When I first saw the second-generation Audi Q7 at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, I honestly thought the Germans pulled some sort of prank on its buyers by replacing the SUV with a jacked-up wagon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the new Q7 isn’t the significant improvement everyone expected it to be; I simply think it lost the imposing stature its predecessor had. However, I knew the Q7’s new appearance might work well with a high-performance model, which Audi promised it would bring into showrooms as its range-topping SUV. And that moment is seemingly getting closer, as our spy photographers captured what appears to be first Q7 to sport an "S" on its tailgate. Meet (what will soon become) the Audi SQ7!

As the name suggests, the SQ7 is to the Q7 what the SQ5 is to the Q5, and this involves a more potent drivetrain, a more aggressive body kit, and a dash of exclusivity on the inside. Expect Audi’s largest performance SUV yet to cross the pond to the U.S. for the 2016 model year. A European debut is likely to occur by the end of 2015.

Oh, you’re probably wondering what makes this SUV an SQ7. Keep reading to find out more about that.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Audi SQ7.

2016 Audi SQ7 - Spy Shots

2016 Audi SQ7 Caught Testing: Spy Shots Exterior Spