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2016 Audi Q7 Coming to Detroit Auto Show

Smaller, lighter crossover promises big efficiency gains.

The 2016 Audi Q7 will be smaller and lighter than its predecessor, improving the crossover's fuel efficiency by as much as 26 percent. The all-new Q7, which rides on the Volkswagen Group's MLB flexible architecture, makes its debut at the 2015 Detroit auto show in January before going on sale in summer 2015.

Compared to today's Audi Q7, the new model is 1.5 inch shorter in length and 0.5 inch narrower, though the wheelbase increases by 0.5 inch to 118.2 inches and height rises by 0.1 inch. Despite the smaller outside dimensions, Audi says the new Q7 will be more spacious inside, with a longer and wider passenger compartment thanks to smarter packaging of the car's components. An extra 0.8 inch separates the first and second rows of seats, while headroom increases by 1.6 inch in front and 0.9 inch above the second row.

The 2016 Audi Q7 will be dramatically lighter, too, with the slimmest model weighing a claimed 4,343 pounds. That's an impressive 849-pound drop compared to the lightest U.S.-spec 2015 Q7, and it's due in part to the fact that 41 percent of the new Q7's body is made from aluminum. The crossover's body alone shaves 157 pounds, while the chassis drops 221 pounds and the aluminum doors help cut 52.9 pounds.

Compared to today's model, the 2016 Audi Q7 more closely resembles s station wagon, with strong horizontal lines running along the body to give the impression of a longer, lower design. Out front, Audi's enormous single frame grille dominates and is trimmed in silver, fitting between large black air intakes in the lower fascia and rectangular headlights up top. As on all of Audi's Q crossovers, the rear pillar is thick and angled, while the liftgate itself has an angled rear window and a vertical lower portion. An underbody tray, as well as the roof spoiler and a smaller spoiler beneath the car's rear, help reduce aerodynamic lift and keep drag to a Cd of just 0.32.

Previous reports suggested Audi executives were unhappy with the original look of the new Q7 and forced an "emergency redesign" that resulted in this model.

Modernized interior

The inside of the 2016 Audi Q7 brings the crossover in line with the company's most recent design trends, notably reducing the number of buttons necessary and placing the MMI infotainment screen atop the car's dashboard. Unlike in the 2016 Audi TT, the Q7's instrument cluster has not been totally replaced by a color display, but ahead of the shifter there's a much larger touchpad controller allowing users to write letters, pinch-to-zoom, or scroll through lists. Other new infotainment features include a more intuitive voice recognition system that's said to respond to commands like, "Where can I get gas?" and "I want to talk to Peter." An available 23-speaker "3D" surround-sound system features 1,920 watts of power.

Horizontal cues dominate the dashboard itself, with air vents extending the entire width of the passenger side of the Q7 to provide "draft free" ventilation. A four-zone automatic climate control system is optional. In addition, rear-seat passengers can opt for an Audi tablet that links to the MMI navigation and media systems, and has been specifically tested to be safe in a crash.

Optional safety features include a surround-view 360-degree camera, a self-parking feature, cross-traffic and blind-spot warnings, night vision, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and an automated system to back the 2016 Audi Q7 up to hitch with a trailer. On the Tour package, the adaptive cruise can be paired with Traffic Jam Assistant, which will steer the 2016 Audi Q7 without any user interaction in traffic at speeds up to 37 mph. Later on in the Q7's life, Audi will add to more features: Avoidance Assistance will automatically steer to help the driver avoid a crash, while Turning Assistant will apply the brakes if the driver is about to turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

An optional third row consists of two specially certified child seats , which can be electrically folded into the cargo floor. The 2016 Audi Q7's liftover height is now 1.8 inch lower, and a power liftgate with kick-to-open functionality comes standard.

Multiple engine options

In Europe, the 2016 Audi Q7 will offer a 252-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-four gas engine, a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 rated for 333 hp, and a 272-hp 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 that will also be offered in a more efficient 218-hp configuration. Audi has so far only confirmed that the 2.0-liter mill is coming to the U.S., but it's almost certain that the gasoline and diesel V-6 options will join, too.

An eight-speed automatic with a fuel-saving coasting function is standard, as is Quattro all-wheel drive that can send vary the torque split between 70:30 (front:rear) and 15:85 when grip is lost; the standard split is 40:60. Another chassis update concerns rear-wheel steering, designed to make the 2016 Audi Q7 more maneuverable at low speeds and more stable at high speeds. In addition, both a traditional steel-spring and an air suspension will be offered.

Later, the 2016 Audi Q7 will add a diesel plug-in hybrid. The Q7 e-tron Quattro will be the automaker's first diesel-powered, all-wheel-drive hybrid car, and mates a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 engine and electric motor for total output of 373 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque, while the TDI engine alone makes 258 hp. Audi predicts the equivalent of 138 mpg U.S., and says the battery pack will provide enough charge for the Q7 to drive about 35 miles on electricity alone. Working together, the two systems can rocket the Q7 to 62 mph in 6.0 seconds -- and that acceleration feat can be achieved in 6.1 seconds on electrical power alone.

After its debut in Detroit, the 2016 Audi Q7 goes on sale in Germany in summer 2015. Sales in the U.S. will follow at later date.