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The S8 is the most potent car in Audi’s executive car range. In normal circumstances, it would be seen as a halo car for the marque. Yet, given our times and the shift to electrification, the S8 signifies something altogether different: the final chapters in the German marque’s long story within the combustion age.

Audi is serious about electrification, like most carmakers looking to survive the future. The goal is for 40% of production cars to be electrically propelled by 2025, with an estimated investment of €12 billion ($12 billion) in e-mobility by 2024. And the company has drawn up an e-mobility roadmap, starting with the Audi e-tron family and numerous other models to follow.

I try not to let the near future influence today’s judgment. But in the week I spend with the S8, I find it nearly impossible to review the car in isolation because a car like this is obsolete. And, if I’m sincere, it feels wrong to drive a V8 in a congested city like London during an environmental (and economic) crisis.

That is not to say Audi designers or engineers have done anything wrong. There is little to fault with this S8. It’s just bad timing. The car on test impresses with its performance. It drives well and handles smoothly. This most powerful of the A8 model family boasts a 4.0 liter V8 TFSI Biturbo engine, with 571ps and 800Nm of torque, speeding the vehicle to 62mph in just 3.8 seconds, pretty remarkable for a car of this limousine size.

Meanwhile, the 48v mild-hybrid system and cylinder on demand offer improved efficiency. The S8 also comes with active noise cancellation for improved comfort, and predictive active suspension comes as standard, which uses the vehicle camera to monitor the road ahead and adjust the suspension accordingly. And the car is technologically super advanced, which shouldn’t be surprising as Audi’s executive range comes at a starting price of over £100,000 ($110,000).

The 2022 S8 sees more of a makeover than a complete redesign with looks that are a clear expression of a top executive car with its clean, crisp tailored lines and immaculate surfaces. Air inlets emphasize the S8’s sporty look in the new front bumper, with new LED matrix laser headlights at the front and OLED LED units at the rear.

Meanwhile, like its A8 sibling, the car is treated to a new sporty radiator protective grille within the Audi Singleframe with a chrome finish. The S8’s performance aesthetic is completed with prominent 21-inch wheels showing off larger carbon-ceramic brakes fixed behind and a quartet of exhaust pipes at the rear.

On approaching and leaving the S8, the car rises by 50mm on its air suspension to aid entry and exit. Inside, the environment is very business-like in a quintessential Audi fashion. Once upon a time, when I first started critiquing cars, Audi led the car universe with its interior design. The marque was ahead of its rivals, notably Mercedes-Benz’s tired “old man” interiors. Thanks to technology and connectivity, the minimalist theme has since become the norm for cars in this executive sector.

Yet sitting inside this S8, I am struck by how the reduced, technical, almost Bauhausian styling I used to admire feels a little dated now. Though perfectly comfortable, the leather seat concept doesn’t chime with our eco-conscious times (surely we can at least start to push for traditional luxury material alternatives in this executive segment even before we roll out electric-only cars?). Meanwhile, the perfectly sculpted, shiny metal elements on the dashboard and throughout — once a signifier of advancement — look and feel cold. They recall another time.

Perhaps all these little and large elements collectively express an era that glorified and fetishized the masculine machine age. Perhaps our sensibilities are shifting with the coming of electrification; they are becoming a little softer. Perhaps this car is a perfect “last post” to the gasoline age.

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