2020 Audi S8 Is Not Meant for Chauffeurs

Audi's fourth-generation S8 luxury sports sedan flaunts big power, impressive technology, and contemporary elegance to lead the A8 lineup.

The 2020 Audi S8 is two cars in one, at least according to Audi, being both a luxury sedan of the highest order and the sportiest member of its near-limousine segment. With Audi having built S8-badged derivatives of every generation of A8 sedan thus far, the bar for this high-performance luxury barge is well established and quite high. The ultimate variant of the previous generation, the S8 Plus, featured a 605-hp twin-turbo V-8 and could hit a claimed 190 mph. This time around, however, the S8 is not just the sportiest version of the A8, but also the overall range topper, even supplanting the previous W-12 model.

The fourth-generation S8 returns for 2020 without the Plus moniker, although such a wilder, Audi Sport–developed version may be added to the lineup later. For now, the regular S8 is plenty powerful, thanks to a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 augmented by a 48-volt hybrid system and lithium-ion battery, which broadens the operating range of the engine's start-stop system and hastens the V-8's refiring. The system's belt-driven motor-generator does not directly contribute to the vehicle's thrust, but the boosted V-8 engine cranks out ample grunt on its own: 563 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 590 lb-ft of torque between 2000 and 4500 revs.

The "hot-V" arrangement of the 4.0-liter mill with its turbocharges nestled in the valley made by the two banks of cylinders results in short intake paths and impressively lag-free throttle responses, which are leveraged by the quick-shifting standard ZF eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine is utterly pleasant with its beautiful yet unobtrusive V-8 sound, and we expect it to rocket the S8 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. Audi says the top speed is 155 mph.

Charging ahead on back roads or on motorways, the S8 provides a sheer endless power rush, and it is a veritable mental exercise in restraint to keep it within the legal speed range. But the Audi S8 also is surprisingly economical, thanks to its mild hybridization, cylinder deactivation, lightweight construction, and slippery aerodynamics.

Magic Carpet Underpinnings

That 48-volt system also powers Audi's suspension with air springs, adaptive dampers, and active anti-roll bars. It is a technological masterpiece, using a grille-mounted camera to look ahead and evaluate the road to anticipate bumps. Between 50 and 80 mph, it can actually lean the car's body into corners by up to 3 degrees. In Comfort mode, it virtually eliminates body jiggles. And the system even can raise the car slightly when the doors are opened for easier ingress and egress.