Friday, June 20, 2014

5k: The Star of Ronin: 2002 Audi S8

If you are a car guy and have never seen the Robert De Niro and Jean Reno classic Ronin (1998) you need to schedule yourself a few hours and pick up a copy on Amazon.  The D2 generation Audi S8 was the feature car that was driven in anger by Skipp Sudduth's nerdy hacker/driver character who insists on getting a custom nitrous system and then hauls the giant sedan through small cobblestone covered French streets.  It is fantastic -- and you can watch most of the S8 scenes in a low res clip on youtube here.  Better yet, you can buy your own 2002 Audi S8 for $6,250 in Cincinnati, OH via craigslist.  Tip from FuelTruck.

\The D2 generation S8 was finally a flagship from Audi that stood up to its competition from Stuttgart and Munich.  Previous high end Audis had been unreliable and unrefined but not very thrilling to drive.  This changed with the D2 S8, which was still unreliable, but when running correctly had a rock solid in driving experience that you would expect from a 4000 lb luxury sedan.  The S8 did not drive over the mountain; you goosed the throttle and the mountain got the heck out of your way.

The 4.2 liter V8 featured all-alloy construction, dual overhead cams and 5 valves per cylinder to push out 335 horsepower (not sure where the seller gets the 400hp figure).  It is mated to the all four wheels via a 5-speed tiptronic manual slushy gearbox and Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive on demand system.

The inside of the S8 looks remarkably similar to A6, A4 and other lower edition models, but it did offer features like automatic climate control and fancy stuff a few years ahead of the lower models.  Expect those automatic systems to constantly be a source of problems on an Audi with 200k miles on the odometer. 

If you can't stomach the lo-res clip from the link above, you can see part of the city chase in glorious hi-res here.

And the second chase here.

See a better car for chasing down the bad guys?


  1. That sure doesn't look like a 5-speed manual to me...

    1. A car with the capabilities and comfort to astonish and beguile its owner, until the first service. One of the great benefits of depreciation is obtaining European sports sedans and wagons for Camry money. And I did it, too, with a V70R. But then servicing comes in and you are routinely paying 10-50% of the car's value every time you hear a harmonic imbalance. So, you come to live with them, as long as the car still drives just fine. It's a slow decay for you both, but you still cannot part. Sad, really, but who else would take on the burden? Honestly, a car for the rent-controlled or those willing to accept faults.

  2. Not sure where you got your 335 hp figure, it's 360 hp. The earlier European market S8 was indeed 340 hp but by the time it made it to the US power had increased to 360. Speaking of which, the S8 featured in Ronin was a Euro spec 340hp car (obviously) built on the standard wheelbase. US bound S8s were all Town Car-esque long wheelbase models. The extra length (read: weight) combined with the slow and dimwitted Tiptragic slushbox makes for an utterly ruined driving experience.

    I have to take issue with your proclamation that the S8 was the automotive star of Ronin. There were some heavy hitters employed in that film. In addition to the Audi there was the 6.9 liter Merc, two E34 M5s, Citroen C8 that somehow were the S8's equal, but the true hero of the film had to be the base model 1.4 liter Golf struggling through the Pyrenees mountains. I've driven an equally anemic Opel Corsa 1.4 through those mountains and it truly is a battle of epic proportions.

    1. Yes and (if I remember correctly) they used a Mercedes 500E as the camera chase car.

  3. I bought a 98 A8 about a year ago for almost nothing. The mechanic knows me by name by now...

    1. Pre 2000 year models (pre-face lift) were known to have transmission issues. 2000-2002 are much better in everyway.

  4. I have owned a D2 A8, and absolutely loved the sublime design and beauty of the car. If Audi could have found a way to make the car as drop dead reliable as my Infiniti M35, I would still have the A8.

  5. Yes the "face-lift" models have the 360 HP 40v 4.2 V8 and a Unitronic tune will add another 22 HP for only $500 USD. They did make manual versions of the S8 D2 as well. Google it. ;)


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