The next-gen S8 is coming for 2018 and will offer huge improvements in a number of areas

The Audi A8 was introduced to the world in 1994, and in 1996 the European market laid its eyes on the first Audi S8 – a beefed up version of the A8. Since then, the S8 has gone through two more generational changes with the most recent being in 2012. A mild facelift came in 2014, but the S8 still looked somewhat dated. Now, we’ve finally gotten a look at the next-gen model testing on the Nürburgring and, as expected, it will take on Audi’s updated design language. Unlike the current model, however, we expect the 2018 S8 to drop the 4.0-liter V-8 in favor of that 2.9-liter V-6 that is found in the Porsche Panamera.

As a beefed up version of the A8, the S8 should take on similar styling cues with a more aggressive twist to them. It will also get new wheels, bigger brakes, and some extra interior appointments too. We saw the upcoming A8 testing back as early as June 14 on the Nürburgring, so it took about three months for Audi to open the gate that was keeping the S8 in captivity. Now that it’s out in the wild, let’s dive on in a take a good look at the future Audi S8

Update 05/23/2018: It’s been a while, but we’ve finally spotted the upcoming Audi S8 being put through the paces again. We’re not sure what’s taking Audi so long to hammer out the production model, but there’s no camo in play here so it must be pretty close to being production ready. Check it out and learn more about what we know so far in our special section below.

Spy Shots

Audi S8 on the Track – 05/23/2018

2018 Audi S8 Spyshots Exterior
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2018 Audi S8 Spyshots Exterior
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With the current generation of the Audi A8 on the market for a couple of years now, we thought for sure that the S8 was going to make its debut as a 2018 model. We even saw spy shots way back in 2016 that essentially confirmed this. Well, 2017 has come and gone and we’ve yet to see it in the metal. Now, two years after the first round of spy shots, the S8 was actually caught testing yet again.

This time around, it’s certainly production ready, cruising the track with zero camo and some significant paint chips to boot. As is the typical Audi fashion, the S8 won’t vary much from the A8, but it will have a slightly more aggressive exterior, including a new front fascia and a slightly revised grille. The rear end is even complete with a new diffuser and the official quad exhaust outlets, even if they don’t have the pretty chrome tips just yet.

We still can’t see the interior, but expect it to mirror that of the A8. It will, of course, have more luxurious appointments and a flat-bottom steering wheel. There will even be slightly sportier seats, but it’ll still be about 95-percent A8. What’s underneath the hood is what will really matter, though, and that’s also probably why it’s debut has been pushed beyond the 2018 model year.

Last time we saw it, we were expecting it to drop the V-8 or, at the very least, carry the V-8 from the old model over. And, there has been a lot of talk about the Panamera’s 2.9-liter V-6. Well, with Porsche and Audi under the same roof, you can bet the 2.9 will carry over, most likely sporting the same 440 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. It’s unlikely, however, that Audi will try to bump up that power much. It may increase to as much as 450 ponies and 420 pound-feet, but there won’t be much more than that. The other option is a 4.0-liter V-8 from the Panamera Turbo. It delivers a cool 550 ponies and 567 pound-feet, and that will probably be offered in the higher trim level (or maybe even an RS8.)

With that in mind, Audi could go all out and pair that same 550-horsepower V-8 and pair it with the electric motor and battery from the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. That would give the S8 as much as 680 horsepower on tap! For now, this is all speculation of course, and there’s still a bit of a wait before the S8 finally debuts, but expect it to show face before the end of 2018 as a 2019 model.

Exterior

2018 Audi S8 Spyshots Exterior
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Obviously, this is an early-on prototype, so it’s still rocking an unfinished front fascia and all kinds of cool, swirly camo. What we can see, however, is that the nose of the car will now be shorter thanks to Audi’s new grille design. Compared to the old design, the new grille is much shorter than before and considerably wider. It still sports a hexagonal shape, but the edges in the upper corner are now much longer than before, while the lower corners of the grille remain somewhat rounded, giving the grille a more modern look and a welcomed change. As such, the hood now has a gentle contour that helps to shape the nose as opposed to being obstructed by the upper edge of the grille. The other easy-to-spot change is the new headlight units. The headlights have been reshaped altogether and are now thinner than before. They come to a sharper point on the fenders, while the inner edge runs parallel to the upper corner of the grille.

