2011 Audi A7 Sportback – Click above for high-res image gallery

Autoblog is driving the stunning new Audi A7 Sportback at its international media launch this week in Sardinia, and the scuttlebutt around the hotel bar is that a hotter performance variant, the S7, will make its debut at the Paris Motor Show in the coming weeks.

With garden-variety U.S. A7 five-door powered by the latest evolution of Audi's supercharged 3.0-liter TFSI six-cylinder engine backed by a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic, it will be interesting to see what the higher-performance S7 brings to the party. As is often the way with such things, Audi representatives here on the Mediterranean island are stopping just short of confirming the debut altogether, and they certainly aren't telling us what will lurk under in the engine bay of the all-wheel drive hatchback.

Like other German automakers, Audi has pledged to back down from the cylinder-count escalation wars that have marked the last decade of its performance products, so we certainly aren't expecting a further derivation of the Lamborghini-sourced 5.2-liter V10 engine found in the current S6. The company has also been veering away from its excellent 4.2-liter FSI engine as seen in the R8 and S5 coupe, so it's possible that this engine won't make it into the S7 as well. Sister brand Bentley has already confirmed that the 2011 Continental GT will be available with a V8 engine for the first time, and it's broadly suspected that the new engine will be a direct-injected 4.0-liter turbo, and an Audi-fied version of that powerplant is expected to filter down throughout the S6/S7/S8 range.

Even though North American A7s will funnel their 296 horsepower exclusively through a paddle-shift eight-speed automatic, the model range is available with a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch cogswapper in European markets, and it's likely that Audi would save this more sports-oriented gearbox for the higher-performance S7. A six-speed manual is also a possibility.

Will the sporty S7 slantback make it into our showrooms? Again, Audi of America reps won't confirm it, but they are clearly vying to receive the car, and with only one powertrain confirmed for the A7 bodystyle in our market, it would make sense that a second powertrain package like that of the S7 would join the stable. As the U.S. A7 will carry a 2012 designation and won't be available until late spring, don't look for the S7 to hit U.S. dealers any time soon.

As you'll likely remember, Audi USA has been aggressively lobbying its German counterparts for more performance models as of late, having only recently confirmed the white-hot RS5 coupe for the States. The RS5 won't show until 2012, sadly, but still on the table is the importation of the TT RS, and a decision on that model is likely to be handed down within the next few days. Further, you may recall that Audi of America actually went so far as to create an online petition on its Facebook page asking brand fans to urge for its importation, and it even tempted members of the U.S. media ('Hi!') with local test drives in California.

While we're all waiting for further word on the S7 and TT RS, there's at least a new high-res gallery of the A7 Sportback to keep us entertained. Check it out below.


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