The Audi A8 and S8 have long been somewhat of a full-size luxury underdog, in my opinion, as you simply don’t see many on the road. However, such a car is worthy of being cross-shopped amongst the Mercedes-Benz S Class, BMW 7 Series, and even some full-size SUVs as it proves to be quite the luxurious vehicle with respected performance and even more performance in the Audi S8.
Having a week to experience the new Audi S8 I’ve been enamored with all that it has to offer, starting with its exceptionally smooth but stable ride qualities, in addition to the advanced tech accessed by haptic-feedback touchscreens. No doubt that the Audi S8 is somewhat unique, but it proves that underdogs sometimes have a winning formula that could be overlooked until you dive in and experience all the pleasures for yourself.
The Audi S8, being the rarity that it is, sometimes serves as a shocking head turner, as is my test vehicle adorned in its Ultra Blue Metallic paint that sometimes looks blue or purple depending on how light hits it. Additionally, there’s also a bit of shock when you accelerate, feeling the S8’s twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 pump out its 563 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission powering all four wheels by way of an advanced Quattro all-wheel-drive system and a torque-vectoring rear differential.
The acceleration is smooth but forceful after a slight turbo lag at lower RPMs. Otherwise, the Audi S8 is a like a limo sleeper with its long 123.2-inch wheelbase that virtually shrinks thanks to its four-wheel-steering that proves to be necessary to maneuver in tight spots and parking lots. When you’re not turning the wheel and decide to make a dash to 60 mph, you will be pleased that you only need 3.7 seconds, which is amazing for moving just over 5,200 pounds of German sexiness.
There’s a magical dance about the Audi S8 and the way it handles itself without unwanted body movement drama. Out on the open road, the air suspension using its optional predictive active suspension system to smooth out the road ahead that’s detected by forward cameras for road imperfections works amazingly.
The S8 feels as if it is riding on a cushion of air, but stabilized air as there isn’t any body float or unwanted rebounds when you’re cruising at highway speeds or above. The S8’s body just keeps its composure, unlike most luxury sedans, where they must compensate with soft and floaty rebounds, often requiring a higher setting for the air suspension raising the center of gravity in their “comfort” mode. The S8 is different here where it will automatically lower the suspension height to its lowest setting once you crest 80 mph or so but still provide an ultra-smooth and stabilized ride quality. Other suspension tricks the Audi S8 plays is it automatically raises to its highest setting upon entry and exit of the vehicle, so you don’t have to fall into the seat when entering or climb out of it when exiting.
For such a large and heavy sedan, the Audi S8 feels eager to go exactly where you point it without any fuss, even with the steering effort being a bit heavier than competitors in the landscape of the Mercedes-AMG S63. Skid pad results at 0.95 g on average, as scored by a few popular automotive outlets, prove the willingness for the S8 to relentlessly claw at the pavement through its 21-inch summer tires wrapping 10-spoke glass black wheels as part of an optional Black Optics Plus package. There’s plenty of driver control and confidence inspired in the driving character of the new Audi S8, just as there is confidence in its braking and feel thanks to massively sized front brake calipers and rotors. There’s even an option for carbon ceramic brakes.
The 2022 Audi S8 isn’t shy about driving down its fair share of premium unleaded fuel as it doesn’t depart far from its EPA estimates of 14 mpg city, 23 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined in the real world. The gas tank being just over 21 gallons, gives you a highway range of about 500 miles.
The Audi S8’s interior does a decent job of balancing its luxury appointments and sporty side by adding several carbon fiber trim elements. Some of those elements are only revealed when you shut off the vehicle, and the dashboard vents perform a closing act to showcase additional carbon fiber pieces. Other highlights of the interior include several soft-touch and leather-wrapped surfaces, along with an abundance of color-configurable LED ambient lighting.
The seating areas have plentiful space up front and out back as you can nearly kick your feet out to touch the front seatbacks. There’s no shortage of space in any dimension inside the Audi S8 as all new Audi A8 and S8s are in a ‘long wheelbase’ form. The front seats have heating, ventilation, and several back-area-only massaging programs. The rear seating area has heated outboard seats and two separate automatic climate zones controlled through a folded middle seatback armrest. There are power sunshades in the rear doors in addition to a power shade for the fixed glass rear sunroof, and a power rear window sunshade.
Unique elements that really set the Audi S8 apart conclude with its special Matrix-design LED headlights that perform a graphical dance with projected symbols upon startup or shutdown of the vehicle that eventually end with a fading Audi logo. It’s almost as if you’re watching the beginning of a feature film where the star is the S8, a distinctive sleeper luxury sedan that ends up being both a villain and hero, all depending on which drive mode you select.
Audi utilizes the same virtual cockpit they’ve been known for in the past several years in the Audi S8, giving you the option of displaying a live Google map with satellite view and overlayed gauges. The infotainment system is comprised of two large touchscreens, a 10.1-inch upper screen and an 8.6-inch lower screen, primarily handling the climate, seat, and handy shortcut functions that you can preset. Overall, the system isn’t as complicated as it initially looks. There’s a neat haptic tactile click feel to the press of each onscreen button, which some may love or hate. There’s a short learning curve for its operation, but once you become familiar, the interactions becomes dependent on giving yourself a second or two to land on the correct button because there aren’t any physical buttons other than having a dedicated volume knob that also acts as a track/seek toggle. The integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto play nicely without fault, as does the onboard Wi-Fi hotspot. The 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system sounds delightful.
Audi offers a full array of standard active safety features in the S8, such as blind-spot monitors, forward collision warning/emergency braking, and the 360-degree camera system with a neat virtual 3D view (walk-around virtual view). There are also several optional features, including adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode and lane-keep assist.
Audi isn’t shy about charging the proper admission to a whole lotta luxury and fun delicately mixed in the S8, giving you a starting price of $116,900. Adding on several option packages in my nearly loaded test vehicle, the price comes to $135,595 (incl. $1,095 destination and $1,000 gas guzzler charge), which isn’t terribly crazy considering how much direct competitors are charging for a similar package and this high level of performance. Such a vehicle will not be around much longer so if you’re in the market, make sure you don’t pass up on checking out the Audi S8 before anything else.