Chris Pfaff’s blog: Audi S8 Plus
If you’re a car enthusiast, and you’ve never seen the movie Ronin, put this blog down and fire up whatever device you have attached to your television in order to watch it, right now. Its director, the late John Frankenheimer, was himself a car fanatic, and directed the racing classic Grand Prix, with James Garner, as well as other critically-acclaimed pictures like the Manchurian Candidate.
Ronin is, some say, the result of Frankenheimer’s quest to make the ultimate car chase movie. Released in a time when CGI was just coming to the forefront, all of its car sequences were filmed for real, at speed, and with the actors in the cars; Frankenheimer’s trick was using right-hand drive cars, fitting a false dashboard, and putting Robert De Niro, Natasha McElhone, Skipp Sudduth, and others, in the left-hand seat while pro drivers like Rémy Julien flung them around France at breakneck speeds. Even the camera cars used for Ronin were interesting: the crew modified a Porsche 911 to carry a cameraman and gear in its front trunk, and a Mercedes-Benz 500E was used to film some of the high-speed sequences.
We love Ronin at Pfaff because two of our brands are so well-represented in the chases: the climactic sequence uses an E34 BMW M5 careening through Paris traffic, often in the wrong direction, but for most of us, the Audi S8 used in the first chase sequence remains the real star of the show. Driven by the movie’s “professional,” named Larry, it comes roaring out of a gravel lay-by and proceeds to bully a pair of Citroen sedans carrying gun-toting hoodlums off the road and through the forest, relying on its strong aluminum body, immense power, and quattro all-wheel drive. Later, it demonstrates it’s as agile and nimble on-road as it is off-road as it chases through the narrow alleys of Nice.
Driving the new Audi S8 Plus over the last couple of weeks, memories of Ronin really came flooding back. Like the original, this is a seriously amazing sedan, a precision weapon in a pin-striped suit, packing huge power and torque in an elegant package. With 605 horsepower on tap, its V8 is almost twice as powerful as the original S8, and while its engine is turbocharged, it still has instantaneous throttle response and a sound like rolling thunder.
The A8, and its high-performance brethren, has always been Audi’s best-kept secret. The innovation the car embodies is incredible. It was the first mainstream sedan whose structure was composed entirely of lightweight, strong aluminum. Its suspension effortlessly blends massive cornering grip and a flat attitude with serene ride comfort. Its Bang & Olufsen sound system will blow the doors off most home systems, let alone most automotive ones. And the interior is simply one of the best in the business: beautifully trimmed, constructed from exquisite materials, and lit to perfection with Audi’s signature LEDs.
With the current-generation A8 nearing the end of its lifecycle, the S8 Plus is a fitting tribute to a remarkable car, and a package that enhances all of its high points. Its exterior styling balances the A8’s formal lines with a subtle menace; its multi-adjustable sport seats, pleated leather, and unique interior trim give it an amazingly exclusive ambiance, and the performance just takes your breath away. No matter where you drive, at what speed, you feel powerful behind the wheel of the S8 Plus – king of the autobahn, lord of highway 401, prince of every city street you roll down.