Unlike most automotive manufacturers, Audi has two distinct performance lines: the S and the RS. Although S versions have graced U.S. roads for some time, the vaunted RS models were kept across the pond due to cost and legal issues. Or perhaps Audi was simply waiting for the right car.

It could have done worse in choosing the RS6 as its first RS emissary. It's a car that embodies everything we've come to love from Audi.

As expensive as it is exclusive, the RS6 gets all the best stuff from Ingolstadt's parts bins. Based on the standard A6, the RS6 receives major work to its suspension including uprated spring and shock rates and Audi's Dynamic Ride Control, an active suspension where each corner is linked diagonally via hydraulic lines. Interestingly, DRC is operated through purely mechanical means--no fancy computer wizardry here. Of course, it is augmented with EDL (electronic differential lock), ESP (electronic stability program), and EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), all of which have been retuned with more aggressive parameters.

Audi's all-aluminum 4.2-liter V8 has received numerous internal parts from its race department, including low-friction roller rockers, improved head design, sodium-filled valves and a dual-branch intake. Add a pair of K04 turbochargers and intercoolers, and you're looking at 460 bhp. To cope with its prodigious torque, the RS6 uses a transmission based on the 12-cylinder A8, retrofitted with more aggressive gearing and the latest Tiptronic technology. Leave it in drive or use the steering wheel paddles to shift, the RS6 charges forward with almost unreal power.

The brakes were also culled from the race bin and include massive eight-piston Brembo calipers that grip sizable floating rotors. They can bring the two-ton RS6 from 62-0 mph in 2.6 sec.--race-like performance indeed.

And while the RS6 can hold claim in the far left lane, it performs with all the grace and poise of a luxury sedan featuring every conceivable amenity. The list of standard features is staggering.

Expensive? You bet. Exclusive? Yep. That hasn't deterred the Audi fans who eagerly snapped up all 860 U.S.-bound RS6s before they left the boat.

Eight Great Contenders for Car of the Year
Mercedes-Benz E500
Porsche Boxster S
BMW Z4 Roadster
Saab 9-3
Jaguar XJR
New Beetle Convertible
Volvo S60 R
Audi RS6
2003 european car Grand Prix Winner
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