Heck of a car, with a most potent 4.2-liter, 300-h.p., 32-valve V-8 that doesn't need much of an invitation to move quickly yet quietly when you press the pedal.

And still a 17 m.p.g. city/25 m.p.g. highway rating, thanks in part to the A8 being one of the most lightweight, aluminum-intensive cars on the road.

The 4.2 is teamed with a 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic, the clutchless manual that allows you to move through the gears by tapping the shift lever and not having to play with a foot pedal.

Quattro means all-wheel-drive, which means all-season motoring and the ability to move when the snow is deep and drive aggressively when the roads are clean and you find a desolate twisting road to play on. Pavement hugger. Sits flat without lean or sway.

Steering response is excellent-- goes where you point it now.

Solid, roomy, comfy, though like any vehicle carrying the Audi nameplate, the suspension is a bit firm and a tad stiff for those who favor the cushy ride and handling of a luxury sedan.

Base price is $65,000. Standard equipment includes speed-sensitive power steering, four-wheel fully independent suspension, depowered front as well as side-impact air bags front and rear, antitheft alarm with interior motion sensors, headlight washers, front and rear fog lamps, dual power mirrors with defogging, leather upholstery, Bose sound system, dual-zone climate control, 14-way power seats (after about 10 ways we lose interest), power sunroof with a dial to set exact amount of opening/closing, power windows, CD player with trunk changer, cruise control and wiring for a phone.

The test car added 17-inch polished wheels for $1,000, a cold-weather package with heated seats and steering wheel plus inside expandable ski/storage sack for $1,000, warm-weather package with power rear and manual side shades and solar sunroof for $1,200, and an electronics package with automatic dimming outside mirrors, rear power seat head rests and xenon headlamps for $1,400. Add $500 for freight and the tab tops $73,000.