Audi’s fourth-generation A8 may well have been the last new Audi that is substantially bigger than the model it replaces. Sources in Ingolstadt suggest the next-gen Q7, due 2013, will be a smaller, less aggressively styled SUV.
While Mercedes plans to extend the wheelbase of the next GL to make even more room for a full-size third row of seats, Audi is toying with the idea to offer two distinctly different Q7 body styles: an XXL seven-seater for China, the Middle East, and North America and a relatively compact five-seater for Europe and the rest of the world. But as Q7 sales have dropped sharply in the course of 2009, Audi is carefully weighing the options.
According to the Ingolstadt grapevine, the most pragmatic solution may be to restyle the vehicle on the existing matrix and to cut its lifecycle to four years, bringing the Q7′s development cadence back in line with that of Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg. However using the high-strength steel platform would reduce the Q7′s weight by a maximum of 550 pounds, which may not be enough to improved fuel efficiency.
An all-new aluminum space frame architecture could be up to 1100 pounds lighter, but would be significantly more costly to execute initially. Derived from Audi’s passenger car-biased MLB components set, an aluminum space frame would allow Audi to offer a high-end four-cylinder engine in the Q7.