Michael Crenshaw

The Best Big and Brawny Luxury Sedan: Audi S8 plus

So smooth, you might not even know you're going 190.

The Audi SB plus obliterates tarmac. Simply and utterly crushes it. Like LeBron versus the Warriors, it’s proficient at cutting up any obstacle that’s in its way by using the offensive weapons at its disposal. This Audi delivers power and precision in the way only a fully-tuned and specialized 4,600-pound sedan could. Capable of launching from 0-60 mph in only 3.7 seconds, the only way you’ll know how fast you're traveling is by the look of enjoyment, or sheer terror, on your passengers’ faces: passengers, who can sit back in remarkable and coddled luxury.

Possibly the most understated (this is a good thing) luxury performance sedan on the road, the S8 plus comes with 85 more horsepower than the regular S8 (that's what the "plus" is for). It doesn’t convey the brute force of a supercar through its skin, relying instead on the performance and years of engineering knowledge beneath it. Really, the only way the S8 plus communicates with you about how fast you’re going is the way it blurs everything around you.

Audi

In a straight line, mash the throttle on the 4.0-liter, 605 horsepower twin-turbo V8 and hold on, because with acceleration like this you’re going to be covering ground with the pace of a car whose sole purpose is to be very, very fast. The 8-speed automatic and 553 lb.-ft of torque get it up to triple digits in seconds. Even though it’s not a racecar, the S8 plus has plenty of technology to convince you otherwise. A ‘dynamic package’ is available that bolts on massive carbon ceramic disc brakes, a tasteful carbon-fiber lip spoiler, sport exhaust, and opens up the top speed to 190 mph. It’s an $11,000 option that might be overkill, but once you’re in this stratosphere of car buying, the additional performance and looks are worth it.

However, the quattro all-wheel drive, which felt front-wheel biased during our testing—even in sport mode—lacked the confidence to push through corners at a high rate of speed with power applied from the muscular V8. Though the S8 plus is gifted with retuned adaptive air suspension, rear sport differential, and dynamic steering, others, like the Panamera Turbo S and Mercedes S63, feel as if they give more feedback through the steering wheel and suspension when you start to feel the adhesion ending. The S8 plus on the other hand—maybe this is due to the front-to-rear AWD bias—felt as if the steering feedback was the same at 50 mph as it was at 90 mph, which could give you a false sense of confidence. We would really like to see Audi retun the algorithms for the AWD system at higher speeds to reflect the steering feel in the cockpit.

Michael Crenshaw

Personal nuisances aside, the S8 plus was made for crushing the Autobahn and destroying large stretches of road with almost insurmountable confidence. It’s big, brawny, and beastly when it comes to the smaller, more nimble back roads—and not particularly the car made for them. Of course, this isn’t to say it limits the car. There’s just another Audi for doing it with more authority,  the R8. Or even more cost effective, the TT.

This is a sport-oriented version of the A8 L: a faster, more dynamic A8, and one that doesn’t come with a stretched chassis, fold-down tables, or laid back rear seating with footrests for your double monks. This is a car made for driving. It’s a car for obliterating the commute to work on the Autobahn. We’re just lucky, as Americans, to get the privilege, though 99% of owners will never see that 190 mph top speed. Black Alcantara, contrasting Arras red stitching, carbon fiber, and diamond-stitch seats occupy the cabin in true luxurious appointments, but they also offer hints of performance undertones. There is no wood in the interior anywhere, and we like it that way. And the rear seats are still a special place to be—with full control of the climate control and massaging functions—but you’ll still dream of being in the driver’s seat.

Michael Crenshaw

There are really four choices when it comes to ultra-high-performance, big-bodied luxury sedans: Mercedes-Benz S63, BMW Alpina B7 xDrive, Porsche Panamera Turbo S, and the Audi S8 plus. All of them come with all-wheel drive, all of them have over 570 horsepower, all of them do 0-60 mph in under four seconds, and they’re all the most expensive models for their respective companies (with the exception of special edition cars). All of these cars are special experiences, reserved for the upper echelon of motoring enthusiasts. But the Audi produces the most horsepower with 605, comes with their legendary quattro system, has the most elegant-looking exterior and interior of the bunch, and will feel like more of a sports car than the rest when pushed to its limits—you can relax in comfort, or devastate roads with the systems heightened. If you’re flush with cash and looking for something a bit more special than the regular S8, and possibly not as flashy as its competitors, the S8 plus is the most exclusive luxury performance experience you can buy.

2016 Audi S8 plus

Efficiency:      16/26/20 mpg (city/highway/combined)

0-60 MPH:     3.7 seconds

Top Speed:     190 mph (limited)

Horsepower:   605 horsepower @6,100-6,800 rpm

Torque:           517 lb.-ft. @1,750-6,000 rpm

Cost:               $114,900 (base)/$152,975 (as tested)