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2007 S8 three week review (long!)


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Yes, the model year of my car is 2007 - mine is obviously an early car for a customer car, given that deliveries of dealer cars for 'launch' (not that Audi seem to have made a launch effort at all) were supposed to be in advance of customer cars, but mine turned up on the same transporter as my dealer's demo car.

So, on to the review. The one-word summary? Awesome.


Having come from 22 months and 39000 miles in an A8 W12, the same size car with the same hp, more torque and the same lowered gearing ratio and many of the same gadgets, you'd think the S8 would be a little bit 'samey' and uninspiring, but it's a suprisingly different beast to the W12 once you get some experience with it.

So, what's to like?

Well, there's the looks; the subtle boot spoiler, the less subtle front splitter and the not-subtle 20" twin-spoke wheels. There's the extensive list of standard S8 features; power-closing doors and power opening and closing boot, MMI with DVD navigation, Bluetooth mobile phone integration, BOSE sound, sports air suspension, tyre pressure & temperature monitoring, swivelling xenon headlights and seperate cornering lights, LED driving lights, internal ambient and external lighting, alcantara headlining, carbon-fiber trim and the usual wonderful A8 slightly somber, but technical, cabin feel. Then there's my extra toys; electric rear and rear-side blinds, rear seat heating and rear air conditioning, DAB radio and reversing camera.

But the toys are just the icing on a rather rich cake. The S8's main attraction lies under the bonnet; 5.2 litres of V10 goodness, which drives all four wheels via the 6-speed Tiptronic gearbox and a Torsen centre differential set to split the torque 60/40 in favour of the rear wheels in normal driving, and up to 85% of torque to the rear when conditions demand.

The air springs and electonically-adjustable dampers have been retuned from the A8's Sport suspension, and provide even smoother Comfort damping, but improved anti-roll and dive behaviour in Dynamic mode.

The speed-sensitive power steering has also been tweaked from the A8's setup, with both a revised gearing ratio to provide more immediate response to steering input, and a revised Servotronic configuration to provide more boost at low speeds and less at high speeds, which imbues the more direct steering with a satisfyingly heavy and meaty feel on the open road, but still means urban behaviour is refined enough that navigating and parking it's five meter long, two meter wide vastness is easy.

The S8's dual nature extends to the accoustics too. Kept to under 2000 rpm, which is achievable given the torque served up at even modest engine speeds, and low loading, the V10 hums and buzzes away to itself, barely sounding like a petrol engine at all. Once given an empty space in front of it and an appropriate dab on the action pedal, the big V10 rumbles up towards 3000 rpm with a sound like distant thunder, only hinting at what is going to be unleased later. By 4000 rpm, the thunder has turned into a full-blown storm, and a cage of angry tigers are being prodded by pointy sticks, becoming more and more agitated as the rev counter sweeps up through 5000 rpm, 6000 rpm and on to a heady 7200 rpm when the roar reaches fever pitch before the gearbox shifts up a cog and the V10 pauses, takes a deep breath and then continues it's relentless howl afresh. It's a brutal, visceral sound, a suitable soundtrack for a Norse god of old; powerful and all-encompassing, like an explosion of nuclear bombs in the cargo hold of an oil tanker.

But let off the accelerator mid-surge and the S8 instantly turns back into a silky-smooth cruiser, the noise abated suddenly and abruptly. Anyone turning around at that point to see what all the commotion was wouldn't have a clue, unless they knew what the quad pipes at the back of the rapidly-vanishing Audi signified.

The S8 loves corners, and loves tarmac. It clings tightly to both, welded to the road surface by it's four fat 265/35 tyres, and kept parallel to the road surface by the suspension, thanks to a stream of information fed from the ESP system to the suspension controller. A series of alternating left and right bends don't fool it either, the big car hunkering down and even dialling in enough adjustment in the air springs to slightly drop the side of the car on the inside of the bend, to help control centripedal force in a fast corner. The S8 shrinks when you really drive it. It's only when you step out and take a look at it from the outside that you find yourself suddenly wondering how it's possible for something that size to have just done what it did. Even my repeated experience in D2 S8s, RS 6s, A8 W12s and other large and fast Audis can't make my brain accept without question the S8's size/performance dichotomy.

Is there anything bad about this beast? Well, if you accept that fuel economy is never going to be it's main selling point, even though it seems to be doing better than the W12 it replaced on the same commute runs so far, no, there's not a lot to complain about.

I did have to drop it in for a checkup when I got an engine management warning light, but that turned out to be an emissions control issue where a pinched air supply pipe meant that one of the catalysts wasn't pre-heating quickly enough when the engine was cold; nothing that would affect performance in any way and would only marginally increase emissions during the cold running stage.

The advanced key was upset by something on the harbour at Haugesund, and complained again briefly at the Tyne Tunnel toll barrier, but it's a radio wave device and I suppose occasional inteference is to be expected. Both times it behaved itself again immediately once removed from the source of inteference.

So, in summary it's everything I had hoped it would be and then some so far. It might be the fact that it's mine, and therefore I'm more attached to it, it might be doing 2000 miles instead of 8, it might be that on-road performance is different to track performance, it might even be that fact that I've followed a running-in procedure and always let it warm up before going over 3000 rpm, but somehow my S8 seems to pull a little bit stronger than the one I drove at Silverstone did. It's early days yet and the engine has a lot of loosening up to do, and I can't wait to see how it goes.

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you're in the wrong game Chris, send your CV into Top Gear now notworthy.gif169144-ok.gif

[/ QUOTE ]

But think about it, I'm too tall to be the little hamstery one, I haven't got long enough hair or a posh enough accent to be the 'old money' foppish one, and Top Gear already has the lumbering, overweight, arrogant sod slot filled. Where would I fit in? wink.gif

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