Audi S8 4.0 TFSI

October 2011

picture of car from the front

Understated looks are standard with the S8

Ratings

Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 5Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 9Comfort

Security Rating 9Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


Likes

  • Clever, powerful and surprisingly frugal engine
  • Peerless cabin is very comfortable, attractive and well-finished
  • Impressive combination of comfort and handling
  • High technology makes life easier and safer for passengers

Gripes

  • Very little to externally distinguish S8 from regular A8
  • Less character in new V8 over old V10 despite efficiency gains
  • Overall driving experience broadly similar to standard car
  • Hides its sporting credentials a little too well

The A8 has been the pinnacle of the Audi range since the first generation version appeared in 1994 and has always brought the most sophisticated technology and the greatest comfort that the brand has to offer. Following the introduction of the four-generation model in 2010, Audi has added a more sporting S8 version to the range.

Audi's A8 has always been the most luxurious and comfortable car in the range, making it one of the preferred choices for high-flying executives around the world. Yet the German firm has always been a sporting brand, and it is expanding its range of 'S' models with the introduction of the S8 to combine performance and comfort in equal measure.

The S8 sticks with the aluminium spaceframe chassis used on the standard A8. Although a complex undertaking for the manufacturer, Audi claims that it saves 200kg over an equivalent steel chassis whilst matching its rigidity and crash performance. That brings significant benefits to fuel economy and performance by making the most out of the available engine performance.

Mechanically the S8 has air-suspension as with the rest of the range, plus the Audi drive select system, which gives the driver the opportunity to tailor the car to suit the driving conditions. Under the bonnet it uses a brand-new 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine with a sophisticated twin-turbocharging system, replacing the naturally-aspirated V10 from the previous S8 model. The new engine manages to offer increased power and torque while achieving far superior fuel economy and emissions.

The S8 appears broadly similar to the current A8 saloon bar a few subtle changes. On the outside it wears unique 19 or 20-inch alloy wheels, a single frame grille finished in platinum grey and understated skirts all round. S8 badges and quad exhaust pipes complete the exterior changes, whilst inside there are sports seats in the front and a very high standard specification.

Our verdict on the Audi S8 4.0 TFSI

Audi has added a sporting edge to the A8 without sacrificing any of the comfort and convenience of the standard car. The impressive engine and transmission switch easily between cruising and sprinting, while the drive select system manages the suspension and steering wheel. Anyone seeking the ultimate performance saloon might prefer one of Audi's RS models, but the S8 will no doubt satisfy its wealthy owners.

Costs
Costs rating 5

The S8 inevitably sits at the higher end of the cost scale, although improvements in efficiency and economy will result in lower fuel bills in the long term. Insurance costs are high regardless of the specification however.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

The S8 makes the most of its size, bringing impressive levels of cabin space for front and rear passengers. The boot is also generous, if relatively shallow, but this is to be expected with the four-wheel drive system taking up space at the rear of the car.

picture of car from the rear

Discreet badges, quad tail pipes and a subtle diffuser mark out the rear

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

The S8's improved MMI is the heart of the control system, and builds on an already impressive set up. The new touchpad works effortlessly and requires almost no familiarisation from the driver. The rest of the cabin layout is a textbook example of attractive and efficient integration, although despite this it would take a new owner some time to get to grips with all the systems available.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 9

Improvements in handling have not come at the expense of comfort; this is still a supremely comfortable car in which to travel. Double glazing, air-suspension, massage seats - all factors which add to the exceptional comfort on offer. Aids such as the automatic cruise control and the advanced sat-nav also relieve stress on the driver, making it the perfect car for covering long distances with ease.

Car security
Security Rating 9

Such a desirable car requires a high level of security and the S8 comes complete with a comprehensive alarm system, optional vehicle tracking system and tough double glazing.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

The S8 showcases some of the latest safety technology to come from Audi so, as well as a comprehensive collection of airbags, ABS and ESP, all A8s come with a basic pre-safe system, which prepares the car for an accident should the ESP sense danger is imminent. This can be optionally upgraded to include collision avoidance with autonomous braking, and even seat adjustment to put occupants in the best position to minimise injury.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 8

The effortless nature of the S8's performance is the key part of its appeal, and the manner in which it can switch from comfortable cruising to rapid acceleration is very impressive. The turbocharged eight-cylinder engine is quiet and efficient, and the cylinder shut-down mode operates seamlessly to maximise fuel economy. Conversely, a gentle squeeze of the accelerator unleashes the huge power reserves and the S8 accelerates with incredible ease.

picture of car interior

Exceptional cabin is well specified and extremely comfortable

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 8

It is probably too expensive to be chosen as a family car, but thanks to the space on offer and the potential for a first-class infotainment system, the S8 could actually do a fine job of keeping a family safe, comfortable and happy.

First car appeal
First car Rating 2

The S8 is unlikely to feature on the lists of first car buyers, not least due to the price and insurance costs.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

Up at the top level of luxury, nothing but the best quality is sufficient, and the S8 does not disappoint. Inside and out it uses very high quality materials, and everything operates with a smoothness and refinement. The S8's image is helped by this high-tech, discreet approach, boosted by the high performance credentials, although the very subtle nature of its appearance could mean it is easily mistaken for a regular A8 model.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Thanks to large doors front and rear, access to the S8 requires very little effort indeed. Self-closing doors and a remotely-operated boot (which can be activated by waving a foot beneath the rear bumper) also removes most of the effort of getting inside.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The standard audio system includes a DAB radio, music interface allowing connection for MP3 players, 20GB-worth of storage space plus a CD player. There is also the option to upgrade to a Bose or B and O system, but all offerings produce impressive results, not least because of the low noise levels from the rest of the car.

picture of car in detail

V8 engine offers significant efficiency gains over V10

Colours and trim

Like any luxury saloon of this size, the S8 looks best in more sober hues, and with larger alloy wheels. The S8 comes in two unique colours to distinguish it from lesser models, but even these are subtle shades. Inside there are an almost infinite number

Parking

The S8 is of course a large car, but the speed-sensitive power steering means slow-speed maneuvers are completed with ease. Standard parking sensors front and rear also aid the process.

Spare wheel

Full size spare wheel mounted beneath the boot floor.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 3.0-litre (286bhp); 4.0-litre (513bhp) 4.2-litre (367bhp). Diesel engine options - 3.0-litre (201bhp and 247bhp); 4.2-litre (345bhp). Transmission options: eight-speed automatic standard on all models bar low-output diesel, which uses seven-speed Multitronic CVT. Trim levels: SE, SE Executive, S8.

 

Alternative cars

BMW 760Li M Sport Brilliant drive, clever technology, still controversial styling

Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Characterful if thirsty engine, impressive performance and kudos

Maserati Quattroporte Stylish, good to drive, harder to live with

Jaguar XJ Supersports Highly impressive blend of comfort and performance



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October 2011