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Review: The new Audi S8

Driven October 2013

Review: The new Audi S8

Hey, what’s with the headlights?
Aah. You noticed. We thought we’d tell you that in detail. But anyway, the headlights is the biggest USP of the new Audi A8.

Is it an all-new generation?
No. It’s just a facelift, with engines now complying with Euro 6 emission norms, making slightly more power, new electromechanical steering, and of course, those headlights.

Again, what’s with the headlights?
Audi calls it the Matrix LED lights. Instead of just the daytime running lights or turn indicators being powered by Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), the refreshed A8’s entire headlight set-up consists of LEDs.

Cool. So, they look all sci-fi?
That’s not all. These lights are an array of tiny LEDs that are independent of each other. A camera detects lighting conditions, traffic and the constant variations in light from on-coming vehicles and individually switches on, switches off and varies intensity of each LED.

Wow. So they aren’t there just to look cool?
No. With them you can forever be on high beam. And at the same time ensure that oncoming traffic or pedestrians aren’t blinded. Yet, you get a wider scope of illumination through your line of vision. In the sense, the LED pointing at the oncoming car dims or switches off, but the rest of the area around the oncoming car continue to remain illuminated.

So, that’s the new thing with the A8…
Yes. That’s the newest thing. Besides that, all the engines have gotten themselves a small boost in power, a small reduction in emissions and better fuel efficiency.

What are the changes with the engines?
The 4.2-litre diesel V8 makes 35bhp and 50Nm more to produce 385bhp and 580Nm. The 3-litre diesel V6 now makes 258bhp and 580Nm. That’s eight horses and 30Nm more than before.

Are there any hot, hero engines for the range?
Of course. There’s the 6.3-litre W12 petrol making just under 500bhp and 625Nm of torque. The flagship of the A8 range is, as usual, the S8. It has abandoned the Lamborghini-derived 5.2-litre V10 in favour of a 4-litre turbocharged V8 petrol.

Damn. There goes a great engine.

Hold on. It still makes 520bhp, and is the quickest of all the A8s.

Great. Tell me that’s the one you drove.

Obviously. It’s incredibly fast. You get to 100kph in no time at half-throttle. Plus, you can use Audi’s Drive Select system to alter the dynamism of the suspension, the steering and even the engine sound like in all of the latest Audis.

Must be sounding awesome then..
Well, it’s not as loud as the RS5 or the S6. But this is a luxury limo with massaging seats. And the rear seats incline and recline as if you are in business class. So the roar is a little muted, in keeping with the luxury and comfort bent of things.

When will we get this in India?
The refreshed A8s will be here by the end of 2013. However, the S8 won’t, unless you specifically order one. Being the sporty A8 and all, it doesn’t come in long wheelbase guise. And India loves long wheelbase luxury limos.

Aww. But will it beat the Panamera or an Aston Rapide?

This isn’t a four-door hypercar. The S8 is comfortable, fast and refined. But it makes its weight known. It doesn’t have the same level of agility and cornering abilities like those four-door supercars. You can always feel the weight getting transferred and keen drivers aren’t going to have this on the top of their wishlist.

How’s it at the back?
Despite not being a long wheelbase version, the S8 has ample legroom. Plus, you can recline the rear seats and get a whole lot of comforts making it worthy of a proper limo.

Should I order specifically for the S8 when the new line of refreshed A8s come to India?
If you are going to be sitting at the back, then it’s not much use. You are still better with the long wheelbase petrol or diesel engines. And if you are getting it as a driver’s car, you’d still be better off getting something like an Audi S6 or a mid-level luxury limo.  

Anything else that’s new?

There’s 10 litres of additional space in the boot, making it a total of 520 litres. The rear of the car looks better. And you can now order the interior upholstery in eco-friendly vegetable-tanned leather.

How much will the new range of A8s cost?
Audi is still tight-lipped about pricing. Expect them to be slightly higher than the current range of A8s. And then, you know what they say about such cars. If you have to ask for the price…

The numbers
3993cc V8 turbopetrol, 513bhp,  650Nm,  8A, AWD, 2065kg, 0-100kph: 4.1secs (claimed), 250kph (limited)

Incredibly fast luxury limo. But isn’t a great driver’s car. If all you want is a good luxury Audi, you’d be better off with the standard petrol or diesel A8s that come with a longer wheelbase.

Sriram Narayanan

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