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Audi S8 (2022) review

The S8 has been revamped as part of an A8 range-wide facelift, but the impact has been minimal.

James Fossdyke

Words: James Fossdyke - @JFossdyke

Published on: February 14, 2022

Words: James Fossdyke - @JFossdyke

Published on: February 14, 2022

Tech Specs

Model testedAudi S8
Irish pricingfrom €196,715
Engine4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmissioneight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body stylefour-door, five-seat saloon
CO2 emissions262g/km
Irish motor tax€2,400 per year
Fuel consumption11.48 litres/100km (24.6mpg)
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h3.8 seconds
Max power571hp
Max torque800Nm
Boot space505 litres

High-performance luxury limousines are niche products, but there are plenty of great cars to choose from. Not only is there the Bentley Flying Spur, but there's also the V8-powered BMW 7 Series and AMG versions of the Mercedes S-Class. To keep up with such esteemed rivals, the Audi S8 has been revamped, getting a nose job and some new tech, but is that enough to put it ahead of its talented opponents?

In the metal

Most of Audi's changes to the A8 can be seen on the outside, where there's a new grille and some new lights, as well as subtly updated bumpers at each end. Some OLED rear lights also feature across the width of the car. Otherwise, it's business as usual, which means the A8 has the same boxy shape as before, with fairly minimalist styling, aside from a handful of sharp creases here and there.

Mixed with the S8's standard kit, including 21-inch alloy wheels and chrome exterior trim, it gives off quite a classy look, but specifying the Black Styling package will suit those who like a darker image.

Inside, the cabin will be familiar to any owner of the current-generation car, with a futuristic dashboard and a plethora of screens. There's the now-familiar Virtual Cockpit, Audi's stunning and configurable digital instrument display, in front of the driver, while there's a pair of central screens, which work in tandem to offer control of the heating, media system and navigation. The upper touchscreen works quite well - it's fairly conventional Audi stuff - but the lower screen is less of a triumph. Fiddly and distracting as a result, it feels like a backwards step compared with the physical switchgear you would find in a 7 Series.

But where the Audi roars ahead is on the quality front. The 7 Series and S-Class are beautifully made, but the S8 is a cut above. In fact, it's just a few smarter materials away from a Bentley Flying Spur - a car that costs significantly more. Everything fits together perfectly in an ode to German engineering, and although it isn't as plush or as stylish as the S-Class, most of the materials are excellent.

The only catches are, strangely enough, the door pulls, which are oddly shaped, awkward and a bit cheap. We aren't great fans of the piano black trim, either - it looks a bit grubby the minute you touch it - but that's a matter of taste.

Space is less about taste and more about figures, so let's start there. The S8's 505-litre boot is about the same size as that of a 7 Series, so it's tit for tat on the luggage front. But the S8 is only available in standard wheelbase form - there's no long-wheelbase L model on offer - and that means rear space is less plentiful. It's hardly cramped back there, but we're talking more Skoda Superb than Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Not that that matters too much. The S8 is not really for chauffeurs - the diesel and hybrid A8s are better suited to that task - but it's a luxury car for long-distance motorway runs, and it fills that brief perfectly.

Driving it

The S8 is designed to compete with the high-performance versions of the S-Class and 7 Series - the AMG and M models - and though it still falls short, it gets much closer to its rivals than anything else in the A8 line-up.

Key to the experience is the 4.0-litre V8 engine under the bonnet. A 571hp lump with two turbochargers and 800Nm of torque, it makes the S8 alarmingly rapid. The sprint from 0-100km/h takes just 3.8 seconds, and no matter what else you've driven, that sort of performance is mind-blowing in a luxury saloon that weighs more than 2.2 tonnes.

Of course, the V8 engine is helped out by Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system and an excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox, but the engine is the centrepiece, and it makes for prodigious pace on the German motorway network. Flatten the pedal against the thick carpets and you'll soon find yourself at the obligatory 250km/h top speed, that new nose punching an S8-shaped hole in the Bavarian country air.

As a cross-Europe motorway tool, there are few finer cars. The S8's engine sounds great, but there's relatively little road or wind noise - even when the speedo registers more than 200km/h. It's stable and planted at such speeds, and the mid-range punch of that engine makes pulling out to overtake a slow-moving truck very simple indeed.

But the S8 isn't just the most impressive model in the range when it comes to straight-line speed, which is, all but irrelevant on Irish roads. It's also great in the corners, thanks to its predictive adaptive suspension, which tweaks the air springs to pump up or lower each corner individually, allowing the car to adapt to the situation.

The whole system works with the drive select modes, which allow the driver to set up the steering, suspension and gearbox for the situation in question. There are more aggressive modes for sporty driving, and softer, more laid-back modes for wafting about in comfort - something the S8 is surprisingly good at. But while the clever technology works effectively to reduce body lean in corners and to maintain stability on broken roads, there's no hiding the car's enormous size and weight - especially when you're trying to slow down or manoeuvre.

That size and weight also have an impact on the fuel economy, although we suspect the 571hp output is part of the reason the S8 burns unleaded at the rate of 11.5 litres per 100km. If you want an efficient car, the A8 probably isn't for you anyway, but the S8 certainly is not the most wallet-friendly version of the German saloon.

But while the S8's size has its drawbacks; it also comes with one advantage: it makes the performance, the handling and the refinement all the more impressive. Yet for all the S8's magic, it still feels very slightly less poised and less agile than a 7 Series. It's close, but you can get similar enjoyment and comfort from a much less expensive BMW.

What you get for your money

Prices start from €196,715, and while popping across the border into Northern Ireland gives you a choice of three different models - the S8, S8 Black Edition and S8 Vorsprung - customers in the Republic get just one. And unlike the hybrid versions of the A8, the S8 is only available in the sportier short-wheelbase format.

Standard equipment is predictably plentiful, with leather upholstery, carbon-fibre dashboard trim and the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display all thrown in as standard. The usual array of touchscreens, navigation systems and climate control systems are all included in the price, too.

Summary

New grille and lights aside, the new Audi S8 is essentially identical to the old S8. The performance figures are still impressive, the build quality is impeccable and the refinement is very appealing, but it still doesn't feel as poised or as purposeful as a V8-powered BMW 7 Series. Nor is it as comfortable as the equivalent S-Class. Depending on your priorities, one of those two cars should just pip the S8 to the post, but don't let that detract from the Audi's talents. It's still a fantastic high-speed cruising machine.



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Tech Specs

Model testedAudi S8
Irish pricingfrom €196,715
Engine4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmissioneight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body stylefour-door, five-seat saloon
CO2 emissions262g/km
Irish motor tax€2,400 per year
Fuel consumption11.48 litres/100km (24.6mpg)
Top speed250km/h
0-100km/h3.8 seconds
Max power571hp
Max torque800Nm
Boot space505 litres