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FIRST DRIVE: Audi S8 Plus

Since a large portion of the German highway has no speed limit, there is market for so-called wolves in sheep clothing. I am of course referring to sensationally fast daily drivers, cars that offer extraordinary performance but with a relatively discrete exterior. Unsurprisingly, this market is dominated by the German brands. When one puts enormous engines into large luxury barges, the executives toast with champagne – they can now get to the director’s meeting in record time. If you buy a BMW 750Li, you get a V8 developing 450 horsepower and in a Mercedes-AMG S63 you’ll have 585 at your disposal. Apparently, Audi thinks those numbers belong in a child’s math book and therefore they have launched the Audi S8 Plus. A luxury sedan with a Wild West-inspired 605 horsepower. Let us find out if Audi has unveiled yet another reason to become part of top-level management or if enough is enough by setting off in High Velocity.

Calling the S8 Plus discrete isn’t being entirely truthful – a large, plush Audi will draw attention to itself. The S8-designation in the grille and on the rear causes a lot of people to gasp while the fact that it says “V8 T” on the side causes other to react. Our test car also had a carbon fiber spoiler which didn’t add to the discretion. However, most people see cars in color – “I saw a nice red car today” is something I often hear. That entails that most people in fact don’t react when they see an S8 Plus, especially not in a European capital. If one was to remove all the emblems, only true car aficionados would be able to identify the S8. It’s an incredibly elegant automobile which oozes of grandeur and the piccolos at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm (where the Nobel Laureates stay), where I was rather excited to photograph the car. It has plenty of details which make it stand apart from the crowd, but it’s a matter of “those who know, know”.

 

Since the A8 is getting old, the interior is a bit of a two-sided story. The quality feel, finish and atmosphere is magical while the infotainment-system and controls seems to been taken out of a Ford Pinto from 1972. The center console is ruined with more buttons than a control tower. Compared to the competitors from BMW and Mercedes, an upgrade is needed which we’ll most likely see in the next generation A8 in the shape of Audi Virtual Cockpit, which can be found in the TT RS for instance. Despite the interior being a bit outdated, the design is functional and makes do. The S8 Plus isn’t developed to be a techies wet dream, rather it’s supposed to be one of the best ways possible to get from A to B. It’s supposed to be a car which promotes driving instead of flying, just like the Bentley Flying Spur. Moreover, the back seat is incredibly plush even though the S8 doesn’t come as a long wheel-base version.

Upon hearing the figures – $120k, 605 horsepower, 190 miles per hour, 3.8 seconds to 62 – one imagines a supercar. When you also hear that the car in question is equipped with ceramic brakes, it becomes a sure thing. When one find outs that these attributes in fact belong to Audi’s flagship, it’s baffling.

 

605 horsepower in a car with air suspension, inch-thick glass and that literally goes like a freight train, a pleasurable ride is guaranteed. All speeds feel like half of what they are and the car accelerates hard even if you double the speed limit. Driving fast in an S8 Plus is among the most relaxing things you can do – during our week with the S8 we drove a total of 1000 miles, mostly on highways. It’s matter of setting the cruise control just so – if you want to risk jail or not is up to you – and experience the world flying past. Surprisingly, on numerous occasions there were drivers who wanted to race against us and, more often than not, these drivers were the opposite of people you want to have dinner with.

On back roads, one feels how soft and big the S8 in fact is. It may be more dynamically apt than one might think but it definitively isn’t a car one can throw into a corner and come out on the other side without a scratch. It becomes a matter of using straights to their full extent and, in our case, the ceramic brakes which would’ve been able to stop a Jumbo jet.

The S8 Plus turns driving into something as relaxing as a massage and it would stop anyone from seeing driving as a chore. At the same time, it manages to be as arresting as a National Geographic photograph which also refers to highway driving which isn’t too common; most cars are as boring as glaciology on the highway. When you also considering where most driving is spent, the price tag suddenly doesn’t seem all that absurd. The Audi S8 Plus is one of the most magnificent ways of getting from A to B – without the model designations one might even avoid all lunatics who want to race. On the other hand, something one a driver loves doing is racing against the arrival time on the GPS; seeing as minute after minute disappears fills you with a strange sense of productivity. The Audi S8 Plus – a brilliant reason to become successful.