A Used Audi S8 Gets You a Lamborghini-Like V10 for Less Than $20,000 These Days

It's mind boggling that Audi put such a wild engine in an executive sedan.

Normally, when enthusiasts salivate over the Audi S8 sedan, it’s because of the D2-gen that made a striking appearance in the mid-’90s action thriller Ronin. Need a big sedan to haul yourself and your crime-committing colleagues quite quickly? Of course, opt for the Audi! Or, a stick BMW 735i. But there’s another badass Audi S8 that seems to be getting cheaper by the day, and features one of the best power plants ever dropped beneath the hood of a big sedan. Many people think the car’s V10 is borrowed from Lamborghini — that’s not true, but it’s still a ripper.

Did Somebody Say V10 Sport Sedan?

A Used Audi S8 Gets You a Lamborghini-Like V10 for Less Than $20,000 These Days
Image: Audi (FavCars)

The heart of the D3 second-gen (late 2000s) Audi S8 is a naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10 engine. That’s right, a big honkin’ V10 under the hood of an understated and bespoke German executive sedan.

At the time the D3 debuted (and since) Lamborghini was owned by Volkswagen, which is also a parent company to Audi. So think of Lambo as an adopted Northern Italian sibling to Audi, I guess? Lambo is known for a big honkin’ V10 of its own, so it makes sense to imagine these engines would be connected. And they are, kind of, though there are some slight common misconceptions around what went where, and when.

When the 5.2-liter V10 D3 Audi S8 debuted, the Lamborghini Gallardo had been sporting a 5.0-liter V10. Audi had been running a 4.2-liter V8 for a number of years, including in the Ronin-era S8. Audi’s 5.2 is actually based on that 4.2; it doesn’t actually share a lineage with the Lambo 5.0. Lambo got its 5.2 from Audi, not the other way around.

Audi North America’s PR deparment confirmed these fun facts via email. They really came in clutch, as well as offered some other fun tidbits, including: the heads are the same as the 2.5-liter Inline-five’s found in the Audi TT RS and RS 3, and the S8 utilizes a conventional wet sump oiling system as opposed to the R8 V10 and later Gallardo and Huracan’s dry sump system.

The more you know!

It is pretty funny that a reserved Audi could sport such a magnificently intense engine under the hood of one of its executive express vehicles, though. Because holy hell, what a glorious-sounding engine it is under the hood of the more recent Huracan.

Lamborghinis, even old junky ones, are stratospherically expensive. But used Audis depreciate even more rapidly, and so if you’re willing to adopt a car that will be costly and complicated to keep alive but you can’t quite swing the price of a Gallardo, a D3 S8 might scratch the itch. Regardless, these are just cool cars that don’t cost a lot of money to buy anymore and you should know about them!

$20,000 Could Be All It Takes

A Used Audi S8 Gets You a Lamborghini-Like V10 for Less Than $20,000 These Days
Image: AutoTempest.com Screenshot

Feast your eyes upon this, dear reader — this 2009 model would have been among the last S8s to get this mighty powerplant. It claimed 0-60 in 5.1 seconds, which seems pretty on-par for around 420 horsepower and a curb weight of 4,200 pounds. It has a six-speed auto transmission (no manual was available), and had all the niceties of a top-range A8, but with barnstorming, naturally-aspirated V10 power. All S8s have Quattro AWD, but because it’s real AWD, it’ll send as much as 85 percent of the power to the rear wheels. Sounds like some sick, big sedan drifts are certainly possible.

All of this for less than the price of a base, 2021 Hyundai Veloster. These retailed brand-new for around $115,000 in late-00s money! If over 120,000 miles sounds scary, there are others out there.

Normally, this is where I’d say “but here’s the catch: it’s a maintenance nightmare,” but honestly… pricing doesn’t seem too tremendously horrible. Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it.

But It’s Not Exactly Cheap To Run

A Used Audi S8 Gets You a Lamborghini-Like V10 for Less Than $20,000 These Days
Image: Audi (FavCars)

The first maintenance bummer that sticks out is cost of consumables — the 5.2 takes over 11 quarts of oil. That’s around $120 dollars before tax and shipping, for DIYers. Compound that with pricy ignition services, and the cost of keeping one of these cars alive certainly starts to add up. Then, there’s carbon cleaning due to being gasoline direct injection, which seems like it has to be done every 10,000 miles at least (yikes) and can cost a lot in labor. Again, DIY is key.

If the S8 you’re looking at came with air suspension, those components wear out and need replacement, too. Especially considering they’re now twelve years old at the youngest. The parts price isn’t bad, but labor might be expensive. Or, entail a lengthier DIY job.

Besides those, owners report some minor electric problems here and there. On the whole, these aren’t terrible in terms of reliability as far as older German luxury cars go. I’ve written a bit about cheap, highly-depreciated German luxury in the past, this might be the least-scary candidate yet. As long as routine carbon cleaning isn’t a turn-off.

For anyone after something incredibly rare, luxurious, and powerful, this seems like a solid way to do so. How cool is it to have a big, sleek, German sedan with an engine under the hood that ended up in the second-gen Lamborghini Gallardo, and is still present in the Huracan today? Whether its worth the novelty or not is up to the potential buyer for sure, but man what a novelty for well-under $20,000… and dropping.

Peter Nelson
Peter Nelson

Peter Nelson has been wrenching on and playing with cars since he started driving them quickly between the cones at Chicagoland autocross events in his late teens. Nowadays, he can be found wringing out his Mazda2 at tracks all over California. His writing background includes Winding Road, Donut Media, and Autolist.com. He's also an avid cyclist and '80s/'90s action film connoisseur. Contact the author here.