Making its spy photo debut, the next-gen S8 was photographed while en route to a 'Ring test session.

An all-new Audi A8 is arguably long overdue, but it won’t be until next year before Ingolstadt’s flagship model will make the transition to the D5 generation. That means its spicy S8 counterpart seen here for the very first time in prototype guise will not be out until 2018 and will probably go on sale as a 2019MY.

The disguised front bumper is not doing a great job at hiding the larger air vents, while the beefy alloy wheels with low-profile tires backed by enlarged brakes are also signs of the hotter S8 model. By far the most revealing clue is noticeable at the rear end where the prototype was rocking quad tips. Being a prototype early in the testing phase, it doesn’t come as a surprise the car had a provisional exhaust system set to be replaced in the months to come by the production-spec exhaust on more evolved prototypes.

As far as the design is concerned, we still can’t see most of it because of the swirly camouflage. However, we already know from spy shots of the regular 2018 A8 the styling will have very much in common with the gorgeous Prologue introduced almost two years ago. Audi through the voice of its chief designer Marc Lichte has already announced plans for a new styling direction and the first model to lead the way is going to be the crown jewel of the range, the all-new A8.

Riding on the MLB Evo platform, the next iteration of the A8 is going to lose some serious weight even though the car’s size will increase a bit to provide a roomier cabin. It’s too soon to say what will power the new S8, but some are saying it will stick to its biturbo 4.0-liter V8. Right now it has 605 bhp (451 kW) and 516 lb-ft (698 Nm) of torque in the S8 Plus, but Audi’s engineers might tweak the motor to unlock more power.

2019 Audi S8 spy photo
2019 Audi S8 spy photo

Another way to go would be to get the new biturbo 4.0-liter V8 developed by Porsche for the 2017 Panamera Turbo, the former quickest sedan on the Nürburgring. In the second-gen Panamera, the engine generates 542 hp (404 kW) and 568 lb-ft (770 Nm), but a beefier Turbo S version is already being prepared and it will obviously have more muscle. To us at least, the upgraded engine seems like a good candidate to propel the next installment of the S8.

Details about performance are not available right now, but you can imagine the expected bump in output corroborated with a weight loss over the current Audi S8 will shave off a few ticks of a second. The regular S8 on sale today runs to 62 mph (100 kph) in 4.1 seconds, so its replacement could drop below the four-second mark on its way to what will likely be an electronically-capped 155 mph (250 kph). It might even be a match for the more powerful S8 Plus that needs 3.8 seconds for the sprint en route to 190 mph (305 kph).

As far as an RS8 is concerned, the moniker was trademarked back in 2012, but a year later Quattro’s chief engineer Stephan Reil said that an RS8 wouldn’t make sense. Let’s just hope he was referring strictly to the D4 generation and the all-new A8 will be blessed with a full-blown RS version.

Photos: CarPix

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