Just a week after its latest batch of 'teasers', Audi has issued its first fully undisguised shots of the Q7, its first foray into the lucrative premium SUV sector. Sales won’t start in the UK until late summer 2006, around six months behind mainland Europe, and expect prices to kick off from around £37,000.
Audi’s very late arrival into the premium off-roader market was delayed by the decision not to join the VW Touareg/Porsche programme, a move that has now been reversed with the Q7 riding on a modified Touareg chassis. The wheelbase is lengthened by 167mm, which is enough to bolt in a third row of seats, an advantage over its biggest rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
And the Q7 is a monster. The huge seven-seater is 419mm longer than a BMW X5, and even dwarfs a Land Rover Discovery, measuring 251mm longer than the Disco at 5086mm.The second and third rows of seats fold flat into the floor, creating a maximum of 2035 litres of storage space, while with only the third row folded away, Audi claims a class-leading 775 litres.
Two engines will be available from launch: a 345bhp V8 petrol and a 3.0-litre TDI diesel. The petrol is the 4.2-litre unit found in the A6 and A8 range, although the addition of FSI increases the power by 10bhp, while the diesel is the 230bhp unit from the A8 that offers up 369lb ft of torque, exactly the same as the impressive BMW X5 3.0d. Both are mated to the tiptronic six-speed automatic gearbox, with drive permanently channelled to all four wheels. The A8's 3.2 FSI petrol and stonking 4.2-litre V8 turbodiesel are also expected to follow after launch.
Although the Q7 is not kitted out with the kind of off-roading technology that makes a Land Rover Discovery so capable in the rough, and so heavy, the Audi’s ESP system does include hill descent assist, adjusting brake performance to account for loose surfaces. The ESP also has a trailer stabilisation system that cuts in to stop fishtailing. A rear-view camera for reverse parking will also be available as an option.
Joining the Q7 in 2007 will be its smaller brother, the Q5. With prices tipped to start at around £28,000, the Q5 should rival the likes of the BMW X3 and the upcoming new Land Rover Freelander and Mercedes-Benz X-class. The Q5 should build upon the A4 Avant’s versatility, with a larger body offering more upright seating and a more spacious boot. Engine options should include naturally aspirated 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 3.2-litre V6 and 4.2-litre V8 petrol choices, as well as diesel 2.0-litre pumpe duse variants, and more powerful versions of existing 2.7- and 3.0-litre V6 diesels.