Audi S8 4.0 TFSI Review: One of the Last of its Kind
Sports limousines have always been a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. They had nondescript styling that looked seemingly normal but had large high-powered engines and strengthened internal components such as suspension and brakes. They enabled the car to carry its occupants in comfort at high speeds – perfect for businessmen that needed to get across the European continent quickly and safely.
Since the launch of the Mercedes 300SEL 6.3 in 1968, most European manufacturers have created a sports limousine in their vehicle line-up and it became a way for manufacturers to showcase their engineering prowess. BMW launched their 750i with a V12 engine in 1987 and Jaguar introduced the XJR in 1988. Audi followed suit in 1996 with the launch of the 1st S8 model and it would be remembered by car enthusiasts as it was featured in the film, Ronin.
The latest Audi S8 has been reintroduced to the Singapore market and is now in its 4th generation that is based on Audi’s recently facelifted flagship A8 range. The S8 tested here comes in Ultra Blue that looks stunning both under sunlight and in the shade. I think the colour suits the car well – bold and striking for a sports limo yet dignified and stately enough for a senior executive to be seen in.
Our local market only has the S8 in standard wheelbase format (Towkays who want the long wheelbase model will have to look to the luxury-spec A8L). Even so, the S8 is no small car with a length of 5.19m and a wheelbase just shy of 3m. It makes more sense for a sports limo to be in standard wheelbase for better handling and maneuverability.
Audi’s Singleframe grille sits wider and squarer, and is featured prominently at the front. I like how the facelifted model has a new grille design that features chrome angular ‘ticks’ which are a refreshing change to the horizontal lines in the pre-facelift model. Some may find this design to be less subtle, but I think it suits the S8’s sporty personality well. Keeping to the mantra of being nondescript, there are only 2 ‘S8’ badges at the front and rear that hint at this car’s potential.
From the side, the limo’s length is accentuated by the high waistline that runs from the bonnet to the boot. The roof dome also flattens slightly before tapering off sharply with a sleek quarter window at the rear.
The best angle of the S8 is of its rear (and also the view that most people will be looking at). It sits wide at 2.13m and this is highlighted by a continuous light strip and chrome garnish that run across the entire width of the car. The Digital OLED taillights also feature different light designs depending on which drive mode the car is in. The lower bumper also comes with an integrated air diffuser and 4 flow-optimised sport exhaust pipes.
Here’s where the S8 truly shines – its performance. Look under the hood and the sports credentials of the car can be seen. The red garnishes on the engine cover and the 2 cone engine air filters hint at the capability of the engine. The 4.0 V8 biturbo generates 571 hp and 800 Nm with full torque between 2,050 to 4,500 rpm. The S8 that weighs 2.2 tonnes can even put many proper sports cars to shame with a 0 to 100 timing of 3.8s. License revoking speeds are easily achieved in this car, unknowingly!
Power is channeled to the road via Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system and a very responsive 8 speed Tiptronic transmission.
The S8 is also no slouch in the bends (South Buona Vista Road comes to mind) and this land barge can dart around corners flat thanks to an excellent air suspension system, a sports differential and dynamic all-wheel steering. These systems all work in tandem to ensure that power is fully maximised.
At this point, this car seems to be all about speed and power but what makes its truly impressive is its ability to do so in great comfort. Start the engine and you can hear the V8 engine burble, crack and pop like a sports car. But once seated inside, the driver is insulated from all forms of exterior noises (mind you, the car has double-glazed windows). Only when the car is put in Dynamic mode can the driver hear a low-pitched rumble when the valves in the sports exhaust open. It is the ability of the car to put a smile on the driver’s face when the occasion calls for it that makes it truly sensational.
Passengers are treated like royalty on the inside and the design language is kept formal for the Executive. Standard equipment includes 4-zone air-conditioning and fully adjustable and ventilated seats for both front and rear passengers. The S8 even has an inbuilt back massage function on all seats. It seems over-the-top but it does make the journey quite enjoyable and comfortable. There is also a Bang & Olufsen sound system that provides 3D surround sound through 17 speakers. Enjoy the drive if you are the driver, or recline the backseat and rest your head on the cushioned headrest and enjoy being driven.
Everything in this Audi is engineered for perfection. The air suspension system delivers a magic carpet ride in Comfort+ mode. Front cameras scan the road for unevenness and the car adjusts the damping and ride height to ensure minimal body roll and bumps to the passengers. The car can even raise and lower itself by up to 5cm, almost instantaneously, to help with getting in and out of the car comfortably.
Dynamic all-wheel-steering also makes a car of this size much easier to drive. U-turns can be completed in 2 lanes (puts many other smaller cars to shame!) and parking in tight spaces is a cinch.
The Audi S8 is perhaps one of the last sports limousines available in the market. While other marques have dropped their petrol versions and started focusing on electric models, Audi has retained the original recipe and made a very capable car. At S$739,546 (at press time), the Audi S8 does not come cheap, but it is truly in a class of its own and worth every dollar.
The Audi S8 is an excellent Michelin-star recipe – a large V8 engine with a capable and comfortable chassis – perfect for a sports luxury limousine.
Photos by Horizon Drivers' Club