What Car? says...
The Audi S8 has some striking vital statistics. It’s almost 5.2 metres long and weighs nearly 2.3 tonnes. It probably has more square metres of leather in it than Air Force One, and yet it can steam you from 0-62mph in 3.8sec.
The S8 might look like a relatively unassuming luxury limousine, and there's not a huge amount to differentiate it visually from the regular Audi A8 saloon on which it's based. But, thanks to a mighty 563bhp 4.0-litre V8 engine under the bonnet, it's almost as fast as the Audi R8 supercar.
For all that performance, though, the S8 still needs to cosset you so that you can get to where you’re going in as stress-free fashion as possible – otherwise, what’s the point of having a luxury car with so much power?
You're certainly paying enough to expect the best of everything, with the S8 costing similar money to smaller performance saloons, such as the Mercedes-AMG E63, as well as some versions of the Porsche Panamera. So, is it a worthy alternative to the best performance cars and which version of the S8 should you go for – the standard car, the Black Edition or the Vorsprung trim?
That's what we'll be telling you over the next few pages of this Audi S8 review. We'll cover everything from performance and interior quality to boot space and running costs. We'll also let you know what equipment Audi gives you with each of those trims and which one is our favourite.
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Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Despite being aimed at buyers who want to drive rather than be driven, the Audi S8 is still, in essence, a very fast Audi A8 – a luxury car often spotted outside celebrity events and luxury locations, with a suited driver doing the crossword inside.
So, if you’re expecting the sort of lively handling you get from other performance cars, such as the hardcore BMW M5 (only available in its focused Competition form, now) and Mercedes-AMG E63, you’ll be mildly disappointed. After all, this is a very big, very heavy car.
That said, the S8 can carry a surprising amount of speed through corners because of its monstrous grip. It feels more alert than you might expect in tight twists and turns, thanks in part to the four-wheel steering it has as standard (the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front ones at low speeds to make the S8 more wieldy, but turn with the steering at higher speeds to aid stability), plus there’s an Active rear differential with ‘torque splitter’ technology.
This means there are two clutches on the rear axle, and they allow drive to be sent separately to each wheel. When you’re cornering hard, more power is sent to the outside wheel, helping to point the nose of the car into corners better, making the S8 feel more agile and playful than you’d imagine for something its size.
Granted, you can encounter a fair amount of body lean, even with the clever suspension in its stiffest Dynamic setting, but not enough to prevent you from covering ground at a seriously rapid rate. Weirdly, you’ll encounter less lean in the car’s Comfort+ mode, which is primarily to aid passenger comfort by keeping things level. It works by pumping up the suspension of the side of the car on the outside of the corner to counteract any lean, and it works remarkably well.
The steering isn’t the most feelsome, especially compared with the best performance cars, but it’s accurate and you always feel confident that the S8 will behave and go where you point it.
What about that eye-popping acceleration? Well, while the S8 is savagely fast, you’re so well isolated from the outside world that the experience is somewhat muted. Sure, you’ll feel your neck muscles tense as you try to stop your head flying backwards when full throttle is engaged, but the 563bhp V8 tickles your ears with a cultured growl rather than an almighty roar.
In addition, thanks to its four-wheel drive system, the S8 transfers its power to the road in a remarkably fuss-free manner – even when the road is wet.
There’s little tyre or wind noise at motorway speeds, and by any standards, this is a stress-free long-distance cruiser. That’s helped enormously by the S8’s wonderfully comfortable ride in all situations.
The car can read the road ahead to prime the suspension for upcoming obstacles, which helps the S8 deal with speed bumps particularly well. Lumps and bumps are soaked up smoothly at faster speeds too, even if you go for the Vorsprung version with its standard 21in alloy wheels, and when its Comfort+ mode is engaged, it can even counteract pitching motions, reducing the nodding sensation you get going over speed bumps.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Aside from a few minor details, the Audi S8 is just like any other Audi A8 inside. That means it's immaculately finished, with luxurious materials, including lashings of soft leather, and a standard of assembly that trumps even the Mercedes S-Class. True, the A8 looks a little conservative inside compared with the S-Class and the Porsche Panamera, but that’s a matter of personal preference.
