Audi Finally Taking a Swing at the Mercedes GLS and BMW X7 With Q9 Flagship SUV

2026 Audi Q9 21 photos
Photo: Baldauf
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The largest SUV Audi currently makes is the Q7. It is about the same size as the rivaling BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE, but its competitors have even bigger high riders in their portfolio in the shape of the X7 and GLS, respectively. And it is these that the upcoming Q9 targets.
Numerous rumors have spoken of a possible Audi Q9 over the years, yet confirmation has only recently come from a few spy shots. More recently, the model was scooped again, and it appears that besides the normal Q9, our man with the cam has also immortalized the sportier SQ9, as one of the prototypes has four exhaust tips.

Looking instantly recognizable as something that came from the Ingolstadt car manufacturer, the Q9 has a wide and tall grille flanked by split headlamps. The lower air intake is even wider, and further up, we can see a clamshell hood. The taillights look provisional to us, and chances are the final ones will feature a full-width LED light bar.

The company's flagship SUV (technically, it's a crossover, but more on that in a few moments) has a long wheelbase that translates to a spacious cockpit. It should launch with three rows of seats, albeit the third one will probably be suitable for children. We'd look for a free-standing infotainment system and a tablet-like digital gauge cluster, as well as the latest technology and safety features, wrapped in a very premium package that might just offer standard leather upholstery, heated seats, and others.

2026 Audi SQ9
Photo: Baldauf
It has been reported that the Audi Q9 will feature an upgraded version of the MLB platform. Do you know what else uses this construction? The upcoming Audi A5, which will replace the current A4. This is why the model will be a crossover, yet one that might just venture off the lit path with the right tires on its feet. The engine family should comprise mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid assemblies and could include the VW Group's popular 2.0L TDI diesel, as well.

Boasting sportier bumpers, exclusive wheels, a retuned chassis, uprated brakes, and some changes on the inside, the Audi SQ9 is believed to pack a twin-turbocharged V8 gasoline burner under the hood. We have yet to learn whether it will be partially electrified, but it will be the one to go for, especially since eight-bangers are part of a dying breed.

Some think the Q9 is due later this year. Others believe it will launch in 2025 as a 2026 model, so we will just have to wait and see when the four-ring brand decides to put the spotlight on it. There's no reason to believe it won't launch in the New World, where both the BMW X7 and Mercedes GLS are on sale, and it should start at under $90k in the entry-level grade.
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Editor's note: Update February 28, 2024: It appears this might actually be the next-gen Audi Q7 and not the Q9 flagship, but rest assured, the larger crossover is indeed coming to take on the Mercedes GLS and BMW X7.

About the author: Cristian Gnaticov
Cristian Gnaticov profile photo

After a series of unfortunate events put an end to Cristian's dream of entering a custom built & tuned old-school Dacia into a rally competition, he moved on to drive press cars and write for a living. He's worked for several automotive online journals and now he's back at autoevolution after his first tour in the mid-2000s.
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