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Car reviews - Audi - A8 - S8 Plus

Our Opinion

We like
Road manners, quality and opulent in-cabin feel, awesome powerplant
Room for improvement
Conservative styling, re-sale, no USB input

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Audi logo12 Apr 2016

By STUART MARTIN

THE rarified air of mortgage-sized motoring purchases is not for the faint-hearted – punching through the countryside in someone else’s $300,000 Audi S8 Plus super sedan only to have a stone sully the windscreen brings the point home.

“How much is that going to cost them?” was the first response, not an unfair question as you cast an eye over the as-tested sheet that has carbon ceramic brakes for about the same as an entry-level Volkswagen Golf or a Bang & Olufsen optional sound system that asks the same as a new Mitsubishi Mirage hatch.

Much of the mirth disappears as even utilising two-thirds of the throttle travel delivers an indecent rate of departure.

The S8 Plus starts from $330,500 – a solid jump over the regular S8's $280,610 price tag – and boasts 445kW of power and 700Nm of torque from the all-alloy twin-turbo V8.

The price hike is partly justified by the increase over the far from sluggish standard S8’s 382kW and 650Nm, but the plus-sized edition grows to 750Nm on overboost, all of which sees 100km/h in 3.8 seconds and a limited top speed of 250km/h.

From behind the wheel it’s not announcing such potential with an overt soundtrack, which is a little disappointing in the RS performance models but sits nicely in what is aimed at being a more subtle Audi Sport model.

At cruise, the S8 plus is quiet (thanks in part to optional double-glazing and the active noise cancellation system when it’s saving fuel on four of its eight cylinders) and comfortable, with the air suspension in comfort mode performing relative miracles of ride when the 21-inch wheel/tyre package is factored in even small bumps that can disturb through low-profile sidewalls are rarely an issue, but there is also little of the wallow that sometimes afflicts adaptive systems searching for compliance.

Touring miles on the return motorway leg melt quickly away, helped by soft leather-clad heated seats and massaging functions.

Simple activation of the active cruise control – which doesn’t need a car in front to hold the set speed – makes short work of highway traffic snarls and were it not for the low-key input from the active lane-departure warning system it could be a handsfree cruise.

But while it is an elegant and effortless cruiser, this car deserves quality back roads to exploit its harder charging tendencies.

Leave it in ‘automatic’ mode and the underpinnings feel a little less cosseting, but it still deals with bumps easily, controlling bodyroll and devouring straights without apparent effort.

Selecting ‘dynamic’ mode on the suspension and transmission tenses the 5.1m long sedan up and it doesn’t take too long through a series of bends to feel the large limo shrinking around the driver.

It’s light on its feet thanks to plenty of aluminium in the engine bay and body structure, only sporadically suggesting it tips the scales at two tonnes.

The main annoyance remains the gear selector, which doesn’t always end up in the gear the driver intended – like the Benz stalk selector, the Audi set-up might become familiar in time but it’s not immediately intuitive.

The test vehicle’s optional ceramic brakes wipe speed off with inordinate ease and while it’s not as pin-sharp as an RS, there’s much to like about the arrogant manner with which the S8 can cover twisting, undulating roads.

Also fitted to the test vehicle was the night vision assistant, which boasts the pedestrian detection and highlighting system but also doubles as a time-waster in traffic jams displaying which parts of vehicles ahead emit the most heat.

The absence of an ordinary USB input will hopefully be rectified (as it has been with other recently-updated models in the brand’s line-up), but Bluetooth music streaming allowed the B&O sound system to deliver some very un-Audi tracks through its 19 speakers – although INXS and Jimmy Barnes “Good Times” was oddly appropriate given the drive just undertaken.

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