The S8 is geared up to showcase an ability to cover ground quickly all the time. There’s 570PS (420kW) on tap from the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, sent through an eight-speed automatic gearbox to an all-wheel-drive system that’s the same as found on the standard A8.
It’s certainly grunty. There’s 800Nm (590lb ft) on tap, which means the S8 can dispatch 62mph from standing in just 3.3 seconds – for comparison the vaguely bonkers Bentley Flying Spur Edition 12 is half a second or so slower. When you do summon that performance it doesn’t haul itself like the lumbering beast you might expect. It might be 2.2 tonnes but with Audi’s all-wheel-drive experience and some extremely clever suspension work it’s able to keep itself quite flat and attack that sprint without fuss.
And it’s that suspension system that turns the S8 from lumbering elephant on the charge into calm carver of corners. It has a predictive suspension system which can read the road using forward facing cameras and pre-set the suspension for what’s coming up. So theoretically it can pre-respond to potholes or get the front ready to bite for an upcoming apex.
In practice that doesn’t make the S8 a complete drivers’ car, but it does create an absolute weapon for getting from point to point. The driving experience is quite flat because the car has been setting itself up to be ready for each corner. There’s also rear-wheel steering to reduce how long the wheelbase feels. Engagement isn’t high, but you can feel confident that when you sling the S8 into a corner with unfeasible haste it’s both ready and able.
That clever suspension also means that the S8 can return to calm cosseting with nary a blink. Calm your driving down and the S8 will revert to luxo-barge levels of zen, acting like an A8 in no time at all. That ensures that owners of the S8 aren’t sacrificing the qualities they expected from the A8 to get that bit more performance.