Is understated long distance driving your cup of tea, but you aren’t in the market for the latest BMW 7 Series? Is the new S-Class from Mercedes is too in your face? Then the new 2022 Audi S8 might well be the option to take. Outfitted with a mild facelift for 2022 onwards, I got the chance to take the new S8 for a spin.
What is the Audi S8?
The rival to the Mercedes-AMG S63 and BMW 7 Series is everything you would hope for. A proper performance vehicle, capable of taking you from A-to-B with the right kind of grandeur, plushness, and comfort, while also providing performance levels which are often only available to a supercar. Combine all of these characteristics in a total of five meters and more than 2,200 kg (4,850 lbs), and you have characterized the S8 in a nutshell.
Outfitted with a plethora of the best from Ingolstadt, the S8 is a fine machine that offers you everything you need for daily motoring and more. The feast starts under the bonnet, where you will find a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine, featuring a mild 48V hybrid and cylinder-on-demand setup to enhance its carbon footprint. The output of the engine is 571 horsepower and a lovely 800 Nm (590 lb-ft) at 2,000 rpm allowing you to reach 100 km/h (62 mph) from naught in 3.8 seconds.
The power is delivered to the road via the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox with a manual shifting Tiptronic function and Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system, which comes with a so-called sport differential allowing power to be divided between each of the rear wheels both having rear-wheel steering. The highlight of the package is the suspension system which allows for the excellent plush ride. The Predictive Active Suspension uses a forward facing camera scanning the road for the best ride over unevenness. Electro-mechanical actuators are also available on each of the struts to constantly vary the ride height.
For those who already own the new Audi S8 and are wondering what changed, I can be relatively short. Other than a number of cosmetic upgrades and new front- and taillights, the S8 didn’t get many facelifted ingredients. The engine is carried over from the pre-facelift and the technical features of the car are pretty much the same.
The changes start at the front where the Germans altered the front fascia. The front bumper and grille received a bolder and more aggressive look. The outside corners of the grille were moved upward and the grille is now wider. The design details inside the grille now also differ between the standard A8 and S8, which distinguishes both models. Of course there is still the little S8 badge, which is accompanied by more upright side air intakes and a set of new headlights. In total three options are now available of which the optional HD Matrix LED and digital Matrix LED lights are the most intriguing.
The digital Matrix LED headlights arrived from the e-tron Sportback SUV and use DMD (digital micromirror device) technology. Each headlight has approximately 1.3 million micromirrors that break down the light into tiny pixels. The technique offers a few smart features such as the lane and orientation lights for highways. Here, the headlights emit a carpet of light that illuminates the driver’s own lane and assists when changing lanes. The digital Matrix LED headlights can generate dynamic coming home/leaving home functions upon unlocking and getting out of the car. They shine like projections on the ground or a wall in front of the car. The theme continues at the rear with new digital OLED rear lights, which are standard and accompanied by four silver exhaust tailpipes. A signature feature of the S8.
Beyond the basic exterior package of the S8, the Germans have a range of new wheel and exterior color options available. Also the new S line exterior package and black appearance package are available for the standard A8 and A8 L. Four new exterior colors can be chosen. Those are: metallic district green, firmament blue, Manhattan gray, and ultra blue. Manhattan gray won’t be available in the US on your A8 L, which is the only model available in Canada, China and South Korea. The A8 L offers 5.1 inch (13 cm) more room in the back.
Also new to the Audi A8 series are five matte finishes; Daytona Gray, Floret Silver, District Green, Terra Gray, and Glacier White. Additionally, there are new wheel designs in 19″, 20″ and 21″, and you can now opt for the three-spoke steering wheel in the A8 and S8. Interesting to note is that Europeans can order their S8 with a full white leather interior as shown on the photos here. US customers are offered black or black with either cognac brown or merlot red inserts.
How is it to drive?
This is the obvious question when you get the chance to drive a newly facelifted car and the answer is quite simply; the same as before. The Audi S8 hasn’t changed much in the grand scheme of things. It has enhanced its offering on the spec sheet, but other than that you are being offered a surplus of ability, comfort and refinement. Simply the best that Audi has to offer in a stylish sedan package that allows you to transport yourself and your passengers anywhere, at any time and under any radar.
I will happily agree that the Ultra Blue test car with its numerous silver details isn’t the ultimate expression of being under the radar, but there are more than enough choices, also within the customization department, to go fully undetected in many circumstances. Additionally, the level of brilliance that you feel through the drive behind the wheel is one that continues to serve the urge to drive yourself, but also the ability to jump in the back seats and continue with any workload you may have.
The dual character of the S8 is one that makes this limousine a fine piece kit that might not immediately be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is able to shine and transport you with performance and luxury levels you don’t see every day. The silence inside the cabin doesn’t allow you to experience the full potential of the S8. The disconnect with the outside is quite an unique event when you don’t experience this kind of plush on a daily basis. The cultured, synthetic growl is a lovely companion inside the cabin, but open the window and you hear what the V8 really sounds like and how other motorists hear you fly by on the left lane of the Autobahn.
For those familiar with Audi interiors, you won’t find any immediate surprises. The cabin is a lovely combination of the highest standard in build quality and fine materials. The carbon details, aluminum trims and gloss black surfaces are a lovely contrast to the white leather used in the interior of my test car. An exquisite combination that doesn’t feel over the top, but also not old-fashioned. Just right.
The fact that the car raises itself upon entry and exit, is one of those unique features that make this model series so special. Same goes for the overload of features available through the digital center cluster and the standard 10.1-inch touch display. The multi-function steering wheel and superb S-line sport seats finish the truly first class driving environment.
All-season luxury all-rounder
The new S8 facelift hasn’t changed the true behavior of its predecessor offering a luxury statement of refinement, performance and features that isn’t anywhere else available in the current market. With the new S-Class AMG not yet on the market and the BMW M760li having left the battle field, we only have the ALPINA B7 as a high-performance luxury car to compete with the S8. Where the S8 is able to offer more refinement, silence in the cabin and a truly all-rounder ability, it is not as special and in your face as its more limited counterpart from Buchloe.
The S8 also feels more light-footed and seems to shrink around you more than the uprated Bimmer does, but the differences are minor and won’t immediately effect the success of either model. Of course, it does however make the decision between the two harder than required and maybe only based on personal preferences and a love for either exterior and interior design.
All in all, the Audi S8 is a blend of brutish, muscle car charm and high-end luxury. As the fastest and most exclusive version of the A8 available, it is a fine machine and a wonderful companion for daily commuting, high speed autobahn runs or being chauffeured to your next appointment. Its versatility and ability to go incognito offers an unique proposition that might well be immensely rewarding in a world full of extravagant designs and funky expressions letting us know where the automotive world thinks it should go.