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The company's new S line of high-end vehicles is a step forward for Audi's bid to become the world's top luxury car brand.


By Doron Levin, contributor

FORTUNE -- The U.S. arrival of Audi's new S6, S7 and S8 high-performance sedans is one more step in the automotive brand's bid for recognition as No. 1 in the luxury category, an ambition that would have seemed a stretch a few years ago in light of competition from BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

Thing is, no one is scoffing anymore. Audi is advancing its case with the introduction of technologically sophisticated alternatives to its German competitors and to premium models developed by Japanese makers Toyota (TM) and Nissan (NSANY). In fast-growing global markets like China Audi's A4 already is an entry-level luxury car of choice for consumers who wish to differentiate from those who once routinely bought BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class vehicles. (For even more, check out our slideshow of 7 totally outrageous sports cars.)

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