What is it?
Imagining a customer for the Audi S8 is a slightly complex exercise, but the car apparently now accounts for 20% of Audi A8 sales in the UK, so there must be plenty of them.
This car’s sheer size, its particular comfort and luxury tuning, its reserved performance styling and its unambiguous limousine classification all seem to mark it out as one not to drive but rather be driven in - which is a little at odds with its Audi Sport badging.
So, is this the A8 for the CEO who travels in the back and just wants the car park status that it confers; or, as a more understated fast saloon, is it bought by someone who doesn’t actually want people – colleagues, employees, tax accountants etc - to notice it? Might its owner be driven in the week, perhaps, but drive at weekends? Or are they just an A8 ‘patron’ who wants a car with as much Audi-brand ‘technik’ as they can get?
The answer to every one of those questions could well be 'yes', funnily enough, because this is a car of a genuinely broad luxury appeal.
Having arrived as part of the current fourth-generation A8 range back in 2020, the S8 (which comes in short-wheelbase form only) offers a similar blend of big-hitting turbo-petrol V8 performance, top-level refinement, uncompromising luxury and understated performance styling as that for which so many of its predecessors have been known.
But it offers even more Audi-typical advanced drivetrain and suspension technology as standard, much of which isn’t available on any other A8. Quattro four-wheel drive is there to put the engine’s 563bhp to effective use, of course, but here you get an active ‘sport’ rear differential in addition to the mechanical centre diff of other A8s, while four-wheel ‘dynamic’ steering comes as standard (it’s an option on the rest of the range).
And then there’s the suspension, which is the really clever bit. While other A8s have a simpler adaptive air suspension system, the S8 gets what Audi calls Predictive Active Suspension, which mixes forward-facing cameras with a height-adjustable air suspension set-up that incorporates fast-acting electromechanical actuators at each wheel.
While the same suspension can be optionally fitted to other A8s bought elsewhere in the world, Audi UK only offers the fully active set-up as standard on the S8.