Grandly proportioned luxury sedans such as the 2022 Audi S8 are usually best enjoyed from the back seat. The well-heeled folks who buy six-figure four-doors like the Audi, along with the BMW 7-series and the Mercedes-Benz S-class, can stretch their legs and luxuriate in quiet comfort while being chauffeured from the boardroom to the ballroom and everywhere in between. However, when it comes to the S8—the sportier variant of the Audi A8 sedan—the driver’s seat is also an exceedingly pleasant place to spend time, as we were reminded while recently driving the lightly facelifted 2022 model in Southern California.
Changes to the 2022 S8’s appearance are subtle. Its already-large grille gets a bit wider and is filled with new angled elements that come in chrome or black. The design of the taillights has also been tweaked. Really, though, the biggest difference between last year’s S8 and the new one is price. The 2022 model starts at $118,995–now $14,250 less—but you can easily add that amount back by picking from some of the 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 States.
Behind the sedan’s massive maw is the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8 and 48-volt hybrid system that’s been standard since this fourth-generation S8 debuted back in 2020. Output remains a heady 563 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque, with the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission again feeding Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Performance figures should align with the 2020 model we took to the track. That car hit 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds and did the quarter-mile in 11.6 ticks at 119 mph. Those results are impressive, especially since the 591-hp Audi RS7 we tested was only 0.2 second quicker to 60 mph and 0.3 quicker in the quarter despite being 309 pounds lighter. And while the engine’s output is unchanged, the S8’s EPA combined fuel-economy rating rises from 16 to 17 mpg, lowering its gas-guzzler tax from $1300 to $1000.
The S8’s beautifully crafted interior creates a sanctuary from the outside world. This is ideal for passengers, but it also diminishes the sensation of speed for the driver. We do appreciate the powerboat rumble emitting from the quad-tipped exhaust—rolling down the windows let us enjoy its melodic roar even more. Although the S8 is wickedly quick, we wish the automatic held onto gears longer and responded more quickly to throttle inputs. Even in the sportiest drive mode (Dynamic), the transmission upshifts after a momentary pause from your right foot. Shifting with the paddles let us keep the engine on boil, but the gearbox still upshifts on its own at redline. Plus, unless you’re in the powerband, there’s a pregnant pause after you floor the accelerator while the turbos spool up and the transmission downshifts.
Despite those gripes, the S8’s athleticism is cause for celebration. The sedan is some 17.5 feet long from stem to stern, yet it feels much more compact. Thanks to its standard rear-axle steering, Audi says the turning radius is about 42 feet from curb to curb. The S8 proved amazingly agile in packed parking lots and on tight, winding two-lane roads. And even on 21-inch wheels with 265/35 Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires, the ride was cosseting and smooth. The seemingly magic handling can be attributed to its standard adaptive air springs and the $6000 Predictive Active Suspension. The latter uses electromechanical actuators that control body motions and lean the car into corners like a motorcycle rider does (much like Mercedes-Benz’s Active Body Control). The system also automatically lifts the car a couple inches when a door is opened, to improve ingress and egress—we were impressed by how seamlessly it worked.
The S8 plays in the same price bracket as other V-8-powered executive sedans such as the BMW 750i and the Mercedes-Benz S580, but it offers a more engaging driving experience than those rivals. Like the BMW and the Benz, the Audi has a huge back seat offered in a two-passenger configuration (that’s no longer offered on the regular A8). The ultimate setup requires the $5900 Rear Seat Comfort package that includes a full-length center console, fold-out tables, heated and ventilated cushions, massage functions, and more.
Our car was missing that option, but it did have air vents on the dashboard that automatically appear or disappear, depending on the climate settings. That adds some theater to the S8’s interior, which, even with its configurable digital gauge cluster and dual-touchscreen infotainment system, doesn’t feel as special as the inside of an S-class. When the next-generation 7-series arrives, the Audi will likely feel even further behind.
It’s true that the A8 offers many of the same features as the S8 at a lower price ($87,595 to start). But its 335-hp turbocharged V-6 can’t match the quickness and excitement of the extra 228 horses and herculean soundtrack the V-8 brings. The A8 also lacks the S8’s sporty driving character, which makes the latter the better choice for drivers who want to have fun in the front or passengers who want to be pampered in the back.
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