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Audi S8: buying guide and review (1997-2002)

Audi S8: buying guide and review (1997-2002) Classic and Performance Car
Audi S8 Audi S8 Audi S8 Audi S8 Audi S8
There was a time when you could have a car that was either physically massive or offered massive performance, but rarely both. But for a while now you’ve had your choice of super-saloons and few are as super as the Audi S8.
 
This is the car that has it all; a massively powerful V8, four-wheel drive to get that power down, serious luxury and an aluminium body to keep things as light as possible. Not that the S8 is a featherweight, as it tips the scales at 1750kg. Engineered regardless of cost, the Audi S8 is one of the few cars that can make it look as though Mercedes skimped when developing the S-Class. It may not be the last word in driving pleasure, but if you want serious pace with astonishing comfort and refinement the S8 can come up with the goods.
 
So whether you’re recreating scenes from Ronin, carrying the family or you want a ridiculously unlikely track day car, the S8 will be happy to deliver. Servicing and fuel costs can be high though and if you drive like you stole it you can expect to spend plenty on brakes and tyres. But if you’re going to blow some cash on a car, we can’t think of many candidates more suitable than an Audi S8.
 
Which one to buy?
 
As you can see from the model history, there was extra equipment and power from 1999, while the run-out car (from 2002) is the most lavish of all S8s. But with so few of these cars sold and very few available to buy at any one time, the reality is that unless you’re prepared to bide your time you’ll probably have to settle for the first really good S8 that you can find. Low values and high running costs mean a lot of these cars aren’t as loved as they ought to be, so don’t assume neglected S8s don’t exist.
 
In terms of spec the later cars with the five-valve heads are the ones to go for as they have an improved torque curve, extra power and they’re more efficient too. Virtually all S8s came with a five-speed automatic gearbox; it was all that was offered on the pre-facelift cars, but from 1999 a six-speed manual was optional, which cut the claimed 0-62mph time to just 5.4 seconds. With so much torque on tap the auto works rather well, but if you prefer three pedals to play with, be prepared to wait for something to crop up.
 
Because these cars are so usable, they tended to be bought by business users who weren’t afraid to rack up big mileages. As a result you’re unlikely to find a low-mileage example, but that shouldn’t matter because as long as they’re looked after, these cars will just keep racking up the miles without complaint.
 
Performance and specs 
 
Audi S8 quattro
Engine 4172cc, eight-cylinder
Power 360bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 317lb ft @ 3400rpm
Top speed 155mph
0-60mph 6.6sec
Fuel consumption 20mpg
Gearbox Five-speed auto/Six-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2884mm
Length 5034mm
Width 1880mm
Height 1418mm
Weight 1750kg
 
Common problems
 
• Because the bodyshell is made of aluminium you don’t need to worry about corrosion, but that shouldn’t be an issue on a car of this age anyway. What’s more of an issue is if the car has been crunched, because repairing an alloy-bodied car is a far more specialist proposition than an equivalent steel body.

• The V8 is strong but the camshafts are driven by belts rather than chains. These belts should be replaced every 90,000 miles according to Audi, but every 60,000 is a better idea. Either way, do it every five or six years, just to be safe.

• There’s a seal in the gearbox, where the propshaft goes in. Visible between the two catalytic converters, this seal often fails. Replacement is straightforward but fiddly.

• The rear diff can also suffer from leaky seals, so look for evidence of lubricant weeping and having splashed onto the surrounding diff mount. Again, replacement isn’t especially difficult but it is fiddly.

• With drive going to all four wheels there’s a CV joint at each corner. The rubber gaiters for these perish then tear, quickly leading to the CV joint being wrecked.

• All S8s came packed with equipment, including a raft of electrical items that can play up. The head rests are a weakness while the heated seats can be unreliable too. Bear in mind that someone must be sitting in the seat for the seat heater to come on though.

• The boot is huge so there’s masses of carrying capacity. As you’d expect, the cabin is equally cavernous, although the rear seats are designed to carry two rather than three.
 
