If you need a luxury limousine that can go from 0-100km/h in about four seconds, it’s hard to go past the updated Audi S8.
Sitting at the top of the revised Audi A8 range, the S8 is powered by an almost unnecessarily powerful 4.0-litre turbo V8 that puts many supercars to shame. It’s 4.1-second acceleration benchmark also puts rivals such as the new Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG (4.4sec) in the shade.
That impressive acceleration time is delivered by a combination of the V8’s 382kW and 650Nm, and an eight-speed auto that puts those outputs to the ground via the quattro all-wheel drive system.
From the outside Audi has kept this mid-life change on the conservative side, though both ends have been updated with the bonnet, single-frame grille and front bumper modified for a sportier look.
Audi first sold the S8 in 1998 but discontinued the model in 2010 amid the introduction of the Audi S7. The decision has now been reversed with the limited number of S7s coming to an end and the market’s (albeit tiny) desire for a larger yet more powerful version still apparent.
We had the opportunity to drive the S8 around Germany’s blissfully derestricted autobahns. The near-neck-breaking acceleration from a standstill wasn’t quite a shock, though the S8’s relentless power delivery from 100km/h towards its electronically limited 250km/h certainly surprised.
At these apparently jail-worthy speeds (if you happen to believe the Australian government is more knowledgeable about road safety than the Germans – who have a lower road toll per capita than us), the S8 is stable, relaxed and almost at home. At 110km/h the S8 is almost asleep (as is the driver).
You can even hold a casual conversation at 250km/h without having to yell.
The change from hydraulic to electro-mechanical power steering has allowed a more responsive and better tuned steering set-up, which proved a near-perfect balance: easy to drive around town but also sporty and heavy when pushed.
At high speeds the S8 moves around confidently without any jitter or nervousness. Measuring 5.1m in length, this is one big Audi, yet it does manage to stay just below the two-tonne mark (1990kg) when it comes to mass.
Given it’s unlikely to ever see a race track, the S8’s power and performance will almost entirely be wasted on our speed-limited roads, but the potential still counts for much with buyers.
Comparing it to its price-equivalent rival, the Mercedes-Benz S500, the Merc has less power (but more torque) and given its rear-wheel drive nature, can’t match the quattro’s acceleration time, coming in at 4.8 seconds.
Yet the S-Class is an all-new car and with that comes a lot of benefits.
In its last year on market, the S8 retailed for around $265,000 and it’s likely to carry a similar price tag when it arrives mid 2014.
For more information on the Audi S8, including safety, technology and interior, read our 2014 Audi A8 review.