Compared to rivals like the M5, though, the RS 6's variable ratio steering lacks the kind of telepathic feedback that tells you precisely what's happening on the contact patch. Nor does it have the crisp turn-in characteristics of the BMW. Audi says that this is all quite deliberate, that it didn't want overly sensitive steering with the consequent 'sneeze factor' reaction when you least need it. It also believes that its target market is simply not interested in smoky oversteer moments, which is an entirely understandable point.

While the quattro does its best to contain and deploy the Audi's huge power, the suspension is doing a remarkable job of controlling the body over some quite vicious crests and dips. The RS 6 is the first Audi to gain DRC (Dynamic Ride Control), and it's paying huge dividends on these roads. It is basically a mechanically active damping system, which virtually eliminates body pitch and roll through corners and helps maintain stability over a variable road surface. And the result is a slightly worrying sense of invincibility, the notion that you can take the maximum speed you reckon a stretch of road can be driven at and add another 10 mph.

This well explains why the brakes are so huge, and indeed hugely reassuring. Any car capable of piling on speed this rapidly needs to be at least as good at taking it off, and on this score, the RS 6 is a star performer. After repeated maximum effort applications from 100 mph-plus, I really did expect a little brake fade to figure. The eight-piston race bred perforated front discs just kept biting hard.

Inside the cockpit, the RS 6 feels just as special. Incredibly supportive Recaro seats and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake makes it easy to find the ideal driving position. And while it is a traditionally conservative Audi atmosphere, there is a somewhat amusing 200 mph speedometer to remind you of the car's potential. Elsewhere, you'll find the sort of equipment levels you'd expect on a car costing more than $80,000. That includes satellite navigation with a color screen and TV function, a powerful BOSE sound system, leather and Alcantara trim and if you want it, carbon fiber dash and door trim.

Fewer than a thousand RS 6's will find their way to the United States, which will make it one of the rarest and most desirable Audi sedans of all time. And even though the car wears a couple of clues to its real potential, few casual observers will realize just how fast this extraordinary automobile is. They're in for a shock.

Especially if they happen to be driving a Porsche.


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