Model history
 
1997: The S8 is introduced with a 340bhp 4.2-litre V8. It’s based on the A8 4.2 quattro but with 18-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension and unique instrumentation.
1999: A facelift brings five-valve heads and variable valve timing to boost power to 360bhp, restyled headlights, grille and bumpers, extra airbags and standard navigation.
2002: The run out Special Edition features polished 20-inch wheels, xenon headlights, electric rear blind, more leather-covered surfaces and a BOSE sound system with TV. Available in Avus Silver, Misano Red, Ebony Black or Aqua Blue. 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.a8oc.net
• www.facebook.com/A8fanclub/
• www.audiownersclub.co.uk
• www.club-audi.co.uk
• www.audi-sport.net
• www.audi-forums.com
• www.vwaudiforum.co.uk
• www.audiworld.com
 
Summary and prices
 
It’s hard to believe, but rough and ready 180,000-mile examples start from just £1500 today, but the bills can certainly add up to more than this if you’re not careful. Healthier and later cars can be had from £2500-£4500, while the very best examples change hands for £6000. 
 
Words: Richard Dredge
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Last updated: 22nd Dec 2015
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Audi S8
32950 47995 GBP
  • Audi S8

    £44,750 £44,750

    Variant name:Saloon S8 ,Derivative:S8 ,Variant: 4.0 TFSI quattro Audi A8 S8 TFSI Quattro 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 15584 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
    £44,750 £44,750
    Lookers Group -Newcastle Audi
    0845 149 9100 View contact number
  • Audi S8 ON SALE NOW

    £32,950 £32,950

    Audi S8 presented in Daytona Grey comes with a full Audi history and the following specification; black leather, electric heated seats with memory, multi-function leather steering wheel, four zone climate control, navigation, bluetooth phone, DAB radio, Bose sound, park assist with 360 cameras, cruise control, electric sun blind, electric heated folding mirrors, automatic dimming mirrors, drive select, air suspension, automatic Bi-Xenon headlights, rain sensor, soft closure doors, smart key with push start, and 21" alloy wheels. Part exchange welcome, competitive finance available. Viewings welcome by appointment only. Body: Saloon Transmission: Automatic Mileage: 51,500 Fuel Type: Petrol Registered: 2012 (12) Doors: 4 Engine Size: 4.0 Finished in: Daytona Grey

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 51500 mi
    For sale
    £32,950 £32,950
  • Audi S8 4.0 TFSI 520 Quattro Saloon

    POA POA

    Finance Example Deposit Balance Fees Total Payable Term Fixed Rate Representative APR 1st Payment Monthly Payment Final Payment HP £4,190 £37,710 £199* £48,093 48 3.86% 7.9% £911 £911 £1,110 PCP £4,190 £37,710 £1* £50,623 48 4.09% 7.9% £605 £605 £17,394 Residual backed products are available on this vehicle upon application. Please call to discuss your requirements *Fees are already accounted for within the payments displayed and are also included within the total amount payable. Finance available subject to status. Indemnities may be required. Other finance offers may be available but cannot be used in conjunction with this offer. We work with a number of carefully selected credit providers who may be able to offer you finance for your purchase. We are only able to offer finance products from these providers. Postal Address: Crown Way, Rushden, Northamptonshire NN10 6BS This is a fantastic opportunity to own a thoroughbred performance car with everyday capabilities producing 520 bhp from its twin turbo 4.0 V8 . Whilst these cars had a very expensive initial list price, they prove to be a stunning second hand purchase providing excellent value for money with year round use courtesy

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 11700 mi
    For sale
    POA POA
  • Audi S8

    £47,995 £47,995

    Full Leather, Colour SatNav, DVD Player, Bluetooth, Memory Seats, Powered Folding Mirrors, Xenon Headlamps, Privacy Glass, Alcantara Leather, Electric Seats, Heated Seats, Sports Seats, Cruise Control, Parking Camera, Parking Sensors, Headlamp Jetwash, Push Button Start, Heads up Display, Bose Audio, Suede Headlining , Heated Rear Seats, Heated and Cooled Seats, Soft Close Doors, Carbon Fiber Trim , Black Design Pack, 21'' Alloys, 4x4

    • Mileage: 17000 mi
    • Engine size: 3993
    For sale
    £47,995 £47,995