It took Audi AG a little while to get here, but the German automaker finally is bringing its new Audi V-8 Quattro to market.

Generally, automobile manufacturers introducing a new car this late in the production year would title the model a 1993 version. But the new V-8 Quattro is regarded by its maker as a 1992 vehicle, and one that is expected on the Indianapolis market shortly.

"We'll see our first one in about 20 days," said Britt Killinger, sales manager of Porsche-Audi-Volkswagen-Lotus. "The factory has been telling us to expect it in the latter part of April."

Audi has had a V-8 model since 1990, but not like this one. The new '92 Quattro represents a long step forward in engine size and power.

New V-8 bigger than before

The car features a 4.2-liter (254-cubic-inch/4,172-c.c.) V-8 that sports four overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. This engine takes the place of a 3.6-liter, 32-valve V-8 that powered previous Quattros.

Audi regards the new automobile as its highest statement of performance, safety and luxury.

The Quattro, which has a $53,900 sticker, was never meant to be mundane transportation, and it isn't. But then a 32-valve engine, full-time four-wheel drive, and a host of luxury items were not designed to be part of an econobox.

However you approach it, the '92 V-8 Quattro qualifies as a mean machine, but one with impeccable manners. It has horsepower and goes, but only to the degree a driver pushes on that pedal known as the accelerator.

The top speed is rated at 155 miles per hour. But for the American market, Audi has electronically limited maximum speed to 130 mph. You probably can change a chip in the computer system and override the speed limitation, but it also would void the warranty.

Has fast acceleration

The cap on the top speed doesn't encumber acceleration, as 0-60 mph comes in at 7.3 seconds. That's a considerable improvement over its predecessor. In that automobile, 0-60 mph took 8.7 seconds.

Installing a bigger engine in the car is a definite step in the right direction, because the V-8 must drive an automatic transmission and turn the gearing that drives all four wheels.

The Quattro features a Torsen differential that is manufactured by Zexel-Gleason USA Inc. The unit automatically distributes torque to the wheels with the best grip.

By increasing the size of the V-8 to 4.2 liters, Audi has acquired an engine that produces 276 horsepower and 296 foot-pounds of torque. This is quite a bit more muscle than the 3.6's 240 horsepower and 245 foot-pounds of torque. And in the wet, there is nothing that goes quite like the Quattro with power, unless it's another four-wheel-drive with power.

Engine light

Audi says its 4.2, which is made of aluminum alloy, is one of the lightest and most compact V-8s in its class. The efficiency is quite obvious when considering the engine is obtaining well in excess of one horsepower per cubic inch of displacement.

Man and woman d o not live in the luxury-car field by mechanical components alone, and the Quattro has luxury and safety features to whet the appetite of even the jaded.

For added safety, Audi has installed an advanced passenger-side air bag. And there is an array of new luxury amenities that now are standard equipment.

In fact, everything is standard. The only option is a pearl- white metallic paint.

Locking system unusual

"A really interesting luxury feature is the infrared locking system," Killinger said. "Just press a button and it unlocks the doors, turns on the interior lights, selects the driver's preset seating position, and even adjusts the outside mirrors to the driver's position."

The infrared system works via a beam that is sent from the ignition key to a small receiving window located in either of the car's middle body posts. The functions can be operated remotely, and up to four drivers can use the system with their personal driver settings.

Also new with th e car is a Blaupunk Gamma stereo with a four-speaker Audi/Bose sound system, a trunk-mounted compact-disc changer and Connolly leather seat upholstery.

Car is Audi flagship

"It's the flagship of the Audi line," Killinger said. "The changes they have made are all designed to improve the car, particularly the performance, and help sales."

Based upon sales of the 1990/1991 V-8 Quattros, "we seem to have buyers from all age brackets," Killinger said, "everything from young executives to retired people.

"And we have many women buyers. They like the automatic transmission and the safety of the four-wheel drive."

There is no disputing that four-wheel drive, especially in winter when there is snow and ice on the road, enhances vehicle stability.

Unless you do something stupid, driving all four wheels when road conditions are slick and treacherous will get you where you want to go. And on dry pavement, the system can make even the most ham-handed amateur look like Mario Andretti.

Killinger feels the car will be competing against automobiles like the 7- Series BMW, the Mercedes, and some models of the Jaguar. This obviously is a very upscale market, one that holds quite discriminating buyers.

"These are people who are looking for a car with all the luxury amenities and performance," he said. "And we think this car competes against any of the top models at less money." Audi's new V-8 Quattro has more power than its predecessor, thanks to a bigger engine, and enhanced safety and luxury features.