Take a limousine and shove in some supercar muscle…sounds like a mistake, but is it? Read our 2020 Audi S8 Review to find out.
There’s more to a car than outright power. No, really… The thought comes to me as I’m soaking up the sonorous, tech-tinged gargling of the twin-turbo V8 in Audi’s luxury flagship, the S8.
Teaming some of the sporty Audi S thinking with the loooong DNA of the A8 limousine ensures there’s no shortage of outright punch. Indeed, with 420kW and a mighty 800Nm there’s positively prodigious pull anywhere in the rev range.
But some may be wondering why Audi didn’t go the whole hog and give the A8 the full RS treatment. After all, the A8 is the pinnacle of the Audi lineup and RS is the pinnacle of Audi performance.
The answer: Bumps. RS models tend to be taut and tight, ready for a race track thrash, whereas S cars dial that back slightly to keep more of the donor model’s original character.
So the S8 still has a big dose of loping luxury, something helped by its predictive air suspension system. Not only is there impressive compliance, but the suspension can pre-prepare for larger obstacles such as speed humps.
Utilising the 48V electrical architecture that also provides mild hybrid assistance, the suspension can raise and lower in a split second. Approach a big bump and the near-silence of the cabin can be briefly interrupted as the car raises to allow more movement of the wheels. In some cases the car barely reacts to the bump, instead wafting over.
It’s far from perfect, though. Adjust your speed or find a bump that’s too big and the predictive suspension doesn’t predict; the S8 does what any other car would do, reacting once it hits the bump and swiftly recovering. The long-ish wheelbase and emphasis on comfort means any bump is dealt with beautifully. Some are disposed of with borderline brilliance. Sharper and smaller bumps miss the forward-camera action, though, and the S8’s 21-inch low profile rubber kicks back, reminding that those pesky laws of physics still apply.
Besides, the $260,000 (plus on-road costs) S8 is far from shabby in the get-up-and-go department, the grunty V8 shifting upwards of 2.2 tonnes very convincingly. Looking for something different? Check out our review of the BMW M850i which is another luxury, four-door which is also very fast.
While it may not have the full RS spec, the S8’s prodigious torque ensures effortless progress. That evolves to borderline ballistic progress if you unleash the full 420kW, the all-wheel drive system reinforcing the theme of fuss-free acceleration.
Sure, Mercedes-Benz does a full-blown AMG version of its rival S-Class – the S63 AMG – and it’s a mighty weapon, with more power and torque(450kW/900Nm) than the S8 (420kW/800Nm). It’s been a while since I’ve driven one, but last time I remember half the challenge was getting all those Newton-metres to the ground. Driving only the rear wheels it was all too eager to wheelspin.
With quattro all-wheel drive the S8 is unflappable. Plant your foot and it does its bit with zero chance of wheelspin. And you can all but guarantee it’ll deliver the same claimed 3.8-second 0-100km/h time on a wet road as it does in the dry.
Mid-corner grip is also superb, rewarding a spirited attack (the big S8 prefers a fast sweeping corner over something tight).
The serene cabin and sprawling back seat space make big distances akin to business class at 30,000 feet. An optional 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system has crisp clarity and precision but somehow lacks warmth. Sure, I’m being picky, but you can afford to heap that sort of scrutiny at this end of the market.
Of course, the natural hunting ground of the S8 is a German autobahn, where its 250km/h electronically limited top speed would be a doddle. Few cars would soak up the kays at big speed like an S8.
But that’s more reason the S8 seems sufficient, in Australia at least. Even with all that tech and comfort there’s a question mark as to whether you need that level of pace in Australia.
If I could afford the hundreds of thousands to splash out on an S8 there’s a good chance there would be plenty of other machines gracing my garage. Some would inevitably be better than a limousine at cutting hot laps on the track. Which is why the S8 seems like plenty. For now.
2020 Audi S8 Auto quattro
Price From $260,000+ORCs Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months or 15,000km Safety Not Tested Engine 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 Power 420kW at 6000rpm Torque 800Nm at 2000-4500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic transmission 0-100km/h 3.8 seconds Dimensions 5179mm long 1945mm wide 1500mm high 2998mm wheelbase Thirst 10.5L/100km
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