Large proportions luxury sedans such as the Audi S8 2022 are usually best enjoyed from the back seat. Wealthy folks who buy a four-door six-door like an Audi, along with a BMW 7-series and Mercedes-Benz S-class, can stretch their legs and enjoy a quiet ride from the boardroom to the ballroom and everywhere in between. However, when it comes to the S8 – the sporty variant of the Audi A8 sedan – the driver’s seat is also a very interesting place to spend some time, as we were reminded recently while driving a lightly modified 2022 model in Southern California.
Changes to the appearance of the 2022 S8 are subtle. Its already large grille is a bit wider and filled with new corner elements that come in chrome or black. The design of the taillights has also been modified. Really, though, the biggest difference between last year’s S8 and the new one is the price. The 2022 model starts at $118,995—now $14,250 less—but you can easily add that amount back by picking up some new standalone options. Audi has also streamlined the A8 lineup, dropping the eight-cylinder model, so the S8 is now the only V-8 version of Audi’s big sedan offered in the US.
Behind the massive sedan is the same 4.0-liter, 48-volt, twin-turbocharged hybrid system that’s been standard since the fourth-generation S8 debuted in 2020. Output remains 563 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, with the engine and automatic transmission The eight-speed system that feeds the Audi quattro all-wheel drive system once again. The performance numbers should align with the 2020 model that we’ve taken on the right track. That car hit 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds and did the quarter mile in 11.6 points at 119 mph. Those results were impressive, especially since the 591-horsepower Audi RS7 we tested was just 0.2 seconds faster to hit 60 mph and 0.3 quicker in the quarter despite being 309 pounds lighter. And while engine production remains unchanged, the S8’s combined EPA fuel economy rating goes up from 16 to 17 mpg, lowering the gas tax from $1,300 to $1,000.
The S8’s beautiful interior creates a haven from the outside world. This is ideal for passengers, but also reduces the driver’s sense of speed. We appreciate the rattle of the speedboat from the four-headed exhaust – rolling in the windows lets us enjoy its melodic roar even more. Although the S8 is very fast, we wish the auto held gears longer and responded more quickly to throttle input. Even in the sportiest (dynamic) driving mode, the transmission shifts up after a pause from your right foot. Shifting with the paddles allows us to keep the engine on a boil, but the gearbox can still pick up on its own at the redline. Plus, unless you’re in the powerband, there’s a pause after you hit the throttle while the turbine is stowed and the transmission is lowering.
Despite those hats, the S8 sports a cause for celebration. The sedan is about 17.5 feet long from trunk to aft, yet it feels more compact. With standard rear axle steering, Audi says the turning radius is about 42 feet from curb to curb. The S8 has proven impressive agility in crowded parking lots and on narrow, winding two-lane roads. And even on 21-inch wheels with 265/35 Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires, the ride was fun and smooth. The seemingly magical handling can be attributed to the standard adaptive air springs and the $6000 predictive active suspension. The latter uses electromechanical actuators that control body movements and tilt the car into corners like a biker would (much like Mercedes-Benz Active Body Control). The system also automatically raises the car a few inches when the door is opened, improving getting in and out—and we were impressed with how smooth it worked.
The S8 plays the same price category as other V-8-powered executive sedans such as the BMW 750i and Mercedes-Benz S580, but it offers a more engaging driving experience than those competitors. Like BMW and Benz, Audi has a massive rear seat offered in a two-passenger configuration (no longer offered on the regular A8). The final setup requires a $5,900 rear seat comfort package that includes a full-length center console, foldable tables, heated and ventilated cushions, massage functions, and more.
Our car was missing this option, but it had dash vents that automatically appeared or disappeared, depending on the climate settings. That adds some stage to the S8’s interior, which, even with its configurable digital gauge cluster and dual-touchscreen infotainment system, doesn’t feel as special as inside the S-Class. When the next-generation 7 Series arrives, Audi will likely feel further behind.
True, the A8 offers many of the same features as the S8 at a lower price ($87,595 to start). But the 335-horsepower V-6 can’t beat the speed and excitement of the extra 228 horses and the massive soundtrack that the V-8 brings. The A8 also lacks the sporty driving character of the S8, making the latter a better choice for drivers who want to have fun at the front or passengers who want to have fun in the back.
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