2018 Audi S8 Spyshots Exterior
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It still sports a hexagonal shape, but the edges in the upper corner are now much longer than before.

If the new S8 sports any air dam at all, it will be rather thin, and no larger than the side of one louver from the grille. The air inlet on each corner isn’t finalized based on this prototype, but I expect them to be a bit smaller compared to the current model and will likely feature some kind of stylish louver to go with some thin, LED fog lights. Expect to see the headlights feature a new lens layout with an updated LED strip. The hood looks to carry on rather unchanged, but there may be a little extra definition added to the body line on each side.

Moving over to the sides, I don’t see a whole lot of differences to discuss. The contour around the wheel arches in the front and rear look to be the same, as does the body line that protrudes from the doors between the front and rear wheels. The one thing that has changed on the side profile is the upper body line. On the current model, this line travels from the corner of the headlight back to the rear and is situated between the belt line and the door handles. In these spy shots, we can see that the line has been moved down a bit. It now looks to feed off the contour line of the front wheel arch and runs inline with the door handles. It’s not a massive change, but sometimes it’s the little things that make the most difference. The side view mirrors have also changed a bit with the upper edge transitioning into the lower, outside corner smoothly.

Moving toward the back, it’s really hard to make out the stationary window just behind the rear doors. After close inspection, it looks like this window may be a bit smaller than before – something that would ultimately make the rearmost pillar a bit wider. Overall the grade of the rear pillars and the rear glass looks to be the same, but the rear decklid may be a little flatter on the next-gen model. The rear lip on the decklid appears to have been toned down a bit in comparison, while the end of the decklid is more rounded and bubbly than before. The license plate recess has been moved up a bit, and now sits under a more pronounced overhang from the decklid. The rear fascia is now a bit taller than before and also has a bubblier look – there’s now about six or seven inches between the decklid and the main character line of the fascia.

2018 Audi S8 Spyshots Exterior
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The rear fascia now features a few extra lines just above the exhaust outlets

The rear fascia now features a few extra lines just above the exhaust outlets. On the prototype that are thin, red reflectors on each corner, but these are likely there just for testing purposes and won’t be found on the finalized production model. Expect to see a small insert along the bottom of the fascia on the finished model and the exhaust outlets will be finished in chrome and flush with the aforementioned insert. The taillights on this prototype look to me much smaller than those of the outgoing model and it looks like they may be mounted solely to the rear quarters as opposed to the split design with half of the lens on the decklid. This prototype is rolling on the same standard wheels found on the current-gen model but expect to see at least one new design for 2018.

Interior

2017 Audi S5 High Resolution Interior
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Note: 2017 Audi S5 interior shown here.

the S8 to look nearly identical to the S5 on the inside with a lower-sitting dash.

Audi has long been known for sharing interior design cues across its entire car lineup, so while we can’t get a good look at the inside of this prototype, we can look to the 2017 A5 and S5 to get a good idea of what is going on inside. I expect the S8 to look nearly identical to the S5 on the inside with a lower-sitting dash, new virtual cockpit design, and a new infotainment display perched ever so beautifully on top of the center stack. As seen in the S5, the three-spoke steering wheel should be updated to with a hollow bottom spoke, and it will, of course, be flat-bottom in design.

The center console will take a new overall look with ambient lighting in the side pockets and LED lighting inside the forward-sitting cup holders. The face of the dash will change dramatically with the length of the dash equipped with long, thin HVAC vents. HVAC controls will be toned down dramatically and will be positioned between the center console and the infotainment display. Needless to say, it will be a huge departure compared to the current model on offer.

