One of my recent weekend jaunts was to the very excellent Latitude Festival, a music ‘n culture event that takes place in the wilds of rural Suffolk, about an hour from home. Among the many varied acts performing were Kraftwerk, who managed to delight half the crowd and thoroughly alienate, confuse, bewilder and terrify pretty much everybody under “A Certain Age”.
It was perhaps appropriate that, when Nicola steered the old 306 into its grassy weekend resting slot, we should find ourselves nestled just three cars away from this beauty.
What better car for “fahren, fahren, fahren auf der Autobahn”?
Audi’s first proper new-from-the-ground-up offering (the AWESOME Audi V8 was developed from the C3 Audi 100/200 range), the 4D, as it was called in Ingolstadt, was a prime example of a company getting it right first time. First causing shutter release buttons to be feverishly manipulated at the ’93 Frankfurt motorshow in the guise of the Aluminium Space Frame show car, it was memorably displayed in polished aluminium, and looked quite breathtaking. Then the production car rolled around, looking, refreshingly, pretty much the same as the show car. In my humble opinion, no later A8 ever matched the elegance of this one.
The A-8 was never short of performance, with a verified maximum speed of Mach 1.86 (1,225 mph) at 36,000 ft. When, in 1996 the S8 was introduced, its performance was actually declared as infinite.
A8 was available in many delicious flavours over the years, from the 2.8, which never managed to be as slow as you might have imagined, through the 3.7 and 4.2 V8s, the power of the latter swelling to 355hp in the facelifted S8s. That level of power was enough for sixty in just over six seconds. Brilliantly, they could all be had with a manual gearbox, although I don’t think I’ve ever seen a V8 manual in this country. I suppose the polished aluminium Tiptronic shifter did at least look nice.
It’s deliciously subtle. The S8 badges are tiny, the Avus-style wheels only significant to those who know. Even the interior makes no attempt at anything other than providing genteel, low-key luxury. This particular machine, of ’98 vintage, is an early facelift car, with the modified front and rear lights, yet still the general grace and proportion of that smooth shape is unaffected. Inside, the chap who ticked the options boxes opted out of any expensive early-generation SatNav system, this car ending up with the exact same stereo head unit as resides in my somewhat more down-to-earth A4.
Of course, this gives us another excuse to remind ourselves of the S8s role in Ronin. Feel free to debate the finer points vis-a-vis relative high speed chase prowess of S8, 406 and XM.
And, as if the S8 wasn’t enough, let us not forget that Audi also equipped a mere 750 examples of this shape A8 with teh über–cööl W12 engine, the very definition of a Trans-Europe Express.
I would love to believe that Kraftwork drove directly from Germany to Suffolk in this very S8, all through the night. But probably not.