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Driven: Audi S8 returns as part of A8 range upgrade

Luxury time: Audi's A8 range has copped a price increase, while the hi-po S8 (pictured below) makes a triumphant return.

Audi launches mid-life A8 update headlined by re-introduced twin-turbo S8

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7 May 2014

AUDI has launched its revised aluminium-bodied A8 flagship range which, for the first time in this current generation, is available in Australia in extreme S8 performance guise.

The re-introduction of the twin-turbo petrol S8 comes as part of a range-wide update to Audi’s otherwise all-diesel A8 limo line-up designed to keep it fresh against newer rivals such as the latest Mercedes-Benz S-Class and all-new Maserati Quattroporte.

The mid-life A8 upgrade brings more standard equipment to the range and a subtly refreshed design, at the expense of price increases of between $7000 and $11,900. The former flagship 4.2-litre long-wheelbase variant has also been axed.

The starting price for the 3.0 TDI quattro climbs $7000 to $195,000 plus on-roads costs, while the LWB version with this engine climbs $7000 to $206,900. The 4.2 TDI is now $11,900 pricier at $249,900, though this new one is more powerful than before.

Priced at $279,000 plus on-road costs, the new S8 is $15,000 more expensive than the previous iteration of the car which was discontinued here in July 2010.

According to Audi Australia managing director Andrew Doyle, the re-introduced S8 could make up almost one-third of all A8 model sales, with only the entry 3.0-litre diesel version favoured by high-end limo operators expected to outsell it.

Mr Doyle expects around 100 A8/S8 sales per year, up from 51 units in 2013 and 75 in 2012.

While the old S8 rocked a 5.2-litre V10, modern emissions regulations mean Audi has opted to downsize to a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 unit that pumps out 382kW of power and 650Nm of torque between 1700 and 5500rpm.

But fear not, because despite its smaller displacement this unit is 51kW/110Nm more than the old atmo V10.

Audi has also slashed fuel consumption to 9.6L/100km on the combined-cycle, equating to emissions of 225 grams per kilometre thanks to fuel-saving technology such as cylinder-deactivation.

Power is sent to all four wheels – all A8 and S8 models have Audi’s quattro system – via an eight-speed tiptronic automatic calibrated for smoothness.

The rear axle has a sports differential that active distributes torque between the rear wheels, and both adaptive (meaning adjustable) air suspension that can lower the ride height in Sports mode and sharper ‘dynamic’ electric variable-ratio steering systems are standard.

Meanwhile, the new 3.0 TDI engine now pumps out 190kW (up 6kW) and 580Nm between 1750 and 2500rpm. Audi claims the 0-100km/h sprint is dispatched in 5.9 seconds (6.1s for the LWB) while fuel consumption is a remarkable 5.9L/100km (6.0L/100km for the LWB).

In some ways the star of the show, the 4.2 TDI V8 diesel pumps out 283kW (up 25kW) and an almost comical 850Nm of torque from 2000 to 2750 rpm. Audi says this is the most potent diesel engine in Australia on a passenger car.

Standard features on the 3.0 TDI include a sunroof, 19-inch 10-spoke alloys, LED headlights with high-beam assist, adaptive air suspension, lane, side and park assist (with a 360-degree display), radar-guided cruise, power-assisted door closure, DAB+, 22-way adjustable heated and ventilated front seats and an automated bootlid.

The 4.2 TDI adds 20-inch wheels, Matrix Beam LED headlights that can send their beams ‘around’ other cars, a liquid crystal head-up display, digital TV, seat massage function and a quattro sports diff.

Finally the S8 adds 21-inch alloy wheels, electric rear sunblinds, S specific cabin design elements and a massive BOSE sound system.

In addition to thre active safety tech mentioned, Audi includes an adaptive seatbelt restraint system, eight airbags, tire pressure monitoring display, ISOFIX anchor points for mounting child safety seats and secondary collision brake assist, which prevents the car from skidding uncontrollably after being whacked from behind.

Audi calls the A8 the largest sedan in its segment at 5140mm long on a 2990mm wheelbase, while width is listed at 1950mm and height is listed as 1460mm.

The A8 L (LWB) gains an additional 130mm in both length and wheelbase, while across the range the 520-litre boot in both variants has been reconfigured to be even easier to load.

Interestingly, the standard-wheelbase A8 3.0 TDI quattro has a kerb weight of just 1880kg (light for the class) despite being AWD as standard. Thanks for this should be attributed to the Audi Space Frame (ASF) made almost entirely of aluminium that weighs only 231kg.

2014 Audi A8 and S8 pricing*
A8 3.0L TDI quattro (a)$195,000
A8 L 3.0L TDI quattro (a)$206,900
A8 4.2L TDI quattro (a)$249,900
S8 4.0L TFSI quattro (a)$279,000
*Excludes on-road costs.

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