Big saloon cars don’t come much more menacing than the Audi S8 and the new one isn’t any different. The restyled bumpers and sills may only be subtly altered compared to those on the standard A8, but the more obvious silver mirror caps, big wheels (up to 21-inches in diameter) and quad exhausts help distinguish the car as something more threatening.
Unlike the recent spate of S-model Audis, the S8 is not powered by a diesel motor. Instead, the flagship saloon gets a suitably intimidating twin turbo V8. The engine in the new S8 is a familiar one, it’s the same 4-litre twin-turbo hot-V V8 motor that’s fitted to the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera Turbo, the V8 versions of the Bentley Continental GT and Bentayga, and the Lamborghini Urus.
With 563bhp and 590lb ft of torque, the engine in the S8 has been tuned to sit below the Lambo’s wild 641bhp and 627lb ft output, but above the 542bhp and 568lb ft that the Bentley and Porsche versions generate. The S8’s V8 also has the addition of a 48V mild-hybrid system that saves fuel by allowing the engine to shut off during coasting and helps improve the start/stop function.
The S8 is fitted with an eight-speed automatic and, as you’d expect from a fast Audi, torque is sent to all four wheels. To improve traction even further and improve the car’s athleticism, the rear axle is fitted with Audi’s Sports Differential, a torque-vectoring electronic limited-slip diff.
The fancy differential isn’t the only agility-enhancing element in the S8’s arsenal, it also has rear-wheel steering, carbon ceramic brakes (optional) and a retuned version of the predictive air suspension that’s available on the regular A8. As well as being able to force individual wheels into ruts and potholes to help smooth out the ride (just as the A8 does), the S8 uses the same hardware to counteract body roll, even tipping the car into corners. As a result, the big Audi saloon doesn’t use its 48V system to power any active anti-roll bars.
With a range of performance-improving systems, will the new S8 be able to match the BMW M760Li and Mercedes-AMG S63 in terms of handling? Even if it can’t, and it remains a blunt instrument for pounding down the Autobahn, intimidating any car that gets in its way, then it’ll continue a strong tradition started by previous Audi S8s.