There's very little to dislike about the 2014 Audi S8. In fact, there's so little objectionable about this car that it makes its one flaw that much more prominent.
First, the good. The Audi S8 -- like any Audi, really -- is exquisitely crafted. By that I mean that every panel, every bit of trim, every stitch and perforation is done to such an exacting standard that I'm convinced Audi has a mathematical formula for crafting a perfectly executed interior. It's the only thing we can come up with for such exactitude. OK, fine, you can quibble with the way Audi's infotaiment system works, and I'll agree MMI isn't the best knob-based system out there. But the integration of Google Maps into the navigation is really cool in an "I can see my house from here" kind of way.
Of course, being the Audi S8, this big sedan's all about performance. The twin-turbo V8 has a roar and punch to it that belies the car's somewhat bland styling. Drive it hard, and the interior's design flourishes suddenly seem purposeful: the carbon-fiber and aluminum of the shift lever, for example, contribute to a reassuring feeling of solidity as your speed builds to a crescendo. The transmission's "S" mode fires off shifts even faster, and paddles on the wheel give you the ultimate control of the car's gearchanges, for the most part. And so on and so forth. I could wax on about what's great with this car for endless paragraphs. So, what's so wrong?
The optional summer tires on our test car.
They're Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GTs, in super-wide form. They grip just fine, look good stretched around the humungous 21-inch wheels on the S8, and we're sure they satisfy whatever technical requirements were in the development plan. The whole set is also cheap, just $250 for the set, or about half of what you'd pay on the retail market for just one tire. So far, so good.
But man, are they ever loud. On all but the smoothest of asphalt, there's a constant howl from the front end at any speed north of about 35 mph. There's a sharp THWAP! over small imperfections like tar strips. And heaven help your ears if you wind up at speed on grooved concrete. Yeah, I get that this is a high-performance machine, and that a little extra noise is part of the bargain. But it's also a $122,000 luxury sedan, and Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, and Alpina-tuned BMW 7 Series don't have this howling tire problem. Get quieter tires on this otherwise wonderful machine, Audi, and then you'll win my heart.
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