Audi’s second-generation Q7 SUV is tipped to debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show in January before sailing into showrooms next spring, as a 2016 model. Today we have a new set of spy shots of a prototype, and they’re the most revealing yet.

Although still camouflaged, the protective cladding seen on previous prototypes is now gone, leaving us with the SUV’s true shape. At the front, the headlights and grille look similar to the units on the 2016 TT sports car. The flanks, meanwhile, get some crisper character lines similar to those of the 2015 A8, and at the rear sit a set of square-shaped exhaust tips.

Audi was originally due to launch its new Q7 at the end of last year but a late change in its design meant the vehicle’s release date needed to be pushed back. Another reason for the tardiness (the current model is now into its ninth year) is the fact that the new Q7 will be the first Volkswagen Group model to ride on the automaker's next-generation MLB Evo platform, specifically the SUV version of the platform. The platform is an evolution of Audi's existing MLB structure but is lighter thanks to multi-material construction.

2016 Audi Q7 spy shots

2016 Audi Q7 spy shots

The platform will also be capable of adopting alternative drivetrains (the new Q7 has been confirmed to be getting an e-tron plug-in hybrid option), and it will eventually underpin the rest of the Volkswagen Group’s large SUV models including the new Bentley SUV as well as the third-generation Volkswagen Touareg and Porsche Cayenne.

Thanks to lightweight materials such as aluminum and even some carbon fiber in the construction of the mostly-steel vehicle, engineers should be able to shed close to 650 pounds compared to the curb weight of the current Q7, which tips the scales at more than 5,300 pounds in its lightest form.

In the powertrain department, the U.S. market should have access to 3.0- and 4.0-liter TFSI units and a 3.0-liter TDI. As mentioned, a plug-in hybrid option will be available for the first time. In the U.S., this will be a gasoline-electric drivetrain but in other markets Audi may offer an even more frugal diesel-electric setup. We will also see a sporty 'SQ7' launched for the first time; some of the earlier prototypes had a set of quad-exhaust tips. The SQ7 is tipped to receive a high-performance diesel engine complete with an electrically-driven turbocharger.

Stay tuned for the reveal of the 2016 Audi Q7 in the coming months.


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