The driving position is excellent, with a huge range of adjustment for the supportive, 22-way electrically operated seat. Four-way powered adjustable lumbar support is standard, and even the steering wheel moves in and out, and up and down, electrically.
Despite having so many gadgets on board, the S8 is relatively easy to interact with. There's a 12.3in digital instrument display, which Audi calls Virtual Cockpit, that conveys a lot of information with admirable clarity. The same is true of the standard head-up display, which projects selected information on to the windscreen so it's even closer to your line of sight.
Meanwhile, the dashboard itself features two high-definition touchscreens – a 10.1in top screen and 8.6in one below – which dominate the dashboard. These are easy enough to use when you're parked up, but can be a little distracting when you're on the move. Imagine trying to operate an iPad while driving and you'll get the idea.
Mind you, the S8’s graphics are sharp, the system responds quickly to presses and you even get haptic feedback from the screen so you know that your prod has been registered. You also get plenty of gadgets, including wireless phone-charging, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.
The standard Bang & Olufsen audio system has 19 speakers, puts out 755-watts, and sounds amazing. You can go one stage further if money is no object and get an upgraded 23-speaker, 1920-watt system that should please even the fussiest of audiophiles.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Audi S8 is available only in standard wheelbase form, with no long-wheelbase version as there is for the regular Audi A8. Still, that just means rear leg room is plentiful rather than palatial, and you can still kick back and relax behind a tall driver without your knees even brushing the seat in front.
For those who love a stat, the boot's capacity is 505 litres. That’s just a number, so what does it mean in practice? Well, it means the load bay is roughly the same size as the one in the Mercedes S-Class and is big enough to hold eight carry-on suitcases. It also means there’s room enough for a couple of sets of golf clubs, but annoyingly, there’s no option to have split-folding rear seats in the S8, although there is the option of a load-through hatch for carrying skis, for example.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Audi S8 is the most expensive version of the Audi A8 you can buy, costing the same sort of money as the Mercedes-AMG E63. However, it's cheaper than the Porsche Panamera in GTS form and the BMW M5.
You wouldn’t expect such a big, powerful performance car to be easy on petrol, and the S8 certainly isn’t. The official average fuel economy is 24.6mpg, but it’s not too hard to maintain above 20mpg in the real world. Sadly, high CO2 emissions put the S8 in the top band for company car tax.
Then again, the Panamera GTS is even less efficient. Put simply, if you can afford to buy an S8 you’re unlikely to be too concerned about running costs. What will be of greater concern to you is depreciation, which the S8 suffers quite badly from. Over three years, it loses considerably more than the M5, E63, and Panamera.
The S8 is very well equipped, with 20in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, heated seats (front and rear) and soft-close doors all fitted as standard. If that's not enough luxury for you, the Vorsprung version adds 21in wheels, a panoramic roof and an upgraded Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Vorsprung trim is very expensive, though, so we’d be tempted to go for the regular S8. Options worth considering include the Extended Leather Pack, which makes the interior feel even more lavish, and, perhaps, the City Assist pack for the additional safety net of front and rear cross-traffic alert to warn of approaching traffic the panoramic glass roof.
Speaking of safety, all S8s come with a fair amount of safety kit as standard, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), and traffic-sign recognition, although lane-keeping assistance is relegated to the City Assist pack. The S8, (like the A8) hasn't been safety tested by Euro NCAP so we can't tell you how well it's likely to protect you if an accident proves unavoidable.
In terms of reliability, Audi finished 21st out of the 32 brands included in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey – ahead of Mercedes (joint 23rd) but behind but behind BMW (16th) and Porsche (joint 19th).
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Yes. The S8's official 0-62mph time of 3.8sec is fairly remarkable for a large luxury car.
As a comfortable limo, we recommend a long-wheelbase Audi A8 with the 50 TDI diesel engine and Vorsprung spec. If you're a private buyer and will be spending more time behind the wheel, you're likely to enjoy driving the S8 more – it's much quicker with sharper handling.
|RRP price range
|£111,660 - £115,655
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|24.6 - 24.6
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£2,031 / £8,862
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£4,062 / £17,723