There is much debate about the S8's engine genealogy. Is it adapted from the Lamborghini mill or vice versa? Personally, I don't care. When there's more than 450 bhp and 400 lb-ft of twist, you're gonna win. Perhaps my only gripe with this engine is that it has been muffled. Although Audi engineers have done a good job tuning the S8's voice, I'd like to hear this engine in its purest form. It's that good (see sidebar).

We've raved about Audi interiors since our first long-term A4. The standard electronically controlled sport seats are covered with Valcona leather, the inner sections clad in a different hue. Unlike typical "old man" sport seats, these units manage to lend real support for spirited driving. The rear passengers will enjoy much the same as their seats are contoured with the same care. Interior trim is brushed aluminum and high-quality synthetic materials, and there seems to be ambient, passive lighting everywhere. Perhaps my only complaint is the steering wheel's design. Although it is well contoured and features both shift and electronic controls (radio, cruise control, MMI access), the center section is a bit bulky. I'd like to see the wheel from the RS4 in there.

Although the S8 will leave few drivers wanting, there is one new option prospective buyers may want to consider. Audi worked with the Denmark-based crew at Bang & Olufsen to develop a superb sound system specifically for this car. The fully digital system integrates 14 speakers and two amplifiers providing more than 1000 watts of power. The system uses what is known as Acoustic Lens Technology, a method in which sound is "sculpted" for better performance. If you are a hardcore audiophile, get the Bang & Olufsen system. Audi PR literally had to drag me from the rear seat and shut off the AC/DC video I was watching.

Plan on bringing about $115,000 if you want an S8 for yourself. Bring $20k more if you need the optional ceramic brakes and Bang & Olufsen sound system. Although the S8 is by no mean inexpensive, Audi built a truly fabulous vehicle, one that is both fun to drive, incredibly fast and remarkably intelligent. I'd say that makes the S8 quite a bargain.

2006 Audi S6
Base Price: $115,000 (est.)
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
5.2-liter V10, dohc, four valves per cylinder, FSI direct injection
Six-speed automatic w/ Tiptronic
Four-link front with double upper and lower wishbones, self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear axle with wishbone, air suspension, front and rear anti-roll bars
Diagonally split dual-circuit system w/ ESP, brake servo, hydraulic brake assist
Length x Width x Height (in.): 199.3 x 74.7 x 56.1
Wheelbase: 115.9 in.
Curb Weight: 4,197 lb
Peak Power: 450 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Peak Torque: 398 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-62 mph: 5.1 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (electronically limited)

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