Grandiose-proportioned luxury sedans like the 2022 Audi S8 are usually best enjoyed from the backseat. Well-heeled folks buying six-figure four-doors like the Audi, as well as the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, can stretch their legs and bask in quiet comfort while being driven from the saloon from meetings to the ballroom and everywhere in between. However, when it comes to the S8, the sportiest variant of the Audi A8 sedan, the driver’s seat is also an extremely pleasant place to spend time, as we were reminded while recently driving the slightly facelifted 2022 model. in Southern California.
The changes to the look of the S8 2022 are subtle. Its already large grille widens a bit and is filled with new angular elements available in chrome or black. The design of the rear lights has also been refined. 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 top that up by choosing from some of the new standalone options. Audi also streamlined the A8 lineup, dropping the eight-cylinder model, so the S8 is now the only V-8 version of Audi’s large sedan offered in the United States.
Behind the sedan’s massive maw sits the same 4.0-liter, twin-turbocharged, 48-volt V-8 hybrid system that’s been standard since this fourth-generation S8 launched in 2020. Power remains a heady 563 horsepower. and 590 lb-ft of torque, with the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission again powering Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. The performance numbers should line up with the 2020 model we took to the track. This car hit 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds and completed the quarter mile in 11.6 ticks at 119 mph. Those results are impressive, especially considering the 591-hp Audi RS7 we tested was just 0.2 seconds quicker at 60 mph and 0.3 quicker in the quarter despite being 309 pounds lighter. And while engine output is unchanged, the S8’s combined EPA fuel economy rating jumps from 16 to 17 mpg, lowering its fuel consumption tax by $1,300 to $1,000.
The beautifully crafted interior of the S8 creates a sanctuary from the outside world. This is ideal for passengers, but it also diminishes the feeling of speed for the driver. We enjoy the motorboat roar emitted from the quad-tip exhaust – lowering the windows lets us enjoy its melodic roar even more. Although the S8 is blazingly fast, we wish the automatic would hold gears longer and respond more quickly to throttle inputs. Even in the sportiest drive mode (Dynamic), the transmission upshifts after a momentary right-foot pause. Shifting with the paddles allows us to keep the engine boiling, but the gearbox still upshifts on its own at redline. Also, unless you’re in the powerband, there’s a pregnant pause after you hit the throttle as the turbos rev up and the transmission downshifts.
Despite these gripes, the S8’s athleticism is cause for celebration. The sedan is about 17.5 feet long from bow to stern, but it feels much more compact. With its standard rear-axle steering, Audi says the turning radius is about 42 feet curb-to-curb. The S8 proved incredibly nimble 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 comfortable and smooth. The seemingly magical handling can be attributed to its standard adaptive air springs and $6000 predictive active suspension. The latter uses electromechanical actuators that control body movement and tilt the car through corners like a motorcyclist does (much like Mercedes-Benz Active Body Control). The system also automatically raises the car a few centimeters when a door is opened, to improve entry and exit. We were impressed with how smoothly it worked.
The S8 plays in the same price bracket 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 rivals. Like the BMW and Benz, the Audi has a huge rear seat offered in a two-passenger configuration (no longer offered on the regular A8). The ultimate configuration requires the $5,900 rear-seat comfort package which includes a full-length center console, fold-down tables, heated and ventilated cushions, massage features, and more.
Our car lacked this option, but it did have air vents on the dash that automatically appear or disappear, depending on climate settings. It adds a bit of drama to the S8’s interior, which, even with its configurable digital gauge cluster and dual-touchscreen infotainment system, doesn’t feel as special as an S-Class’s interior. When the next-gen 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-horsepower turbocharged V6 can’t match the speed and excitement of the extra 228 horsepower and herculean soundtrack the V-8 brings. The A8 also lacks the sporty driving character of the S8, which makes the latter the best 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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