The S8 has always been impossible to pigeonhole – a stately, luxury conveyance and a performance specialist – and the new model continues to build on that conundrum. 

10 November, 2021

It is the epitome of luxury – a large, stately limousine that boasts the very highest standards in every conceivable metric, from finish and comfort to appointment and technology. Like its sibling the Audi A8, the S8 resides at the very top of the luxury limousine ranks, immensely comfortable in its role transporting the likes of captains of industry and heads of state to high-level meetings, opening nights and everything in between. And yet, the S8 is also a driver’s car in every respect. Blindingly fast – 0 to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds flat – and with the handling and agility to match, despite the physical size required to offer its extraordinary levels of luxury and accommodation.

In this repeat, the S8 has always been something of an enigma in the automotive world – a car that didn’t forgo its performance in the search for passenger comfort and luxury.

Look at any definitive list of ‘best car chase movies’ and the 1998 classic, Ronin, will be right up there at the pointy end. This spy thriller starring Robert De Niro and Jean Reno is best remembered for the car chase in which the Audi S8 steals the whole show, its combination of understated styling and race car performance making it the perfect choice for the role.

The new model retains all of the attributes that made the Ronin S8 such a star, but with the passage of time, every aspect of the new car has benefited from huge advances at Audi in terms of performance and indeed every other aspect of the car.

These days the S8 TSFI quattro is powered by a biturbo V8 generating 420kW and 800Nm of torque from 2050 to 4500 rpm to produce the aforementioned sub four-second sprint to 100km/h. That distinctive exhaust snarl from the quad S exhausts is still present, in fact with sound flaps in the exhaust system it is further enhanced. The engine mates to a fast-shifting eight-step tiptronic and of course power goes to the road surface through quattro permanent all-wheel drive with self-locking centre sport differential. This system actively distributes torque between the rear wheels during fast cornering for greater stability and improved handling, which is even further enhanced with Dynamic all-wheel steering and predictive active suspension. Stopping power is equally up to the task and the S8 can even be optioned up with carbon fibre ceramic brake discs – not your usual inclusion on a luxury limousine.

The agility of what is an undeniably large car is helped in no small part by Audi’s space frame technology (ASF) which made up of 58 percent aluminium. The passenger compartment is made up of hot-formed steel components supplemented with an ultra-high-strength, torsionally rigid rear panel made of a carbon-fibre reinforced polymer. Magnesium strut-tower bars complete the lightweight construction concept, while the resulting rigidity lays the foundation for precise handling, excellent comfort and acoustic tranquility onboard.

But the S8 is not only performance oriented, but also incredibly efficient. Its Cylinder on Demand (COD) system, effectively shuts down four of its eight cylinder when the engine is not under load, although this is impossible to tell from inside the car. Mild hybrid technology (MHEV) is also employed, its 48-volt main electrical system further improving efficiency.

Of course the S8 boasts the highest levels of appointment for passenger comfort and safety as you would expect of a vehicle in this category. The interior is a temple to perfection, from the immaculate ventilated leather upholstery with every conceivable comfort thrown in, to the sleek, minimalist design of the dash. Here, the very latest technology has been seamlessly integrated for maximum ease of operation, and yet without compromising aesthetics. Sophisticated and elegant perfectly sum up the interior which rewards passengers and the driver in equal measure. Gliding effortlessly through traffic, there is no more comfortable place to be. Hit a winding road or even a race track and the car shows a completely different side to its personality.

The exterior too is elegant and understated, with a coupe-like profile that adds a sporty dynamic to the design but without screaming it from the rooftops. State-of-the-art technology is likewise integrated into the design of the body in the form of digital matrix LED headlights and digital OLED rear lighting while the subtle badging, distinctive S quad exhaust tips and enormous brake discs and callipers are the only real giveaways as to the car’s enormous performance potential.

And that is part of the appeal with the S8 and one of the things that made it the professional driver’s car of choice for Ronin. Only those who really know their cars can appreciate what the S8 capable of – although it hints at in its stance and presence. The sound of the engine is another telltale sign, but it takes a spirited drive to truly understand the essence of the Audi S8.