Agile, fast point-to-point, interior quality, discrete styling, performance doesn’t compromise luxuriousness
Doesn’t have the brutish character of an S63
What is it?
Released in 1998, directed by the late John Frankenheimer and starring Robert De Niro, Ronin is about a group of mercenaries hired to steal a mysterious briefcase (whose contents are at no point revealed). Despite the confounding plot it’s one of our favourite films. Chiefly because of the cars (and car chases), one of which was a dark green, first-generation Audi S8.
Ronin made the S8 cool. The quintessential Q-car, a perfect means of transportation for discerning baddies. It wasn’t even that brilliant a car. Looked good, though, and had a strong naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 mated to slushy automatic gearbox (in Germany you could even get it with a manual) and Quattro four-wheel-drive.
And that coolness endures to this day. The next S8 was just silly, and quite enjoyable for it. Designed and developed when the going was good and emissions regulations were comparatively lax, like the S6 and RS6 of the era it had a 5.2-litre V10 with similar genes to the Lamborghini Gallardo's. Yes, really.
Obviously realising it had been uncharacteristically insane in putting a V10 Lamborghini engine in a Mercedes S-Class rival, Audi went with a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 for the next S8. This is an engine that’s since appeared in not only many other fast Audis but Bentleys (Bentyaga, Continental GT V8) and Lambos (Urus) too. And now it’s in the new S8.
Only here it’s got some help from a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that, along with cylinder-deactivation, claims to save an inconsequentially small amount of fuel - some 0.8 litres for every 62 miles driven. Among other things it powers the clever predictive suspension setup (more on that later), and means the new S8 can coast with its engine switched off.
It doesn’t provide anymore power, though. But that’s fine - the new S8 develops 563bhp and 590lb ft from its petrol V8. That’s enough to see this 2.2-tonne car hit 62mph from rest in 3.9 seconds and reach a limited 155mph top speed. Not quite as fast as a Mercedes-AMG S63, which has north of 600bhp, but then the S8 is likely to be a fair bit cheaper.
Prices haven’t been finalised, but Audi says the S8, which in the UK is only available in short-wheelbase form, could scrape in under the £100,000 mark. The long-wheelbase-only Mercedes, meanwhile, starts at almost £130,000. Deliveries commence in January 2020.
What is the verdict?
This is a good car. It’s technologically impressive, feels very well made and isn’t actually that expensive given the amount of car you get for your money.
While it’s not especially involving, it handles like a far smaller car and is unreasonably rapid point-to-point for what is fundamentally a luxury limo. It might not be quite the hooligan the S63 is, but it’s (probably) much cheaper and comfort doesn’t suffer for having had its wick turned up. It's infinitely preferable to quite a lot of high-performance SUVs. Wonder if they do it in dark green?