Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Audi S8 drive review

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At first glance, this S8 is a big improvement fromn the old, delivering even sharper performance, vastly improved fuel economy, and a firm but controlled ride of refinement.

The big news was the twin turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 direct-injection engine that powers the latest S6 and S7. This powerplant 69bhp and 80lb ft more than the old model’s naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10.

What's it like to drive?
On light throttle loads in third gear or higher there are no telltale signs apart from a digital read-out within the instrument that the new engine’s advanced electronic management system has chosen to close down the inlet and exhaust valves of cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8 in the interests of fuel saving and lower emissions.

This perception is achieved, in part, by what Audi calls active noise cancellation – a system used to suppress the typical hum and what they describe as other intrusive acoustic elements of the engine when running in four-cylinder mode.

With added throttle, the delivery is uncannily smooth and extremely linear across a wide range of revs. There’s no discernible turbocharger lag of any kind, just a compelling and boundless seam of energy all the way from the 800rpm idle all the way to the 6500rpm cut-out point. And to top it all off, there’s a lovely deep burble through the exhaust that grows in intensity as you pile the revs on.

In lower gears, a combination of the new engine’s heady torque loading and the latest iteration of Audi’s Torsen four-wheel-drive system provides for rabid straight-line speed, as evidenced by Audi’s official 0-62mph time of just 4.2sec – or 0.9sec faster than the old S8. Considering its relatively small capacity by performance car standards, its in-gear performance is extraordinary.

Where the big Audi really excels is on damp roads. Big applications of throttle out of slow corners fail to upset its composure, even in the wet. As an all-season proposition, it is going to take some beating.

Audi has also tweaked its eight-speed automatic gearbox with alterations to the torque converter and a new electronics package. It shifts with great conviction, both on light loads and wide open throttle, while offering stop/start and brake energy recuperation functions that helps the new S8 achieve a 6.3mpg improvement in combined cycle consumption at 27.7mpg.

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