Audi appears to be finally preparing a rival for the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class.

A prototype for an Audi full-size SUV, which may be called the Q9, has been spotted undergoing cold-weather testing.

Rumors of a potential Q9 have circulated for years and Audi has already filed trademarks for the Q9 name. More recently, Audi Australia executive Jeff Mannering hinted strongly at the possibility of a Q9 in an interview with Car Sales published on Jan. 9. Audi's U.S. dealers were also told a few years ago to expect a full-size SUV around 2025, which suggests the Q9 will likely arrive as a 2026 model.

The prototype in our spy shots features the same split headlights and grille shape seen on recent Audi prototypes for upcoming SUVs such as the next-generation Q5 and new Q6 E-Tron electric vehicle.

2026 Audi Q9 spy shots - Photo credit: Baldauf

2026 Audi Q9 spy shots - Photo credit: Baldauf

There's no clear shot of the interior but inside there should be three rows supporting seven seats.

The open grille and visible exhaust tip point to the prototype packing an internal-combustion engine, likely in a hybrid configuration. This would fit with Audi calling the vehicle the Q9, as the automaker's latest naming strategy calls for EVs to use an even number in their names and everything else to use an odd number.

Eventually, Audi will switch to selling EVs exclusively. The automaker has already hinted that it will launch its last model with a gas engine as soon as 2026.

Audi may be looking to expand into more than just the full-size SUV segment. There are rumors Audi plans to launch a rugged SUV to challenge the Land Rover Defender and Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Audi may also be preparing to expand into the minivan segment with an EV based on the Urbansphere concept shown in 2022. The concept, which was designed with the Chinese market in mind, spanned a massive 217 inches, or 17 inches longer than the current Q7 midsize SUV.