Performance/Plus: Monu-MENTAL Motivation
Audi recently introduced higher-output variants of two sedans (the S8 and the RS 7) that probably didn’t need any more power. But who are we to complain? Without the new infusion, the regal S8 already makes 520 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque, and the shockingly quick RS 7 “fastback” makes 560 hp and 516 lb-ft. However, choose either the new S8 Plus or the RS 7 Performance, and both cars’ twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 powerplants are replaced with the same upgraded, overboosted V-8 that, when the transmission’s Sport drive or Manual mode is selected, develops 605 horsepower at 6,100 rpm and 553 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. Leaving either car in Drive maintains the uprated horsepower figure but will revert back to the non-overboosted torque output of just 516 lb-ft at 1,750 rpm. Naturally, the eight-speed automatic and cooling systems are upgraded to accommodate the added mechanical and heat loads. Requesting the $11,000 USD Dynamic package for the S8 adds a sport exhaust, carbon-ceramic brake discs, a front carbon-fiber splitter/rear spoiler, and a revised top speed limit of 190 mph (306 km/h) (from 155), all of which are standard on the RS 7 Performance.
The landscape simply grows ever more cone-shaped, focused at the tip, blurring more at the edges, and then you take notice of the speedometer registering super-legal speeds
Audi conservatively estimates the S8 Plus should run 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds, the RS 7 Performance in 3.6 seconds. Yet Motor Trend’s last tests of these standard super sedans produced 3.5 seconds (S8) and 3.2 seconds (RS 7), so expect our instrumented acceleration to reflect accordingly shorter intervals, like 3.3 and 3.0 to 60, respectively. Can you imagine? Sleeper sedans, weighing between 4,500 and 4,700 pounds (2,041 and 2,132 kg), sometimes are the best sedans, especially when they are as understatedly handsome and powerful as these two.
So how does wielding this kind of power feel? The sensations are ones of urgency mixed with a generous portion of gravitas. Rather than feeling like being shot from a circus cannon like the R8 supercar’s amusement park acceleration, this acceleration feels more inevitable, like what would happen if you were to step off a cliff. Maybe it’s the cars’ stately proportions, the double-pane sound-insulating glass, or the dignified seating position, but the landscape simply grows ever more cone-shaped, focused at the tip, blurring more at the edges, and then you take notice of the speedometer registering super-legal speeds. Oh, that’s 120 mph (193 km/h). Wait. That’s 120 miles per hour?!
Where the S8 Plus’ optional sport exhaust produces a muted, respectable rumble, like there’s a Chris-Craft held captive in the trunk, the RS 7 Performance’s on-throttle staccato and off-throttle fire-belching pops are certain to draw attention, especially in Sport mode. Leaving either one in Drive allows smooth, almost imperceptible up/downshifts, but easing the shifter’s T-handle into Sport—or just grabbing a gear with shift paddles—elicits more urgent and sharper shifts and that lava-gargling sound we so love. Also, temporarily disabling electronic stability control at a stop with the car in Sport drive allows for a quasi-launch control, which both cars use to achieve those gobsmacking sub-4.0-second 0-60 runs.
These super sedans exude effortless, addictive, and ultimately corrupting power—all in a good way. When asked why the S8 Plus isn’t simply called the RS 8 at this point, the assembled Quattro GmbH experts say a car like that would ride too harshly for the type of buyer who already likes it just the way it is: fast and stealthy. With its architecture dating back to 2009, this marks the swan song for this generation of S8. The 2017 Audi A8, from which the next S8 will be derived, is just around the corner.
Pricing for the S8 Plus starts at $115,825 USD, and the RS 7 Performance begins at $129,925 USD.
|2016 Audi S8||2016 Audi RS 7 Performance|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 4-door hatch|
|ENGINE||4.0L/605-hp/516-lb-ft* twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8||4.0L/605-hp/516-lb-ft* twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8|
|TRANSMISSION||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,700 lb (mfr)||4,500 lb (mfr)|
|WHEELBASE||117.8 in||114.8 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||202.2 x 76.7 x 57.4 in||197.3 x 77.8 x 55.8 in|
|0-60MPH||3.7 sec (mfr est)||3.6 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA ECON||16/26/20 mpg||15/25/18 mpg|
|*553 lb-ft with overboost|