Audi looks to be going after the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS with its largest SUV model yet, which is likely to take the Q9 name when it hits dealerships next year.
When Audi launched the Q8 coupé-SUV in 2018, then-CEO Robert Stadler hinted to Autocar that a larger model – likely called the Q9 – was on the cards. “The customers will tell us what they want in the future,” he said. “Time will tell.” It appears the company has now gauged sufficient demand for such a model and is preparing it for an imminent unveiling.
Spotted winter testing in production-ready guise, the Q9 is wearing a camouflage wrap that Audi traditionally uses for China-specific models, suggesting that it could be geared specifically towards that market. Autocar understands there are no immediate plans to offer the model in the UK, but further details could be made public at the Shanghai motor show next month.
The car will be positioned as a Range Rover rival in the sub-£120k price bracket, rather than as a top-rung luxury offering priced to compete with its Bentley Bentayga relative. To that end, while a six-seat, three-row layout will potentially be offered, the Q9 looks to allow for seven seats as standard, given its lengthy rear window and upright tailgate.
Otherwise, the Q9 will almost certainly follow the slightly smaller Q8 in its interior design, with the firm’s latest MMI infotainment software, predominantly touch-sensitive controls and upholstered in a choice of premium materials.
The exterior styling, too, looks to take cues from existing Audi models, despite the heavy camouflage. The front end is dominated by an expansive version of Audi’s Singleframe grille, which will house a sizeable lidar sensor, and the rear end design looks to be modelled on that of the Q7, with a subtle spoiler over the rear screen, slim brake-lights and a chunky lower bumper.
At the side, however, the Q9 bears more of a resemblance to the Volkswagen Atlas (the largest model to use the Volkswagen Group’s MLB SUV platform), due to its lengthy wheelbase, short overhangs and chunky black protective wheel arch trim.
Sharing its underpinnings with the Atlas would mean the Q9 would be available with a choice of two petrol engines: a 238bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder and a 3.6-litre VR6 with 280bhp.
Volkswagen previously considered bringing the Atlas to Europe but conceded that it would likely need a diesel option to succeed in the market. A plug-in hybrid powertrain, as offered by all Audi SUVs apart from the compact Q2, would also make sense.