Audi's new S6 Avant has most of the goodies you want in sport-luxury transport: a 40-valve 4.2L/340-hp V-8 making 310 lb-ft at 3400 rpm, Tiptronic five-speed automatic, quattro IV full-time all-wheel drive, cool Avus-style 17-in. alloy wheels, and 36 cu ft of luggage space. It doesn't have a six-speed stick option and isn't available in sedan form, so it doesn't really compete against the Master of the Universe, Sedan Division, aka BMW M5. But at an estimated, and reasonable, $55,000, the S6 Avant is an ultra-competent sport wagon and fills a niche all its own.

Features include aluminum front and rear subframes and uprights, 30-percent-stiffer springs, shocks with 40-percent-increased compression during damping, and larger-diameter anti-roll bars. The S6 also sits 10 mm lower than the standard A6 Avant.

The 340-horse V-8 launches the S6 easily, and the Tiptronic is one of the best manumatics available. Flick the steering wheel buttons up through its five gears, and listen to the healthy exhaust brraapp and burble. The compliant suspension allows some sway when cornering, but like other Audis, progressive springs rates firm up the car as you press it.

The S6 Avant is perfect if you like its distinctive profile, luxury trappings, and need all-weather handling and room for gear. Especially if you want to get where you're going in a hurry.