Back in 2021, spy shots of a large-ish German SUV started going around, the intel from spy shooters being that this was an early prototype of a future Audi Q9. Over the fall of that year, more spy shots showed the proto evolving out of Volkswagen Atlas bodywork into a proper Audi design. Audi is reported to have told its U.S. dealers in 2022 to expect the Q9 at some point, but prototypes disappeared from view until earlier this month. Now, new spy shots and a report out of Australia prove an Audi Q9 is on the way. When Australian outlet CarSales asked Audi Australia director Jeff Mannering about the possibility of fielding an offering above the Q7, Mannering said, "Yes of course. ... Are we looking at it? From an Australian point of view, probably not in isolation but I think globally, they [Audi HQ] are looking at different segments and what’s successful in some of the bigger markets." As for timing, the expectation is sometime in the next two years, just wire ahead of the cutoff for Audi's switch to EV-only product launches.
The three-row SUV is almost certain to ride on the same MLB Evo platform that underpins the Q7 and Q8, plus VW Group products like the VW Touareg, Porsche Cayenne, and Bentley Bentayga. Unless Audi decides to do something unseen in the segment, it makes more sense to think of the Q9 as a longer, roomier Q8 than Q7; the Q9's upright roof and square-ish back end will prevent it from being confused for the slimmer Q7. The GLS and X7 are both about 203 inches long, the Q8 about 197 inches, the Q7 a touch over 199 inches.
If all of this turns into a retail Q9, it's a wonder Audi waited so long. The brand's held the trademark on the name for more than 10 years, and the competitors — the Mercedes-Benz GLS and BMW X7 — are undoubtedly successful here. Last year, the GLS had its lowest sales tally in the U.S. since 2009, moving just 15,340 units; from 2011 to 2021, that number didn't fall below 24,000. The newer BMW X7 is even more popular, itself suffering an off year last year in the U.S. with 22,795 units sold, compared to 30,705 units moved in 2022. The profit margins at this end of the market lend outsized weight to those numbers in the accounting department.
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