In the 23 years and three generations since it was first launched, the Audi S8 has been the definitive Q-car, with its stealthily discreet styling and devestating turn of speed. This new, fourth-generation S8 continues in that tradition and ups the ante with a thick layer of tech.
Under the bonnet is a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 engine – shared with the Bentley Continental and Porsche Panamera – connected to a mild hybrid system and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Audi quotes outputs of 563hp and 590lb/ft of torque, improvements of 43hp and 110lb/ft over the previous S8.
Audi hasn’t announced economy or performance figures yet, only mentioning – predictably – that the top speed is limited to 155 mph. It’s safe to say it’ll be pretty swift, though – we predict a 0-62mph time starting with a three. And, of course, it features quattro four-wheel-drive, so it’ll be pretty swift whatever the weather.
The mild-hybrid system uses a 48-volt starter/generator unit and a small litium ion battery pack that allows engine-off coasting in the 30mph to 90mph range, and battery-powered low-speed running in stop-start traffic. We’ve seen this system in every fast Audi launched in the last few months as the company tries to improve fuel economy and Co2 emissions in line with Europe’s new WLTP testing regime.
There’s yet more tech under the S8’s skin. What Audi calls ‘predictive active suspension’ reduces unwanted body movements, as electromechanical actuators move individual wheels up and down. The system uses cameras that scan the road ahead and prime the actuators to move the wheels in time with any imperfections, rather than reacting to them, giving an unruffled ride quality.
Rear-wheel-steering and a rear axle torque-vector sport differential come as standard. Carbon ceramic brakes are optional, as are 21in wheels
A few minor styling tweaks mark the S8 out from a regular A8. The changes amount to unique wheels, slightly deepened bumpers and sills, quad exhaust outlets and unique trim detailing in bright metal – or an optional black pack.
Inside, the S8 is as plush and high-tech as we expect a top-end Audi to be. The seats gain pneumatically-adjusting side bolsters and active noise cancellation mitigates road and wind noise. It features car-to-X communication technology as well, displaying information like traffic light countdowns where the local infrastructure supports it.
Other super saloons are faster and more focused to drive, but the S8 has never been about setting your hair on fire on a circuit. Instead, it’s a car for covering huge distances at massive speed in complete serenity. This new car looks like it will do exactly that and, as such, it should uphold the S8’s status as the ultimate Q-car.
Audi hasn’t announced UK prices for the 2020 S8 yet, but expect to pay close to £100,000 before you start ticking off options.
By Graham King