Instagram user ari4sto7 has captured a prototype that looks like a full-size Audi SUV, and thus possibly, an Audi Q9. Autocar’s spy pictures from March 2021 suggest that this isn’t the first time Audi is testing its large SUV in Europe.
The Audi Q9 has been churning in the rumor mill for about eight years. Spy media indicates that Audi is finally pressing the button for the model that goes above the Q8.
There is still no clarity on what branding the SUV would take on. According to Autohome‘s source familiar with the confidential developments in China, this large SUV might be an internal combustion-engined Audi Q6. However, the insider has confirmed that a model called the Audi Q9 is also in the pipeline.
Audi Q9 design & interior
The Audi Q9 in the spy media is covered entirely in camouflage, but we get a fair idea of the size and proportions. The rumored flagship Audi SUV would be the biggest Audi vehicle to be made. Still, we doubt it’d be able to match up to the gargantuan American full-size SUVs Cadillac Escalade, the Lincoln Navigator, or the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, at the tape, or in sheer road presence.
The Audi Q9 appears to have an octagonal Singleframe grille, which is the calling card of the upper-class Audi SUVs since the launch of the Q8. The Singleframe grille, connected to the wedge-shaped headlamps, has vertical embellishers. Tall side air inlets would highlight the confident and imposing look of the large SUV that is all about road presence.
On the sides, the Audi Q9 has squarish fenders and a greenhouse reminiscent of the first-gen Audi Q7. The roofline looks flatter than that of the first-gen Audi Q7 and somewhat similar to that of the second-gen Audi Q7, which should allow ample headroom. At the rear, the windscreen tapers down gently.
Inside, expect an air of familiarity with inspiration arriving from new EVs like the Q4 e-tron, but in the traditional layout. Three rows of seats in a standard 2+3+2 layout and an optional 2+2+2 layout are likely to be offered in the Audi Q9. The larger dimensions and the heavier load of extra passengers in the third-row would require Audi to focus strongly on electrification to keep the emissions and fuel consumption in check.
Audi Q9 specifications
The Audi Q9 could be about 205 inches in length and thus roughly 5 inches longer than the Audi Q7. That would make it comparable to the Mercedes GLS and the BMW X7.
Audi hasn’t confirmed, but reports say that the Q9 will ride on the same platform as the Q5, Q7, and Q8 – MLB Evo. The Q9 is likely to be the largest SUV on the MLB Evo platform, larger than even the Bentley Bentayga (201.8 in.). Audi will likely focus more on space and value-for-money rather than offering performance and luxury like Bentley.
Audi could employ its 2.0- and 3.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engines in the Q9, as per a report from chejiahao.autohome.com.cn. There’s no speak of electrification in the Chinese report. Still, we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the plug-in hybrid systems of the Q7 55 TFSI e and Q7 60 TFSI with a 3.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine eventually making it to the Q9. The company could target an electric range of around 50 miles from the plug-in hybrid.
German media reports claim that the Audi Q9 would arrive in 2022 as the long-awaited four-ringed Mercedes GLS rival and compete with variants of the BMW X7 and the Range Rover.
Autocar’s report says that there’s no plan to offer the Audi Q9 in the UK, indicating limited availability worldwide compared to the Q7 or Q8 models. In the U.S., potentially the Q9’s second-biggest market after China, the launch could be programmed in late 2022, with prices starting at about $90,000. For reference, the Range Rover PHEV costs $97,000 onwards.
In China, for China
The large SUV, be it Q6 Hybrid or Q9, won’t be the first Audi designed exclusively for China. The company has a long history of catering to the specific needs of Chinese customers which began with the release of an A6 long wheelbase in 1999.
In the recent past, Audi introduced a China-only long-wheelbase version of the Q2 called Q2 L, and then a pure electric variant called Q2 L e-tron in 2019. This year, it stretched the A7’s wheelbase and converted the body style into a sedan to arrive at the China-only A7L. In 2022, it will introduce an exclusive electric SUV called the Audi Q5 e-tron, a luxury market cousin of the China-only VW ID.6. Given the sales volume China promises in the future, market-specific variants and models should continue as the central part of the local strategy.
Featured Image Source: Instagram