The Audi S7 has been spied testing at the Nurburgring for the first time - even though the production Audi A7 won't be unveiled until the Moscow motor show in late August.
The Audi S7 is differentiated from the standard model by a more aggressive front bumper, bigger air intakes, bigger wheels and a quad exhaust.
It is not clear how much power the S7 will have, although unconfirmed reports suggest it will be either a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 or 4.2-litre V8 with around 500bhp.
UK sales of the Audi A7 will start in March next year and a V10-powered RS variant will also be part of the range.
The A7 is the first model based on Audi’s new mid-size platform, which will underpin next year’s seventh-generation A6. The 4950mm-long A7 has been conceived to provide stiff competition to the new Mercedes-Benz CLS, also set to be revealed at the Paris show, and a production version of BMW’s recently unveiled Gran Coupe concept due in 2012.
Topping the line-up will be an RS7 Sportback performance model running a 580bhp version of Audi’s naturally aspirated 5.2-litre V10 engine in combination with the firm’s new seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Other models in the line-up will use a range of V6, V8 and V10 petrol and diesel engines.
Among the engines expected to account for the majority of UK sales are Audi’s new 330bhp supercharged 3.0-litre V6 direct injection petrol and 250bhp 3.0-litre V6 common-rail diesel.
Previewed by the Sportback concept shown at last year’s Detroit show, the production version of the A7 Sportback is clothed in a sleek four-door fastback body similar in style to the A5 Sportback.
Some design cues hark back to the Audi 100 S coupe made between 1970 and 1976.
“The overall look is less formal than that of the A8,” says Audi design boss Stefan Sielaff, who suggests that the new car will appeal to an increasing number of luxury car buyers who place good looks ahead of overall functionality.
Inside, the A7 Sportback receives a unique dashboard, previewed by that gracing the earlier concept car, and nominal seating for four. A three-person rear bench will be offered as an option.