Update: ‘Release date’ section updated.
In the U.S., full-size SUVs with three rows, such as the Mercedes GLS and BMW X7, are in high demand. So far, Audi has managed with a three-row seating option in its lower-segment Q7, but it is working on a proper competitor named Audi Q9 to take on the two flagship German SUVs, according to a report from Automotive News filed in 2021.
Here is what we expect from the future three-row Audi SUV, following media reports of the purported Audi Q9. Note that Audi has not confirmed plans for the Q9, and this article is simply a general expectation.
Audi confirms new ‘Q’ and ‘A’ nomenclatures
Audi is changing its nomenclature to clearly differentiate its combustion models from pure-electric ones. The company has started using odd numbers for combustion-engined vehicles, and even numbers on EVs. The names are still alphanumeric, though. Audi started executing the change by renaming the e-tron to Q8 e-tron with the facelift in November 2022.
We are currently restructuring our naming conventions. So, even numbers represent a BEV, uneven numbers represent an internal combustion engine or a PHEV. The start of the renaming has already kicked off. We changed the name of the e-tron to the Q8 e-tron.Markus Duesmann, CEO, Audi (2023 Audi Annual Media Conference on March 16, 2023)
Some feel that the future Audi Q9 could be the renamed next-gen Q7 Sportback, and thus basically the successor to the Q8. However, we think the Q8 successor would be different, and the Q9 is a future three-row Mercedes GLS rival, placed at the top of the Audi line-up.
Compared to the Q7, the Audi Q9’s exterior design should be more aggressive and powerful. Since the launch of the Q8, Audi SUVs have been marked by an octagonal Singleframe grille, slim wedge-shaped headlamps connected to the grille, and narrow light strips connect the rear combination lamps.
Unlike the Q7, which went softer and became more crossover-ish in the second generation, the Q9 should have a strong and imposing character that’s clearly expressive of its sizable dimensions. We expect more upright front and rear fascias, taller and straighter roofline, bigger windows and quarter glass panels that let in plenty of natural light in all three rows row, and 23-inch wheels that, along with notably high ground clearance, announce the SUV’s size and capabilities from a distance. A motorized side step may make entering and exiting the SUV convenient and elegant.
Inside, expect familiarity with inspiration from new electric vehicles like the Q4 e-tron but features arranged in a traditional way. The Q9 is likely to offer three rows of seats in a standard 2+3+2 layout as well as an optional 2+2+2 layout. Audi would have to focus on electrification to reduce emissions and fuel consumption due to the larger dimensions and the load of extra passengers or luggage in the third row.
Audi hasn’t confirmed, but reports say that the Q9 will ride on the same platform as the Q5, Q7, and Q8 – MLB Evo or what Audi recently terms as the PPC (Premium Platform Combustion). The Q9 will likely be Audi’s largest SUV on this base. Rather than offering outright performance and uncompromising luxury like Bentley, Audi will likely concentrate on aspects like space and value.
Audi’s gas-powered Q9, with the U.S. market in mind, should be discernibly longer than the Q7 and measure around 205 inches in length. In addition to adult-sized third-row seats, the Q9 should offer a cavernous cargo area when folding down all the seats behind the first row.
There are no signs that Audi intends to compete against the larger Cadillac Escalade ESV, Lincoln Navigator L, or Jeep Grand Wagoneer L, which belong to the next-higher segment. American automakers dominate this section of the market, which even BMW and Mercedes-Benz aren’t exploring. Additionally, we doubt that the platform of the Q9 would be able to accommodate the dimensions of these American SUVs. Currently, the biggest application of Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo platform is the Bentley Bentayga, which is 208.9 in. long and has a 125.0 in. wheelbase.
As Audi plans to introduce one last new generation of engines by 2026, we expect it to use those in the Q9. They will be the company’s best engines ever made, according to the brand.
Audi’s last internal combustion engine will be the best we’ve ever built.Markus Duesmann, CEO, Audi (Berlin climate conference in June 2021)
Audi could offer 3.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engines with mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid technologies in the Q9. The company could target an EPA-est. electric range of around 40 miles from the plug-in hybrid variant. A 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 gasoline engine with plug-in hybrid technology is also likely to be a part of the powertrain line-up of the Q9. It could be related to the Lamborghini Urus Evo’s plug-in hybrid system, which as per a CAR report dated March 4, 2021, will consist of a Porsche-developed engine internally called ‘LK5.’
With the next-gen Q5 and the revised Q7 expected to be launched in 2024, plus the Q6 e-tron family confirmed to go on sale the same year, we doubt Audi can program the Q9’s world premiere before 2025.
The Audi Q9 will be the brand’s last new model employing an internal combustion engine. The full-size SUV is under development in Ingolstadt, Germany, with a target of introducing it in 2026, as per a report Automotive News published on August 6, 2023. The company is designing it primarily for the U.S. and China. Audi has informed American dealers that the Q9 is coming, but it hasn’t publicly confirmed the future flagship SUV.
The U.S., the second-biggest SUV market after China, will likely be among the first countries to receive the Q9, probably at a starting price of around USD 80,000.
The Audi Q9 could be the four-ringed brand’s biggest and most feature-packed SUV, designed specifically for American families. The stylish XL SUV from Ingolstadt could be the most high-tech and classiest full-size SUV on the market, thus being the perfect luxury vehicle for upper-class segment consumers. Despite our confidence that it’ll be as capable, if not better, than German rivals BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS in most areas, we’ll have to wait and see whether it’s as luxurious as the Range Rover, the segment’s benchmark.
Audi Q9 FAQs
What is the Audi Q9 release date?
The Q9, targeted at the U.S., China, and the Middle East, could debut in 2026.
What will be the Audi Q9 price?
The Q9 could cost around USD 80,000 onwards. It is expected in electrified versions.
Featured Image: TopElectricSUV’s illustration of the Audi Q9.