MUNICH – While in transit to Germany to test drive the forthcoming updated 2022 Audi S8, I was trying to remember the last time I drove the biggest Audi sedan.
In the end, I couldn’t remember, but I’m certain it was a long time ago, because I don’t ever recall it being so bursting at the seams with tech like the current car is, which I’ll get into shortly.
Just to reset, the A8 model range is updated for 2022, but due to the product lineup in Canada and assortment of models available at the media drive (no A8 V6s), I’m going to focus on the more powerful S8 for this story.
For clarity, the A8 is offered with two engines (V6 and V8) in short and long wheelbase form, along with a plug-in (TFSI e) and S8 for global markets. But the lineup in Canada consists of just the A8 (V6) and S8, both of which are long wheelbase. Audi Canada says the A8 lineup has been streamlined due to market demand, meaning other models, such as the plug-in, aren’t big sellers here so they’re not available.
And with that, let’s dive into the 2022 S8.
The current S8 was introduced in 2019 as a 2020 model, as part of the fourth generation A8 lineup that was all-new in 2018. The S8 is powered by a 4.0-litre twin- turbocharged V8 that produces 563 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. of torque. A 48-volt mild hybrid system is also on hand to aid with start-up, provide energy recovery, and improve fuel efficiency. Rounding out the drivetrain is a Tiptronic eight-speed automatic transmission paired with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive.
As its name would suggest, the S8 is a sportier version of the A8. It’s the most powerful in the range (563 hp versus 460 hp / 335 hp) and carries unique cosmetic and performance kit. Among these are standard 20-inch wheels (21-inchers are available), 265/40 R20 summer tires, quad-tip exhaust outlets and S Line styling cues. Standard chassis kit includes dynamic all-wheel steering and adaptive S-tuned air suspension.
In terms of new for ’22, the S8 receives a wider Singleframe grille with a chrome finish, new front air intakes, new digital Matrix LED headlights, chrome ‘clasps’ at the rear and new OLED (organic light emitting diode) taillights.
On the inside, the 2022 S8’s new tech updates include Audi’s third gen MIB 3 software to power the car’s Multimedia Interface (MMI), along with a wireless cell phone charge pad which can also boost the phone’s signal via the car’s antenna and Audi Music Interface with two rear seat USBs. Other new features include a heated, three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters and light cloth headliner. All items – and a lot more – come standard on the Canadian market S8.
My tester in Munich is finished in a gorgeous Ultra Blue Metallic with a Pearl Beige leather-trimmed interior. This colour combination is quite striking, but the Pearl Beige is being offered only on the A8 in Canada. On the plus side, Ultra Blue Metallic will be available in Canada on both cars.
I would be lying if I said that a sedan as big as the S8 is sleek or sexy, but the car is handsome, and the updates add to its curb appeal. From the front, the new Singleframe grille and digital Matrix LEDs give the S8 a more expressive and elegant appearance, while available 21-inch wheels and quad exhaust tips hint at its performance capabilities. By no means is the S8’s design the most adventurous in its class, but its complimentary geometric shapes and clean lines fits well with its performance and advanced tech character.
On the inside, the S8 is simply delightful: spacious, finely crafted and with vault-like build quality. The abundance of large screens attract attention immediately, but the details, such as S monogrammed headrests, Bang & Olufsen dash-mounted speakers and carbon fibre trim inserts, are what linger in my memory. The comfort sport seats, which are heated, cooled and massaging, not only feature beautiful detailing, but are also 22-way adjustable making it virtually impossible to not find an ideal driving position.
One must talk about the screens in a car like the S8, so I will. Despite their deep levels of content and customization, I find them to be intuitive and logically designed. I will say that having some familiarity with other Audis is helpful for navigating S8 screens, especially for the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit instrument cluster, which operates in a similar fashion as those of its stablemates.
The 10.1-inch multimedia touchscreen, which governs navigation, audio, and phone settings (among others), works as well as any display I’ve tested recently. The shortcuts along the left-hand side are quite helpful for finding what you’re looking for quickly. As for the 8.6-inch unit below that covers climate settings, it’s more distracting than traditional hard keys and buttons, but its layout is self-explanatory. And bonus points to the Audi designer that fought, successfully, to keep the volume knob – I salute you!
As for the drive, the S8 goes like a rocket. Official figures from Audi: 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 249 km/h. I didn’t put either of those to the test in my two-hour drive, but let’s just say the S8 is built for the Autobahn. That I can confirm.
With 590 lb-ft. of torque under one’s right foot, the act of merging, passing, and getting away quickly from rest is a breeze. Peak torque begins at just 2,050 rpm, so you needn’t pack your lead foot to get the S8 up to speed in a hurry. Engine and exhaust sounds are quite well muted by cabin sound suppression materials, but in dynamic mode some engine growl and exhaust crackling can be heard. During stints at 130 km/h, the S8 felt like a bullet train – fast and quite stable, thanks in part to its five metre-plus (17-foot) length.
Around town at more pedestrian speeds, the S8 feels equally responsive. Its air suspension – which uses a front-mounted camera to read the road ahead and make automatic damping adjustments – provides for a very smooth and quiet ride. Even with stiffer damping that comes with dynamic mode, the S8’s chassis just doesn’t get upset unless one seeks out the most pockmarked and broken tarmac. Its length and overall mass (4,894 lbs/ 2,220 kg) can be felt at times, such as the tight convenience store parking lots I found myself in on the drive, but dynamic all-wheel steering is a great help for navigating these spaces.
In sum, the S8 is an impressive executive sedan. In an SUV-dominated industry, cars like the S8 feel somewhat nostalgic, a reality reflected in shrinking sales. Yes, some parking lots can make it feel a bit too big at times, and its fuel consumption ratings aren’t great. But the same can be said of the competition.
Coming away from this experience, I’m reminded of the old axiom that says cars of this type are better to be driven around in than they are to drive. That may be true generally, but I think the S8 makes an excellent case for getting out of the back seat.
The 2022 Audi S8 goes on sale this summer.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.