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?
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.
Astute readers willÂ have noticed that I don’t tend to write up many Audis. To be honest, I’m really more of a Mercedes/BMW guy and there aren’t that many cars fromÂ Ingolstadt that get me going. However, there are a fewÂ exceptions. I’ve always thought very highly of the B6 platform S4, the B7 RS4 and the D2 S8, the car that famously had a starring role in Ronin alongside an E34 M5.Â It should come as no surprise that I’m a fan of this generation S8: IÂ like conservatively styled uber-sedans that conceal their power beneath restrained exteriors. Costing nearly $100k new depending on how they were specced, these cars now show up on the used market for between $5 and $15k depending on condition and miles. Of course, these were technologically advanced cars for their day with lots of expensive-to-replace components. So if you’reÂ in the market for a bit ofÂ lateÂ 90s German stealthiness, condition and maintenance history matter the most.