Ever since I first saw Ronin as an impressionable teenager I’ve loved the Audi S8. Partly because it was hugely fast and, as Larry the driver said “can shove a little.” But mostly because it was just so goddam cool.
The S8 is now into its third generation and nothing has changed on the cool front. With gaping intakes at the front, a small rear spoiler and huge wheels, the latest S8 Plus is more obvious than the original, but it still takes a real spotter to pick one out. Certainly, the Mercedes-AMG S63 is much more visually shouty.
What has changed is the speed. Where the first S8 was merely hugely fast, the S8 Plus goes like its been fired from a high-power rifle. Where the standard S8 produces 513bhp from its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, the S8 Plus makes a mountainous 597bhp, thanks to a reprogrammed ECU and strengthened internals.
Driving through a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel-drive, that power translates to a 0-62mph of a mere 3.8secs. Which is insanely fast for a car that’s nearly 17 long and weighs two tons. Makes an absolutely filthy noise in the process, too.
But there’s more to the S8 Plus than just straight-line speed. It is capable of quite ridiculous cross-country pace, thanks to the unshakable security of the 4WD. The handling is precise and accurate, if not exactly involving, and body control is good enough that can fling it into bends as fast as you like. The ride is nicely judged, too, just on the plush side of firm.
The mark against it dynamically is that the brakes need a big old shove to scrub speed off. Probably be wise to spec the admittedly pricey Dynamic Plus pack, which adds carbon ceramic brakes. And raises the speed limiter to 189mph.
When you’re not driving like your pants are on fire, the S8’s interior is a deeply soothing place to spend time. The dashboard is a bit button-heavy and it misses out on some of Audi’s latest tech like the Virtual Cockpit TFT instrument display. But the infotainment system is still top-notch.
There’s room to spare and the seats are as comfortable as a well-worn dressing gown. You could easily drive across several countries and not really notice.
The S8 Plus is so competent it’s actually not terribly engaging. Instead, it’s reassuring. It makes driving immensely fast almost unnervingly easy and the interior makes you feel like all is right with the world.
I still love the S8 and, considering it’s faster and a big chunk cheaper than the S63, for my money it’s the super limo of choice.
Audi S8 Plus
Engine: 4.0-litre V8 twin-turbo petrol
Transmission: 8-speed automatic; four-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 597bhp; 553lb/ft
Economy/Emission: 28.2mpg; 231g/km
Top speed: 155mph
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By Only Motors