A spectacular fusion of German luxury saloon and Italian super car makes its debut on the Audi Stand at this month’s Tokyo Motor Show. The new Audi S8 quattro, featuring a 10-cylinder FSI petrol engine developed using the Lamborghini Gallardo’s acclaimed unit as its foundation, is scheduled to open for UK order in April 2006, with first deliveries expected in June 2006.
Smaller, lighter and with fewer friction-generating components than a comparable 12-cylinder unit, the new 5.2-litre V10 petrol engine has a more performance-biased pedigree that perfectly suits the ultimate A8. Maximum power of 450PS is delivered at 7,000rpm, and peak torque of 540Nm at 3,500rpm, with up to 90 per cent of this total available from just 2,300rpm, enabling a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and a top speed limited electronically to 155mph.
Using the Gallardo’s 5.0-litre unit, developed by Lamborghini in conjunction with Audi, as its foundation, the 5.2-litre V10 incorporates bespoke features that tailor its much-loved character to meet luxury saloon requirements, without diluting it. These include Audi FSI direct petrol injection for optimum responsiveness and efficiency, and the addition of a balancing shaft for maximum engine refinement.
Weighing in at a comparatively low 220kg, the new engine exhibits the same meticulous attention to lightweight construction as the body shell of the S8 quattro, which in line with all A8 models features all-aluminium panels mounted on an aluminium Audi Space Frame (ASF). The result is an overall weight of 1,940kg, and an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 232PS per ton.
The first ever V10 from Audi is effectively harnessed by a chassis combining adaptive air suspension with the latest generation quattro permanent four-wheel-drive system, featuring a standard torque split of 40:60 (front / rear) that helps to optimise axle load distribution for even greater agility and steering precision.
The air suspension is based on the Sport set-up offered throughout the A8 range, featuring firmer damping and a 20mm ride height reduction in each of its four modes. The system has been modified for the S8 quattro to suit its even more pronounced sporting bias, with revisions to the suspension mounts and to the shock absorbers within the air-spring bellows designed to maximise roll resistance. The speed dependent Servotronic power steering has also been further sharpened through revisions to the steering ratio giving a reduction in lock-to-lock turns.
20-inch S-design alloy wheels shod with 265/35 ZR 20 tyres distribute the power to the tarmac, and within these are massive 15-inch front and 13-inch rear disc brakes that keep the S8 quattro effectively reined in at all times. High performance ceramic brakes will also be available as an option, offering vastly improved temperature tolerance for the best possible resistance to brake fade and an operating life of up to 186,000 miles in everyday use – four times the lifespan of a steel disc.
In addition to the 20-inch alloy wheels, V10 emblems on the wheel arches, aluminium-look door mirrors, a subtle integrated boot spoiler and four ellipsoidal tail pipes surrounded by a redesigned rear apron mark out the S8 quattro externally.
Adaptive lighting technology is another distinguishing feature that only the W12 A8 models share as standard. The xenon plus head lamps incorporate additional static turning lights and dynamic cornering lights that respond to steering inputs to light the driver’s path perfectly through each corner.
Inside, full leather upholstery with seat centre panels, side sections and head rests in contrasting colours, a three-spoke S quattro steering wheel with aluminium look gear shift paddles and facia inlays in either brushed aluminium or carbon fibre highlight this model’s special position in the A8 range.
The S8 quattro is also equipped with the revised and now even more comprehensive standard specification from which all A8 models benefited earlier this year. This includes DVD-based satellite navigation, light and rain sensors, the Audi Advanced Key system (enabling keyless access and start-up) and voice control technology for vocal operation of radio, CD player, car telephone and navigation system. These features added to an already lengthy list that incorporates front and rear acoustic parking, cruise control, 14-way electric seat adjustment, electronic climate control, a 6 CD changer and the acclaimed Multi Media Interface system enabling intuitive control of many of the car’s functions.
In Germany, the price of the new S8 quattro has been confirmed at 97,600 Euros, but UK pricing will be finalised nearer to the car’s 2006 launch.