Although still unmistakably prim of trim and undeniably proper in its overall sculpture, the Audi S8 hits the road as a ruthlessly efficient, marginally mannered bad boy. If you did not notice the discreet badging, four chrome-tipped exhausts, sporty wheels, and aerodynamic lip on the trunk lid, you might mistake this for a sedate A8. But once the $95,000 S8 begins to rumble and snort and paw the ground, there is no doubt that this is Roger Federer in a good suit: clinical, relentless, and always working to required levels, yet with several turns of the performance screw in reserve.
Its secret weapon is a 450 hp V-10 modified from another first cousin of the Volkswagen family, the Lamborghini Gallardo. It also has a Le Mans–bred fuel system with direct injection, a 6-speed paddle-shifted transmission, a mostly aluminum body, 20-inch wheels mated to ceramic brakes, and, of course, Quattro all-wheel drive.
High performance, however, is only half of the equation. The rest includes a level of luxury beyond most norms, perfect ergonomics, ample living room, and a facility for traveling enormous distances.