It’s not as powerful as the old S8 Plus, but it’s pretty damn quick.

The highly-anticipated 2020 Audi S8, the range-topping trim of the full-size sedan, debuted today with sporty styling and more power than expected. Based on the fourth-generation A8 that debuted in 2018, the 2020 S8 is a slightly sportier version of the standard model design-wise. However, the "S" badge comes with notable changes under the hood, where a twin-turbo V-8 engine spins to the tune of 571 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. Is it better than its predecessor? Let’s find out!

The 2020 Audi S8 Isn’t All That Special on the Outside

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Unlike RS-badged models that are based on smaller sedans and coupes in Audi's lineup, the S8 is just an A8 with mild revisions on the outside.

Because it’s full-size sedan, Audi opted to keep the car’s elegant styling present rather than alter the design with aggressive elements, like AMG does with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. So if you’re not a fan of big sedans that scream "look at me" from every angle, the S8 is the perfect choice. The previous S8 was a downright sleeper and Audi made sure that this feat carries over.

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That’s not to say that the S8 doesn’t stand out, but you need to look closer than usual.

Highlights include a bigger splitter with silver accents and larger bumper vents up front, while the rear sports a small spoiler integrated into the trunk lid, an "S8" badge, a quad-exhaust tailpipe layout, and a small diffuser-like element.

It also features slightly revised side skirts and exclusive wheel designs, but that’s about it.

The 2020 Audi S8 is the Most Powerful of the A8 Lineup

The 2020 Audi S8 Comes to Take Control From the Mercedes S600 and BMW M760i Exterior
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The S8 is a notable upgrade compared to the rest of the fourth-generation A8 lineup when it comes to output.

It's not the only one with a V-8 engine, but no other A8 generates more than 500 horsepower - not even the hybrids.

The revised twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 comes with a solid 571 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque on tap. The other V-8-powered A8, the 60 TFSI Quattro, cranks out 460 horses and 443 pound-feet, so the S8 wins by a notable margin of 111 horsepower and 147 pound-feet.

The S8 is more powerful than the e-tron model too.

Powered by a 3.0-liter V-6 and an electric motor, the e-tron comes with a combined output of 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet. That’s a 122-horsepower and 74-pound-foot deficit compared to the S8. All told, if it’s power you’re interested in, the S8 is the best choice out there.

The 2020 Audi S8 Packs More Punch Than its Predecessor Too

The 2020 Audi S8 Comes to Take Control From the Mercedes S600 and BMW M760i Exterior
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The new S8 is notably more powerful than the outgoing sedan. The old S8, also powered by a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8, generates 520 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of twist. At 571 horses and 590 pound-feet, the new S8 benefits from a 51-horsepower and 111-pound-foot increase. That’s a consistent upgrade for a new-generation model, as most redesigns usually focus on losing weight and adding drivetrain technology rather than adding significantly more power.

The 2020 Audi S8 Isn’t the Most Powerful of its Kind

The 2020 Audi S8 Comes to Take Control From the Mercedes S600 and BMW M760i Exterior
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But there’s a catch. Although it’s more powerful than its predecessor, this only applies if we compare it to regular S8. Audi also offered an S8 Plus model fitted with a more powerful V-8.

The S8 Plus came with 605 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of tap - that's an extra 34 horses compared to the new S8, but it falls behind in the torque department by 74 pound-feet.

The extra torque in the new S8 makes up for the lack of power, but statistically speaking, the old S8 Plus is the more powerful car.

The 2020 Audi S8 is Impressively Quick

The 2020 Audi S8 Comes to Take Control From the Mercedes S600 and BMW M760i Exterior
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Although it's not the most powerful S8 in history, the 2020 S8 is definitely the quickest.

Audi claims that the sedan hits 62 mph from a standing start in just 3.8 seconds. That’s almost a half-second quicker than the old S8 and just as quick as the old S8 Plus. However, the folks over at Auditography tested the new sedan and managed to hit 62 mph in only 3.57 seconds, 0.23 clicks quicker than the official time. This means that the S8 is actually 0.6 seconds quicker than the old S8 and around two tenths faster than the old S8 Plus.

The 2020 Audi S8 is a Solid Choice over the Competition

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The new S8 slots right between the S600 and AMG S63 trims of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

The 2020 Audi S8 is notably more powerful than the S600, which comes with 463 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque on tap, but it falls behind the AMG S63, rated at 603 horsepower and 664 pound-feet.

To be specific, the S8 needs an extra 32 horses and 74 pound-feet to match the AMG S63. But despite the lack of output, the S8 is almost as quick as the Merc. Officially, the Audi is three tenths slower to 62 mph, a benchmark that the AMG S63 reaches in 3.5 seconds. However, Auditography’s test suggests that the S8 is just 0.07 seconds slower.

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Compared to the BMW 7 Series, the S8 goes against the M760Li, the range-topping model if we ignore the Alpina B7. The big difference is that the M760i features a 6.6-liter V-12 instead of a V-8, but output is very similar. The mill cranks out 592 horsepower, 21 horses more than the S8, and 627 pound-feet of torque, 37 more than the Audi. Although more powerful, the Bimmer hits 62 mph in 3.9 seconds. That’s a tenth-second slower than the S8, if we use the official rating for the comparison.

Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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