Biggest and beefiest is back

The Audi S8 has long occupied a special niche in the supersaloon firmament.

On paper, it’s hopelessly outgunned by rivals with bigger engines but if you look beyond the Top Trumps figures, it’s a car that just oozes cool.

Every version of the S8, from the original 4.2-litre car of 1997 to the 5.0-litre V10 of 2006, has always had something exotic about it, as if it’s operating to a different set of rules.

It’s the Ronin car, the vehicle that made the ultimate low-profile, high-drama getaway choice.

The S8 returned to the UK market in mid-2012 after a couple of years away, still a big car that doesn’t proclaim its talents too loudly. This time round there’s a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 under the bonnet that makes this Audi more effective than ever. Don’t worry. The message might be a little greener, but this S8 is still the genuine article.

With a massive 650NM of torque on tap, the S8 will sprint to 100km/h (62mph) from rest in 4.2 seconds, its power being deployed, predictably, by quattro all-wheel drive. The top speed is electronically limited to 155mph and there’s ‘Cylinder on Demand’ technology that allows the TFSI engine to cut four of the cylinders when cruising to aid efficiency. At low speeds or when driver demands more power, the other four cylinders instantaneously spring back into life.

The asking price of around £80,000 seems reasonable value in comparison with other super saloons but whether it’s £16,000 better than the 420PS but some would say prettier, S7 Sportback is a question only a potential buyer can answer. This model is also rammed with the sort of technology its predecessor was never privy to.

The Audi S8 is a car that does so much but makes such little fuss about it. If you want to get somewhere fast and draw no great attention, the S8 is one of the best cars in the business for the task, which is why it’s a vehicle so often targeted by those of extremely high net worth.

This latest car teases out those themes still further. The engine is lower key but harder hitting and the styling will appeal to those who know exactly what those codified design cues mean.

It’s a car that credits its owner with a bit of savvy. Audi went through a period when things all got a little bit shouty, when it perhaps became a little too strident for its own good.

That never really washed over the S8, sitting at the 
extremity of the model range, but this latest car eases back a little on the big personality and to good effect. Sometimes the car is merely the supporting cast.