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2016 Audi Q7: Detroit Auto Show

What Is It?

The 2016 Audi Q7 is finally here, unveiled at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show as the second-generation version of this long-running luxury crossover. How long? The current 2015 Q7 has been in production since the 2007 model year, even though its platform-mates, the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, have long since moved on to second-generation designs.

But here’s the thing: The new Q7 is no longer related to those models. Going forward, Audi’s top-dog crossover will ride on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform, which is designed for cars rather than SUVs. Interestingly, this makes the Q7 a distant relative of the compact Porsche Macan, not to mention the Audi Q5 and its Audi A4 progenitor. Audi has made a decisive move toward carlike dynamics and packaging for the new Q7, leaving the original model’s robust SUV construction in the past.

That’s not to say that the new Q7 lacks robustness. The old Q7 carried a lot of unnecessary weight, because its platform was engineered for serious off-road use in Cayenne and Touareg guise. The Q7 never had any off-road pretensions; it was a 3-row family vehicle, whereas the others were two-row performance SUVs. As such, it was saddled with hundreds of pounds of trail-busting components for no good reason, and that impacted the Q7’s fuel economy and acceleration.

Not surprisingly, the 2016 Audi Q7’s new platform makes it a lot lighter. According to Audi, the new Q7 models will weigh up to 717 pounds less than their predecessors, and that should translate into fuel-economy gains of up to 28 percent. We also expect more carlike handling this time around and more swiftness from the two carryover engines that will initially be offered. It doesn’t hurt that both motors get a power bump, with the TDI diesel V6 creeping up to 272 horsepower (from 240) and the TFSI supercharged V6 now generating 333 hp (formerly a high-end upgrade).

And there’s more: Audi has a third powertrain in the works, a plug-in hybrid setup based on the TDI engine that cranks out 373 hp and a whopping 516 lb-ft of torque. Known as the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro, this model will be the world’s first all-wheel-drive diesel plug-in hybrid, and it’s said to provide up to 35 miles of pure electric driving range. Expect a somewhat delayed debut for the Q7 e-tron, with the existing engines powering the crossover’s first wave of sales.

From the curb, the new Q7 has more of a wagonlike appearance, but it’s still chiseled and taut in all the right places. We’d say it remains a wholly convincing luxury SUV despite the lower stance. Inside, the Q7 boasts Audi’s virtual-cockpit layout, which includes an all-new MMI infotainment system with an available 12.3-inch TFT display, a touchpad user interface and a tablet for rear-seat passengers. Perhaps most notably for families, the Q7’s third-row seat offers an extra inch of headroom and almost an inch of shoulder room, with additional fore/aft travel for the second-row seats that provides more third-row legroom, too. Although cargo capacity hasn’t changed much (the 73.3 cu ft. maximum is only 0.8 cubes ahead of the outgoing model), a power liftgate comes standard. There’s also a foot sensor that allows for hands-free trunk access.

How Much?

Official pricing has not yet been announced as of this writing.

When Can You Get It?

Estimated mid-2016

Add It to Your Shopping List Because…

The previous Q7 may have seemed a little too tall and heavy for its own good, and you want the highest-tech luxury SUV on the block.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X5 The X5 offers more available power if you want it, though its third-row seat is more cramped.

Mercedes-Benz GL-Class The GL is better for big families with its large third row, but it won’t handle as tidily.

Infiniti QX80 If you want a big V8 that throws caution to the wind, the 400-hp QX80 delivers. It’s got distinctive styling, too.

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