0-60 time and an electronically-limited 190 mph top speed. This is a 4,700 lb. sedan, mind you, full of all the most beautiful leather,
wood carbon fiber and piano black treatment one could stuff into an electronics suite. This thing, stock on street rubber, will do a standing quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds – .3 seconds faster than a Ferrari F40, for reference.
But for some people, even the Plus edition of the S8 wasn’t enough. Enter Motoren-Technik-Mayer, better known as MTM. Roland Mayer, the eponymous founder of the company, has been at it since the beginning of quattro, and they’re generally considered one of the best when it comes to turning up even already fast Audis. So what did they do to the S8? Well, they named it after a place that calls itself ‘The Palace of Speed’ – Talladega. Does that give you a clue?
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:
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?