This ‘bahn-burner speaks softly, but carries a big stick.
– Detroit, Michigan
Here’s one way to grab my attention: Shove an extra 85 horsepower into one of my favorite fast sedans and paint it matte silver. This Audi S8 Plus packs 605 horsepower, and rightfully takes its place at the very top of the current A8 lineup. But it also serves as a swan song for Audi’s flagship; a brand-new model is set to debut sometime next year.
Talk about going out with a bang.
- On appearance alone, you’d never know this was a car that’s about to be replaced. The current-generation A8 launched at the end of 2010, and with a number of small updates over the years, here in the present day, it’s never looked better. I love the look of the segmented LED lights and the huge 21-inch wheels. Plus, the optional Black Optic package darkens a number of exterior elements. It’s all very clean and modern, and represents a handsome approach to the sleeper super sedan.
- Holy crap, this engine. I’m familiar with Audi’s 4.0-liter biturbo V8 – it’s used across the S6/S7/S8 range. But here, it’s tuned to 605 hp and 517 pound-feet of torque. The base S8 is already a powerful machine, so this extra 85 hp and 36 lb-ft are hilariously unnecessary. The car pulls hard at every point in every gear, and I fully believe the 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds is a bit too conservative. Or maybe that’s just because this is a 4,700-pound sedan rocketing forward at warp speed. Either way, this is one damn quick Audi.
- The power comes on with a woosh, not a kick – it’s all very linear. The handling characteristics mask this car’s size and weight; the S8 feels nimble, and it stays surprisingly flat while cornering, with very small amounts of pitch and dive during hard acceleration and braking. It’ll definitely out-handle a Mercedes-AMG S63 and Jaguar XJR.
- Much like the exterior design, this cabin has held up really well since its launch. The S8 has one of the nicest interiors in the business, and I like the red accent stitching on the quilted leather seats. Even the piano black trim all over the center console seems to be resistant to smudges and fingerprints, instead being a great canvas for which to display the car’s controls and dials. The interior is quiet and comfortable, but still exudes an aura of sportiness.
- While I like the look and design of the big, 21-inch wheels, they’re kind of bad for daily driving. The 275/35ZR21 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires could benefit from a bit more sidewall – even in the suspension’s Comfort setting, the ride quality is often harsh and jarring, and there’s a fair amount of tire noise at speed. I know these tires are better for cornering and max grip, but come on, this is an S8. It’s fair to say this car will see 50,000 miles of autobahn before it sees one corner of a race track.
- For as powerful as this engine is, you’d never know it from the sound. This is one of the quietest sporty motors I’ve driven lately, with only a very deep burble present when you’re mashing the throttle – and that’s with the exhaust sound set to “Dynamic.” I get the philosophy of speaking softly and carrying a big stick, but I’d like a little more here. Mercedes-AMG and Jaguar definitely have this car beat in terms of aural quality.
- The one area where the S8 Plus shows its age is with onboard tech. It seems strange to have Virtual Cockpit available in a $40,000 A4 sedan, but not in this $114,900 S8 Plus. Of course, that’ll all be fixed once the new A8 line is unveiled next year. Until then, just mash the throttle and forget about everything else – let this ‘bahn-burner drive off quickly into the sunset.
Photos: Steven Ewing / Motor1.com