The Audi S8, star of movies like the Ronin and Taken, has returned in an all-new generation with a 563bhp twin-turbo V8 petrol engine under the bonnet. The classically understated sports limo has retained its subtle mence, but unlike many of Audi’s other S models it will keep its petrol powertrain. There’s also a full suite of new tech to make this five-metre saloon handle with some level of alacrity.
The new S8 is based on the new generation A8 that arrived back in 2017 and shares its 4-litre twin-turbo V8 with other Audi and Volkswagen Group products. In this form the V8 produces 563bhp, with 590lb ft of torque available right at the base of the rev range. Assisting the petrol engine is Audi’s 48V mild hybrid system, comprised here of a starter generator and a lithium ion battery back. Unlike in the SQ7 and SQ8 where the system also powers an electrically driven compressor, in the S8 it acts purely as a light engine load assistant, enhancing the start-stop system and helping out with torque boosts during motorway coasting and cylinder deactivation.
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The rest of the S8 drivetrain is made up of the typical eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive fitted with Audi’s torque vectoring Sports Differential. From here, Audi has fitted its full arsenal of chassis tech to make the S8 as agile as possible. Shared with the SQ8 is a rear-wheel steering system, but bespoke to the S8 is a revised version of the standard model’s predictive air suspension. It works by actively scanning the road ahead for irregularities or intrusions in the road surface and adjusting each wheel in advance. When the road gets really rough or the car spots a pothole, the system is able to force the wheel into the bump with electromechanical actuators, thus smoothing out the car’s body movements. The system is then also able to counter body roll with these same actuators when sport mode is selected, and as such doesn’t require the active anti-roll system found on the SQ7 and SQ8. Carbon ceramic brakes are also on the options list.
Aesthetically the S8 follows its predecessors with a distinctly subtle, under the radar look. It’s not ostensibly different to the standard S-line A8, but does feature a couple of subtle changes to the front fascia and the ubiquitous quad exhaust pipes. Inside, customers will be able to specify the usual array of interior finishes, with bespoke stitching patterns and carbonfibre among the elements bespoke to the S8.
The S8 will rival the Mercedes-AMG S63 and new BMW 750i when it arrives in the UK later this year with a price tag expected to hover around the £100k mark. Although it remains a rather niche car, especially with many customers diverting to performance SUVs, the flagship performance limo still has plenty going for it if you can overcome mafia-don image.