Road tests

New Audi S8 2022 review

The updated Audi S8 perfectly blends refinement and pace, but does its price hold it back?

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

Verdict

Audi’s flagship-flagship still has enough performance to impress and provides vice-like reassurance when it comes to traction and control. It still leads with quality and refinement that cars costing half as much again struggle to match, but it remains expensive to buy and run, which in today’s world is a tough act to pull off.

There was a time when the S8 was the top of the Audi performance tree, but 25 years of evolution has seen Audi’s S models pullover to allow RS 6 and RS 7s blast by in a wake of exhaust noise and induction roar. Now, with only a few years left before it’s replaced by an electric pioneer this is the last hoorah for the A8 and this, the range topping S8. 

As a concept the performance limo isn’t one that has set the world alight, rather it’s flickered away with BMW and Mercedes-AMG, and to some extent Bentley, occasionally joining Audi fireside to add fuel to the flames with the outcome more of a brighter glow than a towering inferno. BMW’s M760iL is less extroverted than AMG’s S 63, with the S8 sat somewhere between the two. And this 2022 makeover is unlikely to push it in a direction closer to either. 

It is more of a nip and tuck than an engineering overhaul. There’s a new singleframe grille for all 2022 A8s and for the S8 there’s a bespoke chrome finish to this design element. The front and rear bumpers and the side sills are all new, more defined and sharper of edge. Above both sit LED matrix laser headlights at the front, OLED LED units at the rear and there’s a quartet of exhausts poking through the rear valance. 

It’s a clean cut facelift, playing to the A8’s three-box design strengths of understated presence rather than in your face obnoxiousness, even when presented on its new design of 21-inch wheels (with larger carbon-ceramic brakes fixed behind) and wearing its trademark aluminium mirrors. 

Approach your parked S8, open the door and the car gently rises by 50mm on its air suspension to aid your entry and exit from the car’s interior. Sounds gimmicky, but in practice you ask why it’s not standard on all air sprung cars. Once you’re inside you’re in pure top-of-the-Audi-interior-tree territory. It’s where the design ethos and details that don’t always come together when only a few elements feature in lesser Audi models flow as one. Despite the virtual cockpit display being isolated from the car’s central MMI system screens, the design that links them is cohesive and perfectly blended. If talk turns to the quality of Audi interiors the chances are it’s an A8 being discussed. 

Ergonomically you sit a little too high, by only 10-20mm but it’s enough to have you reach for the electric seat controls ever so often in the hope there’s another couple of mm to sink that you somehow missed. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does make you feel as if you are sitting on the S8 rather than in it. 

From behind its three-spoke steering wheel there’s not a great deal of feel to be had, less so with winter tyres fitted, which means the S8 is at its best when being encouraged to flow along your chosen path rather than thrown down it. Its standard four-wheel steering might be working away in the background at higher speeds to trim your line, but it’s hard to detect beyond the low-speed manoeuvring benefits such systems offer as they virtually shorten the wheelbase. 

Included on all new S8 models is not only a quattro sport differential but also Audi’s predictive active suspension designed to counteract body roll by keeping the car as flat as possible whilst cornering between 50 and 70mph. It’s a very subtle system, with three-degrees of counter-roll possible, and perhaps its triumph is that it’s not immediately detectable unless you consciously make an effort to ‘look’ for it. It makes motorway slip roads less of a hazard when the cup holders are full, if our brief test was anything to go by. 

It’s on the motorway that the S8 still feels designed for. Rock solid at speed, although its design can make cross-winds more noticeable than you were perhaps expecting, and while its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is unchanged from the car it replaces, the inclusion of a 48-volt system providing some mild-hybrid assistance when its supercomputer thinks it’s required to help with fuel saving.

Overall, the pace is swift rather than explosive in today’s world of instant torque premium EVs, such as the Porsche Taycan, as the Audi’s 2.2-tonne kerbweight does blunt its 563bhp and 800Nm of torque. Once you’ve surged off the line and reached 62mph in 3.8 seconds, soon after the shove becomes more of a nudge. Power and torque still doesn’t have all the answers against considerable mass. 

Cars such as the S8 are hard to justify, although in the UK it’s the only way to have V8 power in your A8, predominantly because performance is rarely at the top of the criteria for limo owners. And lesser models, while they skimp on the cylinder and horsepower count, they are of an equal in terms of quality, refinement and luxury - and everything else owners of such cars buy in to. Yet 20 per cent of all A8’s sold in the UK are S8s, so for many max power and status still rules, even if it’s not available in the more luxurious long wheelbase body.

Model:Audi S8
Price:£102,610
Engine:4.0-litre twin-turbo V8
Power/torque563bhp/800
0-62mph:3.8 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy:24.6mpg
CO2:262g/km CO2
On sale:Now

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