The biggest, baddest, fastest and lightest S8 yet has arrived - filling both the role of the top A8 model and top S model for the Audi luxury lineup. For the latest generation this full-size performance sedan puts a new, downsized and uprated V8 to task along with a lightweight aluminum body for optimal performance and economy.
The S8 is powered by an all-new engine in the Volkswagen family, a 4.0-liter twin-turbo TFSI V8 that turns out 520 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque (from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm).
In addition to being incredibly powerful despite its relatively small size, the engine also brings efficiency to the table thanks to several fuel-saving technologies including "cylinder on demand," a recuperation and a start-stop system. Cylinder on demand works under part load by deactivating four of the eight cylinders for an efficiency gain that is particularly pronounced at moderate highway speeds.
A package of acoustic measures including the Active Noise Cancellation system suppresses possible intrusive noise and vibrations that result from the use of only four cylinders.
Shifting duty is handled by an eight-speed tiptronic transmission that is tuned for both fuel economy and performance, helping the S8 to achieve about 23 miles per gallon - compared to a figure of only 17 mpg in the previous V10-powered S8.
Zero-to-60? Just 4.2 seconds with a top speed of 155 mph.
As impressive as the S8's powertrain is, the German automaker is just as proud of the chassis that underpins the all-new S8. Features include a uniquely-tuned adaptive air suspension with variable damping, allowing up for to three inches of variation in ride height, adjusting along with the adaptive electronic steering as well.
Drivers can select one of five different driving modes: comfort, auto, dynamic, individual and efficiency, each of which delivers a unique setup aimed at maximizing its respective qualities.
Moving toward the pavement, one will find 20X9 wheels wrapped in 265/40/R20 tires as standard, with five different optional wheels - four of which come in a 21-inch diameter. The disc brakes hiding behind the wheels are a sizable 15.75 inches in the front and 14.37 inches in the rear, grabbed by matte black calipers with S8 logo imprinted on them.
There are also optional carbon-fiber ceramic discs, shedding 11 lbs of total weight and improving stopping power.
Body and design
The S8 features the Audi Space Frame (ASF) body which is made almost entirely of aluminum. As a result, despite its size and extensive list of luxury features, the S8 weighs in at a relatively low 4,354 lbs. The body itself contributes just shy of 510 lbs to that total, which is about 220 lbs less than a comparable steel-body.
Stylistic details include a single-frame grille in platinum gray with eight double bars coated in chrome. Audi also makes use of an aluminum-look blade to make the bumper design appear sharper, while high-gloss black slats and aluminum-look ribs in the side air intakes add touches of style.
Wrapping around to the sides, one will find door handles with strips of aluminum and aluminum-look mirror houses, as well as body color trim strips on the sills. Out back, the S8 features a diffuser insert with a two-layer aluminum-look finish that is offset by platinum gray and frames two oval dual exhaust tips finished in a chrome-look finish.
The S8 can be had in 13 colors, with Daytona Gray and Prism Silver unique to the S model.
As one would expect from a flagship Audi sedan, the S8 comes complete with an impeccable fit and finish - says the automaker - featuring luxury bits with sport-minded driving at heart throughout. Seats come wrapped in leather, but are sporty in their shape and style, complete with multi-way, power adjustability and are exclusive to the S8 model. Stitching and piping come in steel gray for added contrast, while the instrument panel upper inlays and tiptronic gear selector lever are finished in Carbon Atlas.
The S8-exclusive steering wheel comes wrapped in leather and has a multi-function design with sporty driving at the core of its shape. Looking past the steering wheel the driver will take notice of the traditional gray dials and white needles on the gauges, which is extended to the analogue clock as well.
The door sills are illuminated with the S8 logo, while other night-time illumination will come from the driver information system and MMI monitor - each of which feature special S8 screens. Shift paddles and peddles are finished in an aluminum-look finish.
Interior technology and features abound, ranging from a vast selection of interior colors, inlays and seat upholstery choices, to soft Valcona leather and seats with ventilation and massage functions. There is also a leather package, DVD changer, convenience key, LED headlights with double glazing and the ambient lighting package - all standard on the S8.
Optional features are also extensive, with multiple driver assistance systems such as adaptive cruise control, which includes the stop and go function, Audi side assist, Audi lane assist, night vision assistant with pedestrian highlighting and more.
The S8 also features a new Audi technology which utilizes a 360 degree camera for the parking system with four small cameras, allowing many views for the driver from within the car.
A high-end Bang & Olufsen 1,400 watt sound system with 19 speakers is also available for the audiophile-grade speed junkies.
The closest competitor to the S8 is the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, which provides a similar mix of luxury and performance. The Jaguar XF equipped with the special order-only Supersport package and the V12-powered BMW 760Li serve up comparable power but otherwise lack the Audi's more overt sporting focus.