2022 Audi S8 Review: Powerful, Consistent, Familiar

The 2022 Audi S8 marks the model’s 26th birthday, and what it has promised us over the years has remained steadfast and consistent.

byKristen Lee| PUBLISHED Jan 9, 2023 10:00 AM
2022 Audi S8 Review: Powerful, Consistent, Familiar
Kristen Lee
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In an age where bullish, high-powered SUVs are the new luxury chariots, it seems almost quaint that Audi still makes cars like the 2022 Audi S8. Though, I must admit, “quaint” was the last word on my mind after a weekend spent behind the wheel. 

Just as how the ‘80s were merely 20 years ago, the S8 still has a V10 in my mind. That hasn’t been the case for over a decade (sob), but the V8 that runs today’s super sedan isn’t any less of a heavyweight. More than all else, though, it serves as a wonderful reminder that uber bruiser sedans are still around and kicking.

2022 Audi S8 Review Specs

  • Base price (as tested) $121,595  ($135,595)
  • Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo 48-volt mild-hybrid V8 | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 563 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 2,050 to 4,000 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Curb weight: 5,126 pounds
  • Cargo volume: 12.5 cubic feet
  • 0-60 mph: 3.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 155 mph
  • EPA fuel economy: 14 mpg city | 23 highway | 17 combined 
  • Quick take: Quiet, comfortable, and a luxurious space in which to exist, the S8’s formula is a familiar one, despite its recent refresh.
  • Score: 8/10

A Very Mild Facelift

Despite undergoing a (very) mild facelift in 2022, the fourth-generation S8’s street credibility remains unchanged. Audi’s king sedan still sports understated yet muscular looks. It still has all-wheel drive. There’s an eight-speed automatic and a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that puts out a claimed 563 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. 

You’d be forgiven for being unable to tell the difference between the refreshed S8 and the one it replaces though, as it’s nearly unchanged. Only the headlights are slightly different and the interior layout is basically the same. There, you’ll find two stacked MMI touchscreen displays, a sea of quilted leather, and way more piano black trim than I’d prefer.

Sublime To Drive, Sublime-er To Ride In

To drive, the S8 is sublime. I got hung up for just a second on the light steering, but then it weighted up nicely off-center and helped guide the big car through even the narrowest of Brooklyn streets (the all-wheel steering assisted with this, too). Where the car shone the brightest, however, was on the highway. There it sat, happily at speed, skating through the miles with little effort. Sitting at 30 mph felt as comfortable as 50 mph which felt as comfortable as 70 mph—and I know things would be just as agreeable at 150 mph. Hardly any outside noise permeated the cabin, thanks in part to double-paned windows. The air suspension ironed out the worst of the road imperfections, but not to the point where they were indistinguishable. You can still feel the road, but it’s more for informative purposes than doing any actual passenger jostling. Brakes were powerful and linear and rewarded a smooth foot.

I would like to make a specific note here about the engine. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo eight-cylinder in the S8 is hardly new, but it’s one of those engines the Volkswagen Group chucks into damn near everything. It makes appearances from high-powered Audis to Porsche Panameras, Bentleys, and the Lamborghini Urus. I’ve experienced it in the Audi RS6 and the Urus myself, and it lends to the brutality that those cars dictate. Here, however, it’s refined, quiet, and (almost) gentle in the way it operates. This is not to say that the car is slow, because it definitely isn’t, but the engine, even in sport mode, never feels like it’s hopping mad and raring to go. Rather, it hangs out in its zen place during cruising and only awakens to pulverize any kind of passing or acceleration needs. Like a hibernating bear.

And while it seems cliché at this point to say that a car like the S8 is better to be driven in than it is to drive, I’ll do it anyway. I drove three friends upstate over New Year’s, and the backseat passengers amused themselves with their own climate controls found in the middle armrest, privacy shades, sunroof controls, cloud-like and quilty leather, fold-down vanity mirrors from the ceiling, and oodles of legroom. Frankly, I was jealous that I didn’t get to grab a nap in those seats.

I didn’t love the car’s touchscreen interface—MMI haptic feedback or not—because using it still involved taking my eyes off the road. And despite much searching, I couldn’t locate how to toggle between the car’s driving modes except through a menu on the touchscreen. I get the S8 isn’t your typical backroad carver, but I still think driving modes should be relegated to physical knobs or buttons. In stop-and-go traffic, the transmission and auto stop-start could have been smoother, with the former returning sporadic, shuddery downshifts and the former unable to determine whether I was coming to a complete stop or just following the flow of gridlock. 

Finally, this particular S8 was equipped with Audi’s V2I—or vehicle-to-infrastructure—Traffic Light Information tech that allowed it to essentially determine how long a traffic light would stay red by receiving “real-time signal information from the advanced traffic management system that monitors traffic lights via the on-board 4G LTE data connection,” according to a 2016 press release. The information showed up as a little countdown timer on the driver information cluster and head-up display.

It’s a neat idea, but across the dozens of stoplights I waited at in the car, I’d estimate it only timed a small handful of them accurately. Sometimes we’d pull up to a light that was clearly green and the counter said it was a red light with five seconds left. Other times, it would say there were 12 or 15 seconds remaining until the light turned green when it had already turned green. True, I only drove the car over the course of two days, but I didn’t find my time behind the wheel enriched in any way because of the feature.

A Complete Package

Base S8s come with the V8 and all-wheel drive, but also with 20-inch wheels, all-wheel steering, adaptive air suspension, dual-pane windows, heated front seats and armrests, and front-seat ventilation and massage. Starting MSRP comes to $121,595. The test car had quite a few add-ons; namely, predictive active suspension ($6,000), the comfort plus package (heated rear seats, head-up display, and extended leather package for $4,700), the executive package (21-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition for $3,800), and the black optic package ($2,100). All told—including the $1,000 gas guzzler tax and the $1,095 destination charge—the test car’s MSRP came to $135,595. If it were me, I’d lose the comfort plus package. The black optic package is a must, though, because it looks sick. Shiny, silvery chrome is out. Haven’t you heard?

As an executive sedan, the S8 goes toe to toe against the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. All are in the approximate price range of each other and all offer V8 engines, but I think the Audi edges out the new 7 Series in the looks department (not hard to do) but falls short of the pure opulence that is the S-Class interior. For what it’s worth, the BMW is the newest of the bunch.

Judging from its 14 mpg city,  23 highway, and 17 combined EPA estimates, the S8 isn’t exactly efficient. It likes to eat gas almost as ravenously as a supercar, but I doubt anyone who winds up buying one of these things will actually care. If you do, Audi makes a range of EVs for you to choose from to assuage that climate guilt.

Maybe it’s my inflation brain worms talking, but $140,000 for a supremely smooth and luxurious supersedan doesn’t feel that ludicrous right now. You do get a ton of car for the money, and backseat passengers will thank you for it. Besides, as Audi’s fourth worst-selling vehicle, you’d be different if you took home one of these over an SUV.

The S8’s been making a name for itself since 1996. It’s always felt like the quiet big brother of the Audi lineup. Perhaps its cultural cachet is a touch diminished now in the face of electrification and SUVs. But in this sense, the S8 has stood perfectly still and occupies the place that it always has. For people unwilling to be bamboozled by the latest shiny new thing—who know what they want, always—the 2022 Audi S8 is here like a comfortable and familiar rock that never left. 

Look at that. We went through a whole Audi S8 review without mentioning Ronin once! Got a tip? Email me: kristen@thedrive.com