INSIDE INFO Specs and ratings Model: Engine:
to tell from looking at it – it’s a big, subtle saloon. Perhaps too subtle; there are no go-faster decals here and the Daytona Gray paint hardly gets your blood pumping. Nothing warns you of its immense power, barring a few tiny S8 badges on the exterior.
Its single-frame platinum gray grille features horizontal double bars finished in chrome, but there’s really nothing else to differentiate this from the old model. The giveaway is the piercing eyes up front and a chrome strip between the taillights. The LEDs are exceptionally interesting bits of kit; they can identify as many as eight oncoming vehicles and dim individual sections of the headlights so those coming towards you are not blinded by your beams, yet the rest of the road is fully illuminated. And, like the R8, the indicators now flow out to the side of the car. Clever? Not really. Cool? Totally.
As we’ve come to expect from Audi, the business-like body is mostly constructed from aluminium with some hot-formed steel sections around the B-pillars. It’s all underpinned by the Audi Space Frame, designed to keep weight down and to add rigidity. Basically, it looks like anything but a tarmac obliterating tearaway. But that is exactly what it is.
I follow the guidance on the satnav and it isn’t long before I’m on a rural stretch and it’s safe to put the hammer down. The 0-100kph sprint takes just 4.1 seconds – if it wasn’t for the restrictors, this raucous V8 would ease past the 250kph limit without a grumble. Fortunately, there is plenty of rumble; the twin-oval tips on both sides of the diffuser cackle and pop the moment I switch it to Dynamic Mode on the drive select – the only way to drive the S8. It isn’t my imagination and I am not driving with the windows open; the twin turbo is way more resonant than I remember. It’s a superb unit, intoxicatingly potent and so torquey it feels as if my head has been glued to the headrest. It’s an absolute hoot, and that it consumes just 9.6 litres per 100km makes it almost unbelievable. I’m just waiting for an Audi engineer to tap me on the shoulder and scream, “Fooled you!” because the stats just can’t be true. There’s no sign of him.
What makes the motor such a beast is a host of technological tricks, from the layout of the cylinder heads with the hot side on the inside, to the twin-scroll turbochargers, to the cylinder-on-demand system. Heck, it even has active engine mounts that help reduce vibration.
Mated to this mean motor is an eight-speed tiptronic that makes the S8 sporty yet efficient and shifts so smooth in Comfort Mode that you’ll question if there’s a transmission in there at all. Along come a few twists and your mind tells you to let off the loud pedal a little – but there isn’t any need; the tiptronic, which sends the grunt to a quattro drivetrain, is backed up with a sport diff at the rear axle meaning grip is aplenty (it wears massive 265/40 tyres wrapped around 20in alloys) and the bends are sliced wide open. All the while, the chassis remains composed courtesy of the adaptive air suspension working overtime to keep the ride magic carpet-like.
The electromechanical steering sniffs out the corners with the kind of hunger that a luxury saloon really doesn’t need, and I’m loving the way the S8 shifts effortlessly from left to right with very little body roll. The six-piston callipers provide plenty of stopping power, but what’s clear in my memorable blast is that the S8 just wants to go. It’s impressive and I haven’t even got to the usual deal clincher when talking about Audis; the interior.
It’s sporty and elegant, there’s Alcantara on the doors and ceiling, the perforated Valcona leather seats (they can heat, cool and massage you) offer good support and the aluminium pedals look fab. Ambient lighting, four-zone AC, a banging Bose surround system and MMI navigation are some of the goodies. Audi’s also expanded the range of trims for the cabin and colour schemes too, so go crazy with the spec sheet.
It’s just a mid-life facelift and, sure, more power and luxury is always good. But although the big news may be just the addition of those fancy new headlights, that’s all that might be needed for this car to push itself up a considerable notch or two. Just like that quiet girl in school, you know that the S8 is going places. I knew I should have asked her out.