Audi Off-roader Caught In Net
hese are the first official images of Audi's first-ever SUV - and it looks as though the German manufacturer is inviting buyers to join the Q.
We found the moody, sunset photograph of the newcomer - which will make its public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September - on one of Audi's official websites. However, when we spoke to the firm, at first it said it knew nothing about the picture!
The images clearly show the Q7's look, which is very similar to that of the Pikes Peak concept first seen at the Detroit exhibition in 2003. The overall dimensions are slightly larger, but the distinctive horseshoe grille and slanted headlamps of the prototype remain.
Meanwhile, the bulging wheelarches and neatly squared-off roofline are also reminiscent of the show car. Official details about the newcomer are still strictly limited, with Audi saying only that the Q7 will be a premium SUV to rival the likes of the recently launched Range Rover Sport and the Volvo XC90.
But Ralph Weyler, a member of the sales and marketing board of management at the company, told Auto Express: "You have seen an idea of the car in the Pikes Peak concept. We've released the images because we wanted to give customers the chance to see it, to make them excited and interested."
Sources close to the project have hinted that the all-new Audi will come with a six-seater interior, arranged into three rows of two chairs. The rearmost bench will fold flat into the floor, giving a completely level load bay.
As with the flagship A8, the body of the Q7 will be made from aluminium. However, it won't use a full alloy spaceframe - to keep costs down, the car will share much of its underpinnings with the VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne. This isn't a bad thing, though, as it means the Audi should have exemplary road manners for an SUV, while it also opens up a whole host of engine options. Entry-level versions will most probably use the 3.2-litre V6 unit from the Touareg, while Audi's 4.2-litre V8 is expected to be the most popular petrol choice. Diesel power will come from an entry-level 2.5-litre five-cylinder motor, with 3.0-litre V6, 4.0-litre V8 and top-of-the-range 5.0-litre V10 oil-burning powerplants expected as well.
Our spies have also hinted that a high-performance model could appear later. Badged S7, it will use a detuned version of the 5.0-litre V10 engine fitted to the Lamborghini Gallardo.
Although the Q7 is unlikely to be marketed for its off-road ability, Audi will ensure the newcomer is more than competent in the mucky stuff. It has a heritage of quattro four-wheel-drive technology to live up to, so expect a similar level of mud-plugging ability to the Range Rover Sport, with adjustable air-suspension and a variety of traction control settings as standard.
European sales are expected to start towards the end of this year, with a UK showroom debut pencilled in for spring 2006. Weyler added: "There are big markets for SUVs, so Audi's entry into this class is well timed.
"We want the Q7 to provide the perfect balance between the practicality of an SUV and the driving experience of a saloon car or Audi Avant." Prices are tipped to be similar to those of the Range Rover Sport and flagship Touaregs, giving a starting figure of around £36,000.
A long waiting list is anticipated, with Audi already reporting more than 1,000 enquiries from potential customers. The order books will be opened in the autumn, but buyers should register their interest with dealers now to ensure a place near the head of the Q...