QUALITY'S BACK, and Quattro's got it.

There was a time, about two years ago, when lots of us wondered ifAudi could go the distance. The company was reeling from charges thatits 5000 series cars were possessed -- by a tendency to zoom out ofcontrol (although Audi was no more demon-ridden than its competitors,nearly all of whom had sudden-acceleration problems, too).

That was then, this is now. The 1989 100 Quattro, one of threereplacements for Audi's 5000 series, must be judged on its merits. Andany company producing a car this good is serious about sticking aroundfor a while.

Aw, c'mon. Audi didn't just change nameplates. It changed the cars (anew cabin design and a more goof-proof pedal arrangement are examples).And changing the cars doesn't mean the previous models were defective.

Indeed, much new evidence from independent research indicates thatmany sudden-acceleration mishaps were caused by driver error. You hungryliability lawyers can chew on that a bit.

The rest of you, let's go for a drive. I think you'll enjoy it.

Praise: The interior of the 100 Quattro is as comfortable as you canget in a five-seat sedan. No squeezing the rear middle passenger in thiscar. Everyone has space.

Up front, there's a common-sense, easy-to-read, easy-to-useinstrument panel, elegant in its simplicity. Simple function, in fact,is all over the place.

Hear that thunder? See that rainstorm? No problem. Push thedifferential button near the gearshift. Presto! The 100 Quattro movesinto four-wheel-drive with nary a jerk or twitch.

Concern: The all-wheel drive Quattro uses three separatedifferentials -- front, rear and center -- arranged to compensatefor different wheel speeds in cornering. That high-tech triad preventsdamage to the drivetrain, the system that generates and transmits powerto the wheels. But I gotta believe all those differentials will cost abundle to maintain post-warranty.

Complaint: Those front safety belts and shoulder harnesses. The beltsare equipped with automatic tensioning devices. If you tug at them toohard or fast, they'll lock. But stop cursing. Be patient. The Audiowner's manual says to pull them down in a "continuous slow motionacross your chest and lap." The belt system may be a pain, but notnearly so painful as crashing unbuckled. Okay?

Head-turning quotient: What's this? Interior by Brooks Bros.? Nokidding. The 100 Quattro's cabin is outfitted with pinstriped -- unh,huh -- pinstriped velour.

Ride, acceleration, braking, handling: This would be a terrific carto take across country, even in the winter. The car has a four-wheelindependent suspension. The ride is smooth, firm, pleasant. Handling isexcellent, devoid of pitch and sway around curves. The feeling is totalcontrol, enhanced by a super-slick five-speed manual gearbox.

Acceleration? The 100 Quattro moves fast enough for common needs. Ithas a 2.3-liter, inline 5-cylinder, fuel-injected engin e, rated 130 hpat 5,600 rpm.

Sound system: Six-speaker, electronic stereo radio and cassette byAudi/Bose. Grand sound.

Mileage: About 23 to the gallon (20.6-gallon tank, estimated 462-milerange on usable volume), mostly highway and driver only with no use ofclimate control system.

Price: $30,805, fully optioned, including antilock brakes and othergoodies. Add a $335 destination charge. Estimated dealer's invoice priceis $25,876.

Purse-strings note: The new Audis come with "The Audi Advantage," anextra-protection warranty under which Audi pays for all routinescheduled maintenance -- oil changes, wiper blades, brake pads, etc.-- for the first three years or 50,000 miles of ownership. (The workmust be done at an Audi dealership.)