Devotees of luxury travel who don’t always want to take a back seat will welcome the return of the Audi S8, which in its latest iteration combines the rarefied comfort and refinement of the flagship Audi A8 saloon with a bi-turbo V8 petrol engine channelling an impressive 571PS and 800Nm of torque to the road via predictive active suspension, dynamic-all-wheel steering and quattro drive supplemented by a rear sport differential. These advanced systems ensure the plentiful power is as gainfully employed as possible during more challenging driving, and the latest cylinder-on-demand and mild hybrid drivetrain technologies also manage it responsibly when the car is in relaxed, trans-continental cruising mode.
Audi S8: Impressive performance
As a V8 engine with mild hybrid technology, the high-performance unit in the Audi S8 offers not only maximum smoothness, but with an output of 571PS, 800 Nm (590.0 lb-ft) of torque and two turbochargers also the certainty that ample power is available for any situation.
Iron-lined cylinder barrels in the aluminium crankcase reduce friction for exceptionally smooth running, and for moments when power takes precedence automatically actuated flaps in the exhaust system accentuate the already impressive V8 sound. For the ultimate in comfort, sound intrusion that is less desirable is eliminated by active noise cancellation integrated into the sound system.
The mild hybrid system (MHEV) works continuously to reduce fuel consumption. Its 48-volt belt alternator starter and the additional lithium-ion battery enable coasting with the engine switched off, fast restart and an extended start-stop range. Fuel savings of up to 0.8 litres per 100 kilometres are possible in everyday driving. The cylinder on demand system, which deactivates individual cylinders in low-load operating situations, also helps to moderate fuel consumption wherever possible.
Active suspension, dynamic-all-wheel steering and quattro with sport differential
The unique combination of innovative suspension components enables the S8 to consummately fulfil the role of luxury limousine while also approaching corners with the poise of a sports car. The high-tech predictive active suspension, a standard feature that works in conjunction with the adaptive air suspension, helps the performance flagship to perform its dual role – it can lift or push down each wheel separately via electromechanical actuators, making it possible to actively control the trim of the body in any driving situation for the first time, thereby greatly reducing pitch or roll during acceleration or braking. The front camera, which detects larger road surface irregularities, enables this to be done predictively.
The Audi drive select system – another standard feature – also helps to further enhance the impressive adaptability of the S8. It offers a choice of five operating modes, including a new “Comfort +” profile which makes cornering more comfortable by tilting the body into bends by as much as 3 degrees to reduce the lateral acceleration acting on the occupants.
In “dynamic” mode the S8 turns in tautly. The maximum roll angle during fast cornering is roughly 2.5 degrees compared with around 5 degrees with the standard suspension. The situational distribution of roll moments enables self-steering that is neutral or minimally inclined towards oversteer. The active suspension enables another new function. The body is quickly raised by as much as 50 mm when the door handle is actuated for an even more comfortable entry and exit.
Another system designed to make the S8 feel lighter on its feet is the standard dynamic-all-wheel steering. It allows the independent adjustment of the steering angles at the front and rear axles, thereby facilitating quick and direct steering response and a tight turning circle at low and medium speeds but also supreme stability on the motorway. The factory fitted sport differential actively transfers torque between the rear wheels during fast cornering. When turning into or accelerating in a bend, most is directed to the outside wheel to literally push the car into the corner and eradicate any hint of understeer. In the case of oversteer, the differential transfers the drive torque to the inside wheel to stabilise the S8. The interplay between all these standard systems is unique in the S8’s class and ensures composed and sporty handling in all situations.
Customers keen to reap maximum reward from the engine and advanced chassis technology on a regular basis can also choose high-performance carbon-fibre ceramic brake discs with a diameter of 420 millimetres at the front axle and 370 millimetres at the rear from the option list. The ceramic brakes are internally ventilated, low-wearing and including the callipers are 9.6 kilograms lighter than cast iron discs. Each of the front callipers has ten pistons.
Precise expression of sporty elegance: the design
Bold interior and exterior design elements finely hone the character of the new S8. Details in the front bumper, side sills and the exterior mirror housings as well as the two S-specific twin exhaust tailpipes subtly convey the car’s standing in the model series. Inside a new upper inlay – available exclusively in the Audi S8 – is made of Carbon Vector with a special 3D depth effect. Directly below that is an inlay of dark, brushed matt aluminium. Matrix LED headlights provide exceptional illumination and depth of field as standard, with an upgrade to HD matrix LED headlights with Audi laser light and OLED rear lights available on request.
Progressive and state-of-the-art: the equipment
Every detail of the new Audi S8 reflects its special capabilities. One particular highlight are the standard sport seats, which feature wide ranging power adjustment, pneumatically adjustable side bolsters and separate three-stage heating for each seat. In addition to this, ventilation and massage functions are available. Customers can choose between the top leather grades Valcona and Unikat. The rear seats also offer numerous features for outstanding comfort and provide for a first-class atmosphere in the Audi S8.
The 38 driver assistance systems that Audi provides for the new S8 are divided into the City and Tour packages. The latter is standard for all A8 models in the UK. It includes Adaptive cruise assist – a stand-out feature that combines the functions of adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and lane tracking. In combination with predictive efficiency assist, it brakes and accelerates the Audi S8 in anticipation of the conditions ahead. In the City assist package, Audi pre sense side joins the systems pre sense front and pre sense rear to create Audi pre sense 360°. If the system detects an impending side impact, it can operate together with the predictive active suspension to instantly raise the body by as much as 80 millimetres. This brings the sill into a better position to absorb the impact energy, mitigating the potential consequences of the accident for the occupants.
The brain behind the driver assistance systems in the new S8 is a high-performance processing unit, the central driver assistance controller (zFAS). It continuously computes a differentiated model of the vehicle’s surroundings based on the data provided by the sensors. Fully equipped, there are five radar sensors, six cameras, twelve ultrasound sensors and a laser scanner on board.
Digital and intelligent: controls and connectivity
The new Audi S8 offers an appropriately sophisticated infotainment interface with new digital services and state-of-the-art connectivity. The fully digital MMI touch response operating concept enables the driver to control nearly all functions via two large touch screen displays with haptic feedback. The driver can also use natural speech control, which offers virtually unlimited freedom when formulating questions and commands. The answers are provided either from information stored on board or from the cloud. Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice assistant, is also available as an option.
All driving-relevant displays appear in the Audi virtual cockpit, which can be switched between two views. While the tachometer and speedometer are displayed as large dial-type gauges in driving mode, the map is the centre of attention in infotainment mode. Both views have S-specific red graphics. A special S-performance layout for the Audi virtual cockpit where the central focus is the tachometer, displayed as a square graph, and the output and torque are shown as percentages can also be selected in the MMI. The head-up display can display important information on the windscreen.
MMI navigation plus serves as the infotainment and media centre in the new S8. Besides the integration of the Amazon Alexa voice service, the extensive Audi connect range includes a wide variety of car-to-X services that draw on the swarm intelligence of the Audi fleet, including online traffic sign information, hazard alerts and on‑street parking search functionality. The myAudi app connects the car to the customer’s smartphone so that they can easily send destinations to the car from their home computer.