By David Miles
Not only are Audi’s UK record sales driven by the constant addition of new core model ranges, they have now embarked on performance derivatives with Plus and RS badges.
The Audi A8 range of large executive saloons with quattro all wheel drive is long established both in standard and long wheelbase forms with powerful petrol and diesel engine options. Now comes the 4.0-litre, V8 TFSI 605hp Plus version at £97,715 and the cylinder-on-demand turbocharged petrol engine is mated with an 8-speed auto gearbox with quattro all wheel drive with a sports differential.
The hugely responsive V8 high revving direct injection turbo petrol engine of the S8 Plus delivers 750Nm of torque from 2,500rpm right up to 5,500rpm so the power delivery is strong and linear more or less right through the rev range.
With CO2 emissions of 231g/km VED road tax is £885 for the First Year rate and then £500 thereafter. Company car executive drivers will pay the maximum 37% in Benefit-in-Kind tax.
Audi UK say just over 1,200 A8s were sold in the UK last year, the S8 accounted for 10% of those and the new S8 Plus is expected to take just 3% so around 36 cars making them very rare and probably collectable in the future.
In addition to outright performance the S8 Plus retains its executive saloon fixtures and fittings so this is no stripped-out track car for road use. The exterior has a carbon fibre front lip spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser, and a dual branch sports exhaust system with twin oval chrome tailpipes on each side. There is also and rear boot lid spoiler and darkened glass rear light clusters.
At the front are Matrix LED headlights and Audi’s signatures front, plus rear, sweeping indicator lights. Setting off the sports body enhancements are 21-inch, 9J double spoke black alloy wheels shod with 275/35 ZR21 tyres.
For ride comfort or sports performance the saloon has S Sport adaptive air suspension with their Dynamic steering system which alters the steering angle and feedback depending on the speed of the car.
Inside the S8 Plus retains all the luxury features of an executive saloon but with sports enhancements such as sports seats in leather – the front ones with memory functions, heating and lumbar support. There is double acoustic glazing with electric sunblinds for the rear and rear door windows.
There is a three-spoke sports multi-function wheel, shift paddles, ‘S’ instruments, seven inch colour display screen, BOSE surround sound, phone preparation, parking system with overhead views and the gear select lever is surrounded by upper inlays in carbon effect trim and lower inlays with brushed aluminium.
Driver support functions are plentiful and include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, Stop & Go, Audi’s drive select with four pre-configured modes plus an individual one and climate control but the important head-up display function will cost an extra £1,340.
Considering the Audi S8 Plus is a four door, four seater executive highly equipped saloon of over five metres in length, nearly two metres wide and weighing almost two tonnes, the brutish performance is astonishing and puts it in the niche supercar class.
The near 200mph top speed if de-restricted is by-the-way and legally unusable unless you live in Germany. The most impressive feature of this car is the docile way it conducts its day-to-day driving, stop start through to 50mph commuting speeds.
But when opportunities arise, or needs must to overtake long lines of slow moving traffic, plant the right foot and be prepared to be pushed back into your seat as the acceleration builds. And relentlessly it builds almost right through the entire rev range with virtually no tailing off once high revs are reached, it just keeps on pulling.
The V8 turbocharged petrol power unit is not at all peaky, it can be very docile at low everyday speeds. Select the Comfort driving mode and it is another refined and sedate cruiser. Toggle through the driving modes to Dynamic and take off is achieved with a sound-track to suit as the active exhaust opens wide to provide a deep V8 howl.
The eight-speed gearbox isn’t a twin-clutch system so changes are not quite as slick but they are fast enough either up or down the gear ratios.
The steering is well weighted but could do with more feedback but the turn-in is sharp with good grip thanks to the quattro all wheel drive system. Despite its size and speed there is little body roll during cornering.
Therein lies the crunch because the Audi A8 and its S8 derivatives are not in their first flush of youth with the next generation due in 2017. In some areas, but not performance, they are showing their age against the new BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class if you are an executive car user who wants the latest model.
The appeal of the S8 Plus is purely down to its performance but how many UK customers want just that? They want performance all wrapped up in a nice new package. It could be that the small numbers of these cars available go to senior executives of Audi UK and their Dealer Principals rather than members of the business community and that would be a shame.
MILESTONES: Audi S8 Plus, 4.0 TFSI quattro executive 4-door saloon. Price: £97,715.
Engine/transmission: 4.0-litre, V8, TFSI cylinder-on-demand turbocharged direct injection petrol, 605hp, 750Nm of torque from 2,500rpm, 8-speed tiptronic auto, quattro all wheel drive.
Performance: 155mph (de-restricted 189mph), 0-62mph 3.8-seconds, Combined Cycle 28.2mpg (21.7mpg on a brief test drive), CO2 231g/km, VED road tax £885/£500, BIK company car tax 37%.
Insurance group: 50E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: 4-doors/4-seats, L 5,147mm, W 1,949mm, H 1,458mm, boot 520-litres.
For: Outright blisteringly fast performance for an executive high specification luxury saloon, brilliant high torque petrol engine, poised handling, high specification, beautifully built.
Against: High price, high running costs, high taxes, high cost insurance, low demand.
© David Miles