Part of growing up is learning you can’t have it all. But modern luxury automakers are in the business of challenging this notion, especially because performance and comfort can be contradictory traits. Audi’s S subbrand, as opposed to the hardcore RS line of cars that come from the Audi Sport division, is devoted to cracking the code of producing models that have a sporty edge without compromising comfort. The new 2022 Audi S8 is no exception.
Ever since Audi introduced the full-size sedan globally in 1996, it’s been the German automaker’s performance and luxury flagship. A few years into its fourth generation, the S8 receives a mid-cycle refresh with key enhancements aimed to give well-heeled buyers a two-in-one driving experience. We drove the updated 2022 Audi S8 on some beautiful Southern California roads to see just how effective the updates are.
The company reworked the 2022 Audi S8’s exterior design to better fit in with the rest of the marque’s lineup. It wears a new grille with a pattern composed of opposing L shapes; it bears some resemblance to the hexagonal pattern found on the grille of Audi Sport’s RS models. The S8 also receives new LED headlights that can project animated patterns on the ground or on walls to greet or bid farewell to the driver. Meanwhile, its OLED taillights change patterns depending on the selected drive mode.
The interior remains largely unchanged; the fourth-generation S8 was introduced for 2020, so the cabin still looks and feels pretty fresh. There’s plenty of screen real estate, a necessity in the luxury sedan segment these days, and Audi’s dual-display infotainment setup receives a new, faster processor as part of the 2022 model-year update.
Mechanically, the biggest change for the 2022 Audi S8 is an available ($6,000) predictive adaptive suspension. It’s an air suspension setup supplemented by an electromagnetic system, and it uses a front-facing camera mounted near the rearview mirror to read the road and anticipate bumps, potholes, and other imperfections to better cosset the car’s occupants. It can react within 300 milliseconds, Audi says, increasing or decreasing the load on each control arm in order to smoothen the ride. We tested this system on potholes along our drive route, and as long as we had an unobstructed view of the road ahead (if your eyes can see it, the car’s can, too, Audi says), the S8 practically floated over potholes thanks to its radical new suspension setup.
Rear steering is also a new standard feature for the 2022 Audi S8. The back wheels can turn up to 5 degrees, which reduces the S8’s turning radius by 3.6 feet to just 38.7 feet, which Audi says is the same as its A4 compact sedan. Not only does this system make the S8 super easy to tuck into tight parking spots, but it also makes a rather large vehicle feel like a much smaller one on narrow, twisty roads.
What’s the Same?
The 2022 Audi S8’s powerful 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine carries over from before the face-lift, which is just fine with us. It develops 563 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque sent to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Audi says the 2022 S8 will hit 60 mph from a standstill in just 3.8 seconds, and on our drive route the S8’s engine felt smooth and its gearbox delivered crisp, clean shifts.
Tidy handling and beefy brakes complement that colossal acceleration. Steering is light, even in Audi’s sporty Dynamic drive mode, but precise. Stopping power from the large six-piston front brakes and single-piston rears is plenty for quickly hauling the long-wheelbase sedan down from highway speeds.
The predictive adaptive suspension system and rear steering work together to keep the S8’s body in control on back roads. When we pulled over to take a break from driving and stepped back to admire the car, it was almost unbelievable how large the sedan looks on the outside compared to how it seems to shrink around the driver on back roads. It moves like a proper GT car but has the nimbleness of a much smaller vehicle. If the steering was just a smidge stiffer, it would be an even slightly more engaging sport sedan.
Although the 2022 Audi S8 is brutally fast and immensely capable in the corners, flipping the drive mode to Comfort+ completely changes the luxury sedan’s nature. It makes the steering even lighter, reduces throttle response, and raises and softens the suspension. The predictive adaptive suspension boasts ride quality that ranks among the best in the luxury sedan segment, and the car’s cabin is whisper quiet, making the Bang & Olufsen 3-D premium sound system sound even more powerful than you expect.
Is the Audi S8 Safe?
Like other full-size luxury sedans, the 2022 Audi S8 is light on standard active driver assistance safety technology. It comes equipped with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, automatic high-beams, and lane departure warning. Upgrading to the Executive package adds adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous functionality, traffic-sign recognition, side and rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring.
In the event of an imminent T-bone side-impact crash, an Audi S8 equipped with the predictive active suspension can take advantage of the electromagnetic system’s quick response time by jacking up the air suspension by 3.1 inches in just 0.5 second. Audi says this improves the chances the impact will happen in such a way that the car’s body better absorbs the collision’s kinetic energy. To monitor for impending crashes, the S8 uses its suite of cameras and sensors that provide the 360-degree parking view and handle the rest of the active safety monitoring duties. It’s common in this segment for vehicles to lack standard safety features, but when properly equipped, the 2022 Audi S8 boasts some impressive technology.
In the End
The 2022 Audi S8 starts at $118,995 (including destination and gas-guzzler tax), and the car we tested stickered for $135,595 with all its optional equipment. Most buyers shopping for cars in this segment won’t sweat a few grand here and there, but Audi has priced the S8 strategically, slotting between the Mercedes-Benz S500 and S580 models and undercutting the BMW Alpina B7 and the Porsche Panamera Turbo S.
Be aware, the 2022 Audi S8 does lack a bit in the customization department. Audi offers the car with eight exterior paint color choices, three wheel choices, three interior colors, and a single Carbon Vector dash inlay option. Its competitors offer more configurations, allowing customers to make their vehicles a little more bespoke than what’s possible right now if you choose the 2022 Audi S8.
Regardless, the 2022 Audi S8 is performance-honed without sacrificing any of the regular A8’s luxurious character. It’s loaded with technology and has the power to beat most traffic off the line. Indeed, Audi’s flagship still has plenty of wind in its sails and demonstrates that, sometimes, you in fact can have it all.
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|2022 Audi S8 Specifications|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD/5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||4.0L/563-hp/590-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,350 lb (mfr est)|
|L x W x H||204.3 x 76.6 x 58.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||3.8 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON, CITY/HWY/COMB||14/23/17 mpg|
|EPA RANGE, COMB||369 miles|