Tom Crosby: Audi S8 a disguise for wealthy race car wannabes

Tom Crosby

Not many of us will ever be so rich we want to disguise it. But if that happy day should ever come the perfect sedan to buy is the Audi S8 Plus sedan loaded with options.

A test drive of the 2016 Audi S8 with four-wheel quattro control and Audi’s highly praised 8-speed Tiptronic transmission – loaded with $37,150 in options – created a sudden craving desire to own one amidst extreme wallet anxiety.

The five-seater S8 has a classic full-size sedan look but no overt exterior display of its massive horsepower and torque, interior luxury or $153,000 price tag.

Even the $6,000 paint job was a Florett silver matte paint imitating a stealth bomber plane. Subtle exterior clues include quad black-tipped sport exhausts, 21-inch sparkling titanium finish wheels and sleek profile. Top end is 190 mph, courtesy of an $11,000 Dynamic Package making handling almost intuitively responsive. A neck-snapping 0 to 60 mph speed in less than 4 seconds screams: German Autobahn. Acceleration is as smooth as the ride without hesitation or lag in the 4.0-liter turbo engine. For g-force, use steering wheel manual paddles and push to rpm red line through eight gears. The engine purrs with power, never growling like a flashy muscle car.

Driving modes include comfort, normal, dynamic and individual. At lower speeds, there is a subtle urge to depress the gas pedal, like reining in a thoroughbred racehorse around a racetrack. While there is no public street or interstate in the United States to legally exercise the S8, owners can try their hand on racetracks to find the sedan’s true nature.

Most owners, however, will just enjoy the luxurious interior appointments with top-notch materials. Pampering includes massaging heated/cooled leather front seats, a prestigious Bang & Olufsen sound system, automatic rear window sunshades, metallic peddles (like a race car) and an 8-inch touchscreen elevating in the dashboard when the car starts.

Audi partners with Google for Wi-Fi, Google Earth maps, real-time information about traffic, the stock market, restaurants, gas prices and more. Safety features are top notch, helping garner top scores in crash tests. Seating is comfortable everywhere, the average-sized trunk contains a spare tire and the only minor design drawbacks are a lack of speed limits on the heads-up display and less knick-knack space than competitors’ cabins.

Likes: Power, profile, handling, ride, interior luxury, audio, info access

Dislikes: Expensive, minor missing features

Bottom line: Awesome mix of speed, comfort and design but you must pay for it

FACT FILE

2016 AUDI S8 PLUS SEDAN QUATTRO TIPTRONIC

Base price w/destination fee: $115,825 ($152,975 as tested).

Curb weight: 4,685 pounds.

Wheelbase: 117.9 inches.

Length: 202.6 inches.

Width: 76.7 inches.

Engine specs: 4.0-liter, V8, turbo-charged, fuel injection, DOHC.

Horsepower: 605 hp at 6,100 rpm.

Torque 517 lbs.-ft. at 1,750 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/manual paddles.

EPA rating: 16 city, 26 highway.

Range: 21.7 gallons, premium fuel.

Performance: 0-60 in under 4 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.