With talons three times more powerful than a Rottweiler's jaws, the Harpy eagle is the world's most fearsome airborne predator. It can lift prey the size of a small motorcycle and cuts an aero-profile so formidable, livestock flee in terror at its shadow.

The gods kept Harpy eagles.

Like most apex predators, the Harpy is a rare animal-the world simply is not big enough to hold more than a few hundred of these creatures.

And so it will be with Audi's RS4, a car with such formidable capabilities, it will never be anything but a rarity on public roadways-the world is too small for many such cars.

It's almost impossible to realize that a car like the RS6 is coming to America: 460 bhp spread between all four wheels, twin turbochargers flanking the banks of cylinders, an active suspension, eight-piston race binders, a leather-clad cockpit, a rockin' radio and room for four of your friends.

The gods drive Audi RS6s.

For us mere mortals residing in North America, just 860 of these chariots will find their way ashore. Do you want one? Yes. Can you afford it? Probably not. With a sticker deep in the 80k range and a platform coming to the end of its lifecycle, the RS6 will be an exclusive and elusive piece of machinery, kept in the most blessed hands. Myths, and extraordinary transaction prices, are born of such legends in their own time.

On a recent summer's day in Munich, I was handed the keys to an RS6 and given a simple instruction: Drive to Audi's headquarters in Inglostadt. I had the entire day to motor a mere 60 miles. With a full tank of fuel and a can of Cult Energy Drink (it's a superior-tasting Euro Red Bull), I headed north on the A9 autobahn.

The RS6 folds space with such devastating speed, you can almost feel yourself getting younger. A few, very quick glances at the speedometer showed an indicated 188 mph, maybe 189...I can't really remember; my memory seemed to have lagged behind. Holy vorsprung durch technik, I flashed! I've blown my mind. It's that fast.

It's easy obsessing over the Audi's ample power reserves-the word that comes to mind is muscles, and the RS6 has huge ones. That can happen when you place a turbo on each side of a V8, in this case Audi's vaunted all-aluminum 4.2-liter, 340-bhp wonder mill. Its voice sounds like distant thunder, a deep rumble that's sweet music to any serious car lover.

To cope with the stresses of forced induction, the engine received significant revisions, some culled from Audi's race department. The engine's basic architecture retains the five-valve cylinder head-three inlet and two exhaust valves, punctuated by low-friction roller rocker arms. The heads were redesigned for larger, more efficient water jackets to ensure optimum heat dissipation, and the exhaust valves are now sodium-filled for additional cooling.

Top-end breathing was improved by modifications to both the intake and exhaust ports, and the air intake is a completely new dual-branch system, a central dual-chamber air cleaner between the cylinders' vee. A pair of hot-film air mass meters and electronically controlled wastegates regulate the smallish yet responsive K04 turbochargers, dual intercoolers ensuring a healthy dose of compressed air. Bosch's Motronic ME 7.1.1 system handles the complexities of engine management in concert with boost pressure, anti-knock and exhaust gas temperature controls.

The exhaust was redesigned, its dual-branch system carrying two metal-based primary and main catalytic converters in each pathway. To help distribute weight, the battery was moved to the spare wheel recess, which also makes more room for the gorgeous carbon-fiber composite air intake and engine cover-pure DTM gear, to be sure. Compression ratio is exceptionally high for a turbo engine at 9.8:1, but this contributes to a responsiveness unrivaled by other force-fed motors. The RS6 doesn't just charge off the line, it's more like a launch, like an arrow released from a 120-lb. composite compound bow.

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