Model oozes cool
Posted on: 1st Aug 2012
The Audi S8 has long occupied a special niche in the supersaloon firmament. On paper, it's hopelessly outgunned by rivals with bigger engines but if you look beyond the Top Trumps figures, it's a car that just oozes cool.
Every version of the S8, from the original 4.2-litre car of 1997 to the 5.0-litre V10 of 2006, has always had something exotic about it, as if it's operating to a different set of rules. It's the Ronin car, the vehicle that made the ultimate low-profile, high-drama getaway choice.
The S8 returned to the UK market in mid-2012 after a couple of years away, still a big car that doesn't proclaim its talents too loudly. This time round there's a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 under the bonnet that makes this Audi more effective than ever.
Don't worry. The message might be a little greener, but this S8 is still the genuine article.
The last S8 had a rather guilty secret. Despite trumpeting its lightweight aluminium architecture, and featuring a V10 powerplant that weighed just 220kg, Audi was a little less forthcoming about the fact that the car's all-up weight of 1,940kg was but a couple of bags of sugar less than a lump like a BMW 745i. Sure, it had 444bhp at its disposal but surely trying to play Mercedes at power games was a strategy destined to fail? Wise heads have prevailed at Audi. The 514bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 under the bonnet might not offer the soundtrack of a screaming V10 but it seems an engine that's a little more in step with the Zeitgeist and one that won't leave many wanting more in the way of power.
With a massive 650NM of torque on tap, the S8 will sprint to 100km/h (62mph) from rest in 4.2 seconds, its power being deployed, predictably, by quattro all-wheel drive. The top speed is electronically limited to 155mph and there's 'Cylinder on Demand' technology that allows the TFSI engine to cut four of the cylinders when cruising to aid efficiency. At low speeds or when driver demands more power, the other four cylinders instantaneously spring back into life. Adaptive air suspension with variable damping can vary the ride height of the body between three levels. Dynamic steering and a sport differential also feature, marshalled by Audi's Drive Select driving dynamics system. Massive 400mm front and 365mm rear brake discs are fitted with the option of carbon ceramic rotors. So the news is all good? Not quite. Weight has crept up to 1,975kg.
Design and Build
One of the most appealing things about the S8 has always been its subtlety. While the last car had an engine that would always wake the neighbours, the latest model's engine is a bit stealthier. The design has just the right blend of performance cues without being too extrovert. Aluminium detailing defines the exterior, with a bolder grille, while there are body colour trim strips on the sills and door handles with strips of aluminium and polished aluminium-look mirror housings. The exhaust system ends in two oval dual tailpipes in a chrome-look finish. There's a palette of thirteen colours but only two exclusive to the S8. It speaks volumes that these colours are the relatively low-key Daytona Grey and Prism Silver. This is not a look-at-me car. At over five metres long however, the S8 is a seriously big saloon. There's plenty of space to stretch out and a huge 510-litre boot. The multi-way, power-adjustable comfort sport seats were designed for the S8 and are available in quilted lunar silver at no extra cost. The leather multifunction sport steering wheel has colour-contrasting stitching and an S8 emblem.
Market and Model
The asking price of around £80,000 seems reasonable value in comparison with other super saloons but whether it's £16,000 better than the 420PS but some would say prettier, S7 Sportback is a question only a potential buyer can answer.
Although the weight has crept up, it's easily been outstripped by power gains although this S8 is all about working smarter rather than harder. This model is also rammed with the sort of technology its predecessor was never privy to, the MMI system featuring Google maps downloads, the ability to select a mobile phone to act as a wi-fi hotspot, plus the display of an infra-red night vision image. There's also an extended leather package which is complemented by an Alcantara headlining, a DVD changer, the advanced key with a power-operated hands-free opening system and ambient lighting LED headlights and double glazing are also fitted. You need to spend an awful lot more money to buy yourself a manifestly better interior than this.
Cost of Ownership
It's tempting to tick quite a few boxes at the ordering stage, but as long as you can keep your options selections on the right side of reasonable, you can help cap off depreciation to an extent. Big petrol-engined cars tend to lose value quicker than diesel ones, so you'll need to keep both eyes open when going into S8 ownership. Fuel economy is one area where you'll probably be pleasantly surprised, that cylinder on demand technology making the car very efficient on long motorway cruises and helping contribute to an overall economy figure of 28.0mpg.
The Audi S8 is a car that does so much but makes such little fuss about it. Its buyers like it that way, valuing capability and discretion. If you want to get somewhere fast and draw no great attention, the S8 is one of the best cars in the business for the task, which is why it's a vehicle so often targeted by those of extremely high net worth. It's a car that credits its owner with a bit of savvy.
Sometimes the car is merely the supporting cast.