After playing a starring role among European imports for years, Audi hasthe unenviable task of trying to make a comeback.

Unintended-acceleration allegations about 5000 series sedans withautomatic transmission are going to take time to live down. The governmentexonerated the automaker, saying motorists who experienced so-called suddenacceleration typically did so because they applied a foot to the acceleratorrather than the brake.

One way to make consumers forget is to sentence the troubled car topurgatory for a spell. Chevrolet, for example, dropped the X-body Citationafter charges of locking brakes in panic stops and then waited more than ayear before bringing out the Corsica successor.

Another way to erase the past is to focus on the future, and that`s whatAudi is doing with the introduction of the new 1990 V-8 Quattro sedan, anambitious luxury undertaking.

The new sedan is Audi`s first all-wheel-drive model powered by a V-8engine. And make that a peppy 3.6-liter, 32-valve, 240-horsepower powerplantthat boasts a 0- to 60-mile-an-hour time of 8.7 seconds with four-speedautomatic and top speed of 146 m.p.h.

But there`s no free lunch. The ability to scoot from the light ahead ofthe pack brings with it a 14 miles per gallon city/18 m.p.g. EPA fuel economy rating and a $1,050 federal gas-guzzler tax.

For years we`ve been on the bubble when it comes to joining the Audi fanclub. Other than the high price and those silly rings in the grille, we never could figure out why people were enamored with an Audi 5000.

The Audi V-8 Quattro sedan makes a strong case for giving the automakeranother look.

The Audi sedan is built on a 106.4-inch wheelbase and is 191.9 incheslong overall. That`s roughly the dimensions of a Chevy Lumina sedan, thoughthe Audi interior is much more roomy and spacious and far more luxurious andcomfortable.

The V-8 sedan is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink machines,including such novelties as headlamp washers, rear console cupholders, a pop- out nylon bag in the rear console to store skis without messing theinterior, individual reading lights at all seats including the rear, phonehidden in the center front console, front and rear heated seats, rear-seatheat and air-conditioning vents and heated washer nozzles.

Then there`s the substantial stuff that you have to rely on every day,even when the skis are stored for the season, such as all-wheel-drive,antilock brakes, driver`s side airbag, air conditioning, power brakes andsteering, gas pressurized shocks, steel-belted radial tires, four-wheel discbrakes, leather seating, (Kodiak leather standard, Connolly leather a $250option), tinted glass, electric rear-window defogger, cruise control, powerwindows and door locks, dual power mirrors, power seats, power sunroof and AM/FM stereo cassette.

And thanks to the sudden-acceleration charges with the 5000, the V-8sedan is equi pped with a shift-lock mechanism that prevents shifting out ofpark unless you depress the brake pedal.

Of course, all the goodies wouldn`t mean much if the sedan didn`t havesuch smooth ride and sure handling to complement the power from the engine andthe security from the antilock braking system, all-wheel drive and airbags.

The price tag is $47,450 plus the $1,050 gas-guzzler tax, for a total of$48,500.

Other than the mileage figure and the tax that goes with it, about theonly annoyance with the Audi V-8 sedan was the hand brake, which was difficultto pull up from the center console and trickier to release. No car, $5,000 or $50,000, should have such an aggravation.