2022 Audi S8 gets a new look, same split personality

Driving behind a 2022 Audi S8 on twisty roads in and around Oceanside, California, something seems off. When the car ahead of me turns left, the right side sits higher than the left. When it goes right, the left side is higher. I’m no physicist, but the laws of physics tell me the suspension is reacting opposite of the way it should.

I’m in another S8 and the same thing is happening for me, even when I switch from Dynamic mode to Comfort mode. The car’s optional electrohydraulic Predictive Active Suspension is at work here, and it makes the big luxury sedan sportier while also improving passenger comfort.

After a 2020 redesign, the 2022 S8 gets a mid-cycle update that doesn’t really change the car. It mostly involves revised designs front and rear with new light technology, updated infotainment, and a repositioned A8/S8 lineup.

The Predictive Active Suspension is the car’s best party trick, and it’s part of the update. It’s no longer available for the regular A8, and it becomes optional rather than standard on the S8. As an added bonus the system can detect an impending side collision and raise that side of the car 3.1 inches so the structure can better absorb the impact. Given the safety factor and S8’s dual personality that combines luxury with sportiness, it’s certainly worth the $6,000 investment.

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

The cool suspension system is one of several features that contribute to the S8’s ability to switch from luxurious to sporty. The others include a sport rear differential that can overdrive the outside wheel in a turn, plus speed-sensitive all-wheel steering, all-wheel drive, a three-chamber air suspension, adaptive dampers, and, of course, an authoritative V-8.

The Predictive Active Suspension uses a forward-facing camera that reads the road ahead to detect bumps and ruts. It can react within 300 milliseconds and employ electromechanical actuators at each wheel to push up on the control arms so the tires can skip over potholes and raise to reduce the effect of bumps. That’s part of a ride that is seldom disturbed by road imperfections, even on low-profile 265/35R21 tires, but the system’s ability to raise the vehicle on the opposite side of the direction of a turn is also part of the comfort equation. The opposite tilt helps keep passengers from leaning too much in turns, which would disturb an otherwise placid but connected ride.

From behind the wheel, the S8 rivals the BMW 7-Series for sportiness, especially in Dynamic mode. The flat handling is obvious, but the car also turns in sharply and rotates willingly. Rear-axle steering that can turn the rear wheels 5.0 degrees opposite of the fronts at speeds up to 37 mph shortens its turning radius and the active rear differential chips in as well. The steering starts out light but firms up with speed and provides quick, direct responses.

The powertrain has a similar dual character, and this year the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 is exclusive to the S8 as the A8 loses both its V-8 and its plug-in hybrid models. It makes 563 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, but go easy on the throttle and the S8 toddles along in traffic like any gas engine. Switch to Dynamic mode, though, or give the throttle a deep stab, and the beast awakens. It lets out a robust growl and rockets the car forward to the tune of a 0-60 mph time of just 3.8 seconds. The 8-speed automatic delivers smooth shifts that quicken in Dynamic mode, and all-wheel drive ensures the power goes to the pavement efficiently.

To help save fuel, the V-8 features cylinder-deactivation and mild-hybrid technology. Still, fuel economy for this high-powered, 5,126-lb sedan is a weakness at 14 mpg city, 23 highway and 17 combined.

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

Dual screens, dual personality

The cabin has a dual personality of its own, but this time it’s a mix of luxury and technology. It still sports 13.1-inch a digital instrument cluster and 10.1- and 8.6-inch touchscreens with haptic feedback for the infotainment system, but this year the processing speed improves by a factor of 10. A head-up display remains available, as are screens for the rear-seat passengers that attach to the backs of the front seats. These can control some vehicle functions as well as display content from passengers’ mobile devices, and stream content. It’s easy to see the tech angle with so many digital screens.

The luxury is evident, too, in the S8’s space, comfort, and well-chosen, well-assembled materials. High-end standard features include carbon-fiber interior trim, synthetic suede door trim, Valcona leather upholstery with diamond contrast stitching heated and cooled front seats with a massage function that relies on 18 pneumatic cushions, power soft-close doors, four-zone automatic climate control, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system with 23 speakers. It has a sense of ceremony, too, as the ambient lighting lights up and the vents present themselves when you start the car. Welcome to luxury.

Front-seat occupants have copious space with 22-way power adjustments to dial in an ideal seating position. The S8 comes only in the extended-length body style, so rear-seat space is generous as well, and it can get even more comfortable with a Rear Seat Comfort package that adds rear-seat heating, cooling, massage, heated armrests, and a power recline function. Rear-seat passengers also get remote controls, tray tables, LED lighting, and an available full center console that reduces seating capacity to four while improving the comfort for those two rear passengers. Oddly, however, the trunk is compact-car small at just 12.5 cubic feet.

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

2022 Audi S8

A new look

The 2022 Audi S8’s exterior changes are subtle, which is normal in this segment. The biggest departure from the previous model is the new front end, which features more advanced matrix LED headlights with segmented light bars, a taller grille with L-shaped mesh elements, a revised lower front fascia with a more technical design. Matrix headlights have hundreds of LEDs that can be turned on and off to better illuminate the road without shinning into the eyes of oncoming drivers. They’ve recently been made legal in the U.S., but these aren’t yet functional and no other car has functional matrix LED headlights yet either.

At the rear, Audi adds OLED taillights that have various options for the light signature. They also have a proximity indicator that enables them to light up when another vehicle comes near them. The rear fascia also features a wider diffuser sporting horizontal bars.

The 2022 Audi S8 costs $117,995, including destination, down from about $132,000 last year. It loses some equipment to cut the cost, but it comes in under the competition while delivering a fun dual character that only BMW can match. With the Predictive Active Suspension included, you’ll get a car that drives the same as last year but with a newer look and faster infotainment. That’s just fine with me because this generation S8 has always been a winner.

Audi paid for airfare and hotel for Motor Authority to bring you this first-hand report.