When Audi refreshed its A8 limousine, it also took the chance to give the flagship 513bhp S8 an overhaul.
Like the rest of the A8 line-up, the S8 gets a mildly updated design featuring some new headlights, redesigned bumpers and a new chrome strip across the bootlid. New MatrixBeam LED headlamps – which can essentially keep full beam lights on at all times – are standard on the S8.
Underneath, the changes are pretty minimal, but despite the same engine output, minor tweaks have cut the 0-62mph time from 4.2 seconds to 4.1 seconds. That is ludicrously fast – it’s as quick as an Aston Martin Vanquish, in fact – but in the S8 it’s so smooth and quiet that you can be doing 100mph before you’ve even noticed.
As the sportiest member of the A8 family, the S8 does get sports adaptive air suspension, variable steering and a sports differential. As a result it the S8 feels extremely nimble – especially in Dynamic mode – cutting through tight corners with all the agility of a car half its size. If you want the best-handling car in the class, then the Jaguar XJR takes the spoils, but the S8 comes close – it’s only let down by numb steering, which prevents you getting involved in the action.
With that slightly firmer suspension set-up and the S8’s standard 20-inch wheels, you’d expect the ride to suffer, but set everything to Comfort and you can breeze along as you would in any other A8. The S63 AMG sets a new benchmark for ride quality in this class, but by any other marker, the S8 is extremely comfortable.
Price won’t be the first concern to buyers, but it does represent good value. It’s quicker than the S63 AMG but costs just £79,800, while the Merc costs £119,565 – though that is for a long-wheelbase car, while the S8 only comes in standard wheelbase form.
The Audi has plenty of kit, too, with 22-way adjustable leather seats, Google Earth sat-nav, a wi-fi hotspot, and a 360-degree camera system to help parking.
So while there may be more fun and more comfort to be found elsewhere in this class, the S8 is worth a look, especially as it will save you £10,000 over a Jaguar XJR and £30,000 over the Mercedes S63 AMG.