What’s Hot: Sophisticated presentation, blistering acceleration and 'sound'
What’s Not: Electronic intervention can be a little excessive
X-FACTOR: The power and presence to strike fear into both limos and performance cars alike, wrapped in timeless style
Vehicle Style: Upper large luxury performance sedan
Price: $279,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 382kW/650Nm 4.0 litre twin-turbo petrol 8cyl | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.6 l/100km | tested: 14.3 l/100km
Well, of course - it’s bonkers. Not for any shortcomings though, in fact the complete opposite.
For something so large to sprint so effortlessly, with absolute refinement, is nothing short of madness.
Audi prides itself on excellence in engineering and the S8 certainly delivers.
After all, this monster, just shy of two tonnes, can bolt to 100 km/h faster than the R8 sports car.
All while cocooning four occupants in ultimate luxury.
Sound like something your tireless correspondent had to assess? (With your best interests at heart - of course.) A week in this Armani-clad assassin ought to do just the trick then.
- Perforated Valcona leather seating.
- Front seats with heating, cooling and massage function.
- Powered side and rear sun blinds.
- Four-zone climate control.
- Keyless entry and start.
- Carbon fibre interior highlights.
The S8’s interior is a work of great subtlety.
There’s nothing brash about the standard A8 interior, and the S8 simply adds features and finishes that enhance the sporting feel with not a trace of vulgarity.
The most noticeable change is the ‘sport comfort’ seats, finished in quilted Valcona leather, with a perforated finish and featuring heating and cooling up front.
The subtle bolstering also gives way to a massage function for front seat occupants.
Those seeking more can also opt for rear seat entertainment (fitted to this test car) or the individual rear seat package.
Standard finishes include carbon-fibre inlays and aluminium trim, but a range of wood and lacquered finishes are available on request.
A 14-speaker Bose system provides the standard audio experience, incorporating Bluetooth, CD/DVD, digital TV tuner and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot with Google street view and local search.
For audio purists, the optional Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker system, with a total 1400 watt output is impossible to go past.
ON THE ROAD
- 4.0 litre petrol twin-turbo V8: 382kW/650Nm
- Eight-speed automatic
- Sports tuned air suspension
- 21-inch alloy wheels with Continental Sport Contact 5 tyres.
- Official fuel consumption: 9.6l/100km
The 4.0 litre twin turbo engine found under the bonnet of the S8 is shared by a variety of Audi’s S and RS models and even stretches so far as V8 versions of the Bentley Continental.
This engine takes the place of the previous model’s Lamborghini-derived 5.2 litre naturally-aspirated V10 (last sold here in 2010) and brings with it increases of 51kW and 110Nm. All the while, official fuel consumption improves by 3.8 l/100km.
To go with the phenomenal outputs - 382kW @ 5800rpm and 650Nm from 1700rpm-5500rpm - is an eight-speed auto with paddle shifters and a rear-biased quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The S8’s air-suspension also carries a sportier tune than the standard A8 dampers, yet despite rolling on massive 21-inch alloys, the ride is still ridiculously comfortable.
From the first push of the starter button, the V8’s deep growl lets you know this is no ordinary saloon car. Tap into the prodigious power on offer and the heavy-metal soundtrack that follows is incredibly pleasing to the ear.
Far from being disruptive though, the noise is subdued. The power on offer, however, is anything but.
Certainly you could drive the S8 with such finesse that you need never awake its potential. Around town, and in the drivetrain’s 'Comfort mode' the S8 shifts itself about with aplomb, subtlety and comfort.
But if you're looking for thrills, Dynamic mode opens the valves on the sports exhaust, firms up the air-suspension, sharpens gearshifts, and turns the S8 into an all-out grin factory.
Thrown into a series of corners the big Audi might start to lose some of that advantage though. While the suspension is tighter than that of a regular A8, it still packs plenty of comfort, and the trade-off is a little more body roll.
That makes it more forgiving than any sport coupe, but, given your chances of seeingthe S8 tackling Mount Panorama are pretty low - we’d suggest the ride is prioritised exactly where it needs to be.
So too the eight-speed automatic. As smooth as caramel while trundling through town, it can be sharpened up with lightning quick shifts and intuitive shift-patterns by pulling the ‘boat-throttle’ gear shifter into sports mode.
The steering is kept light, and the driver will remain slightly isolated from the intricacies of the surface below. The ability to shrink the S8 around you is impressive though - there’s no land-yacht sensation behind the wheel of this one.
Debits? Audi’s Lane Assist, which keeps the car centred in a lane, is perhaps more intrusive than ideal.
At times, the sensation of it tugging the wheel against your hand can be a bit annoying - but the intervention levels can be adjusted down if need be.
ANCAP rating: This model is yet to tested by ANCAP
Safety features: The S8 pack together eight airbags (front, front-side, rear-side, and curtain), ABS with brake assist and brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control, and electronic diff lock.
Lane assist (self centering and lane departure warning), blind spot assist, 360 degree cameras, adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go (suitable for city driving)
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Audi’s S8 occupies a rare piece of market territory. It costs less than a Mercedes-Benz S500, but straddles the performance gulf between the S500 and the big-gun S63 AMG.
Jaguar can put you into a long wheelbase XJ Super Sport, or a short wheelbase (but quicker) XJR, while Porsche sits above and below the performance watermark with the Panamera GTS and Turbo, but for a decent amount more money.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
You can throw all the ‘iron fist, velvet glove’ cliches around that you like. The truth is, the S8 pushes beyond that.
With acceleration that beggars belief, and comfort that never disappoints, the S8 impeccably straddles both the performance and luxury leagues.
You may only rarely have cause to use all the power on tap, but the reassurance of prodigious pulling power, blistering rolling acceleration, and a foreboding engine note should satisfy the needs of most.
There’s also a particular lure to the S8’s muscled up stance - it may not scream for attention, but park next to a regular A8 and the menacing-yet-tailored sophistication is obvious.
However odd it might sound at this end of the market, the Audi also stands out for value against its most obvious opposition. Makes the S8 something of a sound investment.