Drivetrain

2018 Audi S8 Exterior Spyshots
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The entry-level S8 take on the 2.9-liter potentially pushing upward of 480 ponies, while the 4.0-liter will probably carry over for the range-topping model to help push closer to 600 ponies.

With that new 2.9-liter engine that is being shared between Porsche and Audi, rumor has it that the new S8 could make use of this new engine. In the Porsche Panamera, it offers up 440 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. It’s enough to push the Panamera to 62 mph in 4.4 seconds or 4.2 seconds with a Sport Chrono package. Top speed sits around 180 mph. Now, while this engine is awesome and offers a lot of power for a smallish V-6, it poses one big problem. The S8 is big, and the current model uses a 4.0-liter V-8 that delivers 512 horsepower or 597 horsepower, depending on how the S8 is specced out. So, that 2.9 would mean a serious drop in power unless it can be tuned to deliver more. While Audi might be able to pull out close to 500 with some fine ECU remapping and some extra turbo boost, getting it closer to 600 seems somewhat impossible.

With that said, I would expect to see the entry-level S8 take on the 2.9-liter potentially pushing upward of 480 ponies, while the 4.0-liter will probably carry over for the range-topping model to help push closer to 600 ponies. If Audi decided to go solely with the 2.9-liter, I see a lot of unhappy customers who won’t want a car of this type with so little power. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but we’re hoping Audi doesn’t make a big mistake here.

Prices

2018 Audi S8 Exterior Spyshots
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Pricing is still a total mystery at this point, but we know there are going to be some significant changes inside and out. With the current model starting out at around £82,075 in the U.K, expect pricing to increase a bit to as much as £83,500. At current conversion rates that computers to about $108,678.

Competition

Mercedes S-Class

2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class High Resolution Exterior
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As far as competition with the A8, no regular old S-Class will really float the bit. For an entry-level model that uses that 2.9-liter engine, you could pit the A8 against the Mercedes S-550. It has a 4.7-liter V-8 that delivers some 449 horsepower and a 4.8-second sprint to 60 mph. For a V-8 toting S8, you can look more toward the Mercedes-AMG S63. It boasts a 5.5-liter V-8 that delivers a fair 577 horsepower and a 3.9-second sprint to 60 mph. As a Mercedes, the S-Class is ultimately a little more expensive in some cases with the S550 commanding $96,600 while the S63 commands $144,700.

Learn more about the 2018 Mercedes S-Class

BMW M6

2016 BMW M6 Exterior
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The BMW M6 makes its debut with a nip here and a tuck there.

This wouldn’t be a complete review if we didn’t pit Audi against Mercedes and BMW, but BMW doesn’t exactly have a full-fledged M-version of its 7 Series. There is a M760Li xDrive, but it’s significantly more expensive compared to the S8, and rumor has it that Bimmer is working on an M7, but so far we’ve heard next to nothing about it. So, I’m looking to the M6 Gran Coupe for now. With starting price of $117,500, it’s actually a little more expensive than where we expect the S8 to fall price-wise, but it does offer 560 horsepower to go with a 4.1-second sprint to 60 mph. It’s not quite as large, in all reality, but it does sport four doors and a sexy exterior design worth of competing with the S8.

Find out more about the BMW M6.

Conclusion

2018 Audi S8 Spyshots Exterior
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I have to say that I’m really excited to see the new S8 make its long awaited debut. The current model has that tall nose and radiator grille to go with an outdated looking interior. This new model should get the same cues that we see in the smaller “S” models which makes for a lot of much-needed change to Audi’s large performance sedan. Now we just have to hope it still keeps that V-8 under the hood, at least for the range-topping model, because that 2.9-liter just isn’t going to stack up well against the competition. Plus, a serious drop in power with this generation could prove to be big trouble for Audi.

  • Leave it
    • * That 2.9-liter isn’t a good idea for the S8

References

2018 Audi A8 Exterior High Resolution
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Read our full review on the 2018 Audi A8.

2015 Audi S8 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2017 Audi S8.

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Read more Audi news.

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