The best-kept secret in the high-end luxury car market is the 2002 Audi S8 sedan. If you've been shopping for a BMW 740 or a Mercedes-Benz S model, add the S8 sedan to your list for comparison. It's the classic European car for when you've made it to the top and don't need glitz to prove it.
A stately five-passenger four-door hiding a magnificent powertrain, the S8 has the smoothest, fastest 4.2-liter V8 engine and transmission this side of the space shuttle. That translates to effortless uphills and decorous downhills. Under the hood you'll find 360 horsepower, a superb suspension and quattro permanent all-wheel drive that provides grippy traction. And a trunk the size of a walk-in closet holds 18 cubic feet of cargo.
While the exterior styling of the S8 is traditional and somewhat serious, driving it is an enjoyable exercise in surprising agility and seamless responsiveness, and the car's interior is quality and craftsmanship all the way, boasting every luxury feature you could possibly imagine. Acoustic parking assistance warns the driver of obstacles in the front and rear, and the air conditioning/heater fan has to be the quietest in the industry. You can opt to put the five-speed automatic/Tiptronic manual transmission at your fingertips on the steering wheel, next to buttons for the in-dash CD player, radio and hands-free phone. Price: $72,500.
Hold the Phone
Even if you can't justify the cost of the Audi S8 just now, you can still enjoy the luxury of a hands-free car phone with the Cellport 3000 Voice Command voice-recognition system. Most makes of cell phones plug in to its docking station-ideal if several people use the same vehicle. Some 2002 Acuras and Lincolns come equipped with Cellport, or you can get one for $250 plus installation at Best Buy, Circuit City or Pep Boys.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 23 years.