First Drive

2016 Audi S8 Plus review

Stratospherically rapid Audi S8 Plus falls short on handling finesse, but it has merit in other ways

Words ByVicky Parrott

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The Audi S8 Plus has some striking figures attached to it. This car is more than 5.1-metres long and weighs a moderate grocery shop short of two tonnes. It probably has more leather and electric motors in it than Air Force One, yet it will steam to 62mph in 3.8sec. That’s within a blink of the Audi R8 and 0.5 sec faster than the S8’s nemesis, the Mercedes-AMG S63; that’s really quite insane.

The magic happens courtesy of the same twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 that’s familiar from the standard S8, but the Plus treatment includes tweaked turbochargers and a higher rev limit, which boost power to a faintly shocking 597bhp.

An eight-speed automatic and active, rear-biased four-wheel drive system are standard.

What’s the 2016 Audi S8 Plus like to drive?

Despite the S8 being solidly aimed at buyers who want to drive rather than be driven, it is still in essence a chauffeur’s car. It is, after all, a very fast A8, which is mostly spotted outside celebrity events and luxury locations, with a suited driver doing the crossword inside.

This limo nature shows in the S8’s heavy-footed handling. Sure, it’s got monstrous grip that allows you to corner confidently, even at silly speeds, but there’s plenty of lean through direction changes and a lack of precision to the steering that means you never forget the size of the car.

The response is also quite inconsistent on the S8 Plus’ steering – it gets more aggressive the faster you go - so you can feel a bit all-at-sea as you start winding on lock and find that it’s turned in more sharply than you expected.

Still, the steering is predictable enough at low speeds around town, and with near imperceptible gearshifts and good brake feel, it’s appropriately easy to waft about smoothly. It’s also appropriately easy to go banzai and enjoy the surplus of power.

This is a peach of an engine, and the V8 delivers voracious but predictable pace that’s safely in the realms of exciting rather than frightening. You do have to keep a careful eye on the speedo, though, because the combination of limousine refinement and near-supercar acceleration means that you don’t get much sense of what speed you’re doing.

That refinement is a great virtue of this class of car. There’s very little tyre or wind noise even at cruising speeds, while the engine is whisper-quiet unless you choose to stick it in Dynamic and enjoy the angry V8 rasp. By any standard, this is a stress-free long distance cruiser.

Ride comfort is very good despite the extrovert 21in alloys, and even on UK roads. Standard adaptive air suspension keeps things fairly pillowy even over scruffy surfaces, with only the odd heavy thump over bigger potholes, so the S8 Plus is a cosseting thing in daily use.

What’s the 2016 Audi S8 Plus like inside?

The interior of the S8 Plus isn’t much different to the standard A8, which means that it feels faultlessly put together and is indulgently comfortable. If you can’t get comfortable in the 22-way adjustable sports seats then you won’t get comfortable in anything, and there’s lashings of carbonfibre along with the white-on-grey S dials to remind you of what you’re driving.

The big, retractable colour screen and multimedia system might be a bit old now, but it remains easy to use and replete with all the convenience functions you could want, so you can make full use of the 14-speaker Bose sound system.

Adaptive cruise control, and automatic city emergency braking are also standard, on top of front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and adaptive LED headlights. You don’t need to add anything to the S8, although plenty will find boxes to tick.

Rear passenger space is very decent (you can’t get the Plus in long-wheelbase form) so tall adults will be fine in the back, although a Merc S-Class or BMW 7 Series both offer better rear space.

The boot is big enough for a couple of large suitcases, so it’ll easily serve the purposes of most S8 buyers.

Should I buy one?

Probably not, even though it is quite an intoxicating thing to experience. Truthfully, this whole class of supersonic limos is difficult to justify, given that anybody wanting a fast and exciting saloon will be better served by smaller alternatives, such as the BMW M5 or Audi RS6, while those after a luxury chauffeur proposition should look to the cheaper and hardly tardy diesel A8, Merc S-Class and BMW 7 Series.

There are also the running costs to consider (after the eye-watering purchase cost), which will be extortionate, and – even more so on the S8 than most of its rivals – will include crippling depreciation.

However, if you do really want one of these, then the S8 Plus looks relatively good value next to the Mercedes-AMG S 63 models, which cost around Β£30k more. The Merc handles and even rides a touch better, has a more cutting-edge interior and is also more spacious, so remains the better car, but the Audi S8’s brute force and all-weather traction gives it clear purpose in this niche class. If that role suits your very specific needs, then the S8 Plus is for you.


What Car? says...

Rated 3 out of 5


Rivals:

Mercedes-AMG S63

Jaguar XJR


Audi S8 Plus

Engine size 4.0 V8 twin-turbo

Price from Β£98,395

Power 597bhp

Torque 553lb ft

0-62mph 3.8 seconds

Top speed 155mph

Fuel economy 28.2mpg

CO2 output 231g/km