After a week with the car, we think the recipients of those vehicles will likely be quite happy with their purchases. The A6 has plenty of zip. The 4.2-liter 335-hp V8 in our review vehicle is coupled to a sixspeed Tiptronic automatic tranny. In tests, the Audi has covered the quarter mile in under 15 sec and gone from 0 to 60 mph in a little over 6 sec.

Of course, with this kind of performance the car is not exactly a fuel miser. It gets 17 mpg in cities and 23 mpg on highways. Though the Quattro system delivers power to all four wheels and gives the car a sure-footed feel, the Audi nevertheless carries electronic stability and brake assist to help on slippery roads.

The car's newly redesigned body style, and particularly its pronounced front grill, has gotten a lot of comments in the automotive press. Audi wanted a design that would stand out and it certainly does that. We'd call it distinctive and refined but still with a sporty continence. Some say the car strikes them as having an athletic look, thanks to its body accent lines and a slight taper going into the tail end. There are also some interesting touches such as LED tail lights and fog lamps. And the bixenon adaptive headlights point themselves around corners as you turn. These were standard on the big V8 we tested but are an option on models with smaller engines.

The Audi has firm seats and a ride to match. The front suspension is a four-link design. Audi calls the rear suspension a trapezoidal link design because of the suspension geometry. Regardless of what they're called, the chassis connections give the car a sportier road experience than you might expect. Though the A6 competes with several styles of Mercedes and BMWs, it doesn't float over bumps like a traditional luxury car. The car struts its stuff through corners. It stays flat, feels solid, and invites drivers to take hairpin turns more aggressively than they have a right to.

The passenger compartment is decked out with nice leather and brushed aluminum trim. It looks the part of a classy ride. Headroom is ample even for taller passengers. And rear-seat occupants get a decent amount of legroom. The car carries a multimedia display that handles navigation as well as settings for the audio system. The only knock on these sophisticated electronics is that you'll climb a learning curve getting them to work. We also thought it was interesting that the glove-box handle and parking brake release both have been replaced by electronic pushbuttons.

There are numerous other refinements on the A6 that befit a high-end vehicle. Some of the more notable ones include Bluetooth phone jacks, power sunroof, 12-way power front seats, side-curtain air bags, and heated outside rearview mirrors.

Our review car carried other high-end options. They included voice-recognition controls ($350), an advanced key ($750) which lets you unlock a door by just raising the handle and start or turn off the ignition by pushing a button on the console. A cold-weather package ($1,050) included heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, headlight washers, and a ski sack. A Bose premium audio package with satellite radio ran another $1,500. And 18-in. alloy wheels at $750 topped things off. With a destination charge the total came in at $56,920. In that some of the BMWs and Mercedes with which the car competes cost even more, this price tag could be considered a bargain. But there is a less-expensive version of the A6 available with a 3.2-liter V6 for those who are pinching their pennies.