Though it's been previewed earlier in the year, the 2011 Audi A7 made its formal debut at the 2010 Paris Auto Show with the trendy slope-back style pioneered by Mercedes-Benz, and adapted heartily by Porsche.

On the A7, the hatchback, four-door-coupe stance works much better than on the Porsche Panamera--as if it were developed without some rear-seat headroom diktat. The proportions are sleek, and seating room is about what you'd find in the old Benz CLS-Class--which coincidentally showed up in its own newly refined form at the Paris show, across the Expo hall from Audi.

Inside, the show car on display wore gorgeous striped wood and came fitted with custom luggage, embossed with the A7 logo--a perfect fit for the somewhat shrunked storage space.

In America, the A7 arrives late this year, powered by Audi's supercharged, 300-horsepower V-6. A 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds is claimed. A base V-6 edition seems unlikely, but there's every reason to suspect a 350-horsepower S7 is in the pipeline.

Front- and all-wheel-drive models will be offered. The front-drivers will deliver power through an automatic transmission, while the quattro versions will have a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and the ability to send torque to individual rear wheels for improved cornering.

Lightweight aluminum panels have been used to keep the A7's weight down, and electrohydraulic power steering is in place to help fuel economy. An air suspension offers different ride-control modes, but it's an option.

The A7 will adopt some of Audi's latest technology features, such as the improved MMI infotainment controller. A head-up display may be offered in the U.S., as could wireless Internet connectivity. A Bose audio system will be standard, while Audi's renowned Bang & Olufsen system is on the order sheet.

The 2011 Audi A7 goes on sale in the U.S. later this year.


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