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Audi S8: Space, speed and sophistication

By Ghaith Madadha - Oct 19,2020 - Last updated at Oct 19,2020

Photo courtesy of Audi

The Ingolstadt manufacturer’s latest take on luxury in the fast lane, the Audi S8 is an ultra high tech full-size flagship luxury super saloon that plays it somewhat on the subtle side in terms of design, but delivers phenomenal point-to-point performance.

The blisteringly quick incarnation of Audi’s elegant A8 model line, the S8 is a meticulously capable car with superb control, cornering commitment and high-speed security for the plutocrat in hurry. That said, the S8, however, never loses sight of the comfort, refinement, luxury and cutting edge technology that define the A8. 

A statuesque car with sculpted surfacing, exquisite attention to detail and an elegantly assertive style, the Audi S8 shares the same enormous hexagonal grille as its A8 sister’s aesthetic focal point. Taking a more discreet design approach next to more overt super saloons, the S8 is something of a “sleeper” car with its model designation optionally deleted, as driven. Sleek and swift, the S8 adopts a more subtle sense of athleticism, starting with blacked out side intake and foglight combos flanked by small vertical gills, slightly bigger and sportier alloy wheels, and huge quad rear tailpipes.


High tech, high speed


Like the wider A8 line, the S8 is built on a lightweight and stiff aluminium frame, and is teeming with high tech systems and features, not least of which is its zFAS driving assistance controller and advanced potential Audi AI functions. Featuring extensive driver assistance and safety systems including lane tracking, traffic jam assistance, adaptive cruise control and ‘pre sense’ systems to avoid and mitigate collisions, the S8 also features 48V mild hybrid technology, which recovers kinetic energy and powers ancillary systems to improve driving efficiency and coasting, and powers its Predictive Active Suspension.

Behind its huge signature single-frame grille and just ahead of its front axles, the S8’s twin-turbocharged, direct injection 4-litre V8 engine is a high performance version of the same engine powering the A8 60 TFSI, developing a massive 563BHP peaking at 6,000rpm and an abundant torrent of torque throughout a broad and easily accessible 2,000-4,500rpm plateau. With Quattro four-wheel-drive and quick-spooling short gasflow turbo paths providing both tenacious traction and swift off the line responsiveness, the 2.3-tonne S8 rockets through 0-100km/h in a supercar-like 3.8-seconds and onto an easily attainable electronically-governed 250km/h top speed.


Versatility and verve


Smooth, responsive and willing from idling to redline, the S8 pulls hard at low-end and is muscularly flexible and effortless in mid-range. Reaching for its maximum power in an urgently progressive manner but under-written by a vast rich torque band, the S8 is near silently swift in most circumstances, but is brutally fast when driven to that effect. Quiet in its more comfortable driving modes and returning fairly economical 11.3l/100km combined cycle fuel efficiency, the S8’s engine takes on a harder edged and more fulsome acoustic note when in more aggressive driving modes.

Driving all four-wheels through a smooth, slick and swift 8-speed gearbox with manual shift and different auto modes, the S8’s many ratios help best utilise its vast output for performance, versatility and efficiency. Meanwhile, the S8’s rear-biased unique four-wheel-drive goes a long way to off-setting its front biased layout and weighting, and delivers the vice-like road-holding that Audi has been renowned for since its iconic 1980s Quattro model. With a self-locking centre differential that varies power front-to-rear and a rear sport differential sending more power to the outside rear wheel to push it into corners, the S8 always feels sure-footed and agile.


Control, composure and commitment


Sublime in its high-speed stability and settled yet supple ride quality in comfort mode, the S8’s improved air suspension delivers taut lateral and vertical control, along with forgiving absorption of textures and imperfection. Gliding serenely in comfort driving mode, the S8’s air suspension becomes tauter in sport mode for better cornering control. The S8 is also fitted with the more advanced Predictive Active Suspension. Powered by its 48V system and featuring electric actuators, this system individually adjusts each wheel for a given situation and can automatically raise the car to mitigate side impacts.

Able to read the road and anticipate and adapt for even significant changes in texture, as well as adjusting to counteract body roll through bends and maintain a maximum 2.5° roll angle through fast corners, the S8 has another trick up its sleeve in the form of four-wheel-steering. Operating by turning the rear wheels in the opposite direction at low speed and in the same direction as the front at higher speeds, four-wheel-steering effectively reduces the S8’s wheelbase to make it a more manoeuvrable car with improved steering response, and better lane-changing stability.


Reassuring and refined


Turning into and through corners with tidy responses, nimble agility, control, composure and commitment unexpected of a car of its size, weight and weighting, the S8’s dynamic abilities are an object lesson in high tech solutions and engineering. Seemingly shrinking around the driver through corners, the S8 seemingly turns on the proverbial dime, while its four-wheel drive allocates power as needed and each wheel adjusts to keep it flat, poised and smooth. Belying its heft in its handling abilities, the S8 is meanwhile ever the refined and well-cushioned ride, keeping harshness, vibrations and noise at bay.

Quiet inside with its noise cancellation tech, the S8 features cabin high quality leathers, suedes, metals and woods, and extensive high tech convenience, comfort, infotainment, safety and assistance equipment. Included are a configurable instrument panel and twin screen infotainment system with haptic buttons and voice recognition function. Sportier inside than the regular A8, the S8 has a luxury lounge-like ambiance and plenty of space for front and rear passengers and 505-litre of luggage room. Comfortable, highly adjustable and supportive, the S8’s seats features automatically adjustable pneumatic side bolsters and optional massaging and ventilation.



Engine: 4-litre, twin-turbo, in-line V8-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 86 x 86mm

Compression ratio: 10.1:1

Valve-train: 32-valve, DOHC, direct injection

Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Ratios: 1st 4.714; 2nd 3.143; 3rd 2.106; 4th 1.667; 5th 1285; 6th 1.0; 7th 0.839; 8th 0.667

Reversefinal drive ratios: 3.3173.204

Drive-line: self-locking centre differential, optional limited-slip rear-differential

Power distribution, F/R: 40/60 per cent

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 563 (571) [420] @6,000rpm

Specific power: 141BHP/litre

Power-to-weight: 252.5BHP/tonne (unladen)

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 590 (800) @2,000-4,500rpm

Specific torque: 200Nm/litre

Torque-to-weight: 358.75Nm/tonne (unladen)

0-100km/h: approximately 3.8-seconds

Top speed: 250km/h (electronically governed)

Fuel consumption, combined: 11.3-11.4 litres/100km 

CO2 emissions, combined: 258-260g/km

Fuel capacity: 82-litres

Length: 5,179mm

Width: 1,945mm

Height: 1,474mm

Wheelbase: 2,998mm

Track, F/R: 1,6281,617mm

Aerodynamic drag co-efficient: 0.27

Luggage volume: 505-litres

Unladenkerb weight: 2,2302,305kg

Steering: Electric-assisted rack and pinion, all-wheel steering

Turning Circle: 12.5-metres

Suspension: Five-link, anti-roll bars, adaptive air dampers, active electro-mechanical suspension

Brakes: Ventilated and perforated discs

Tyres: 265/35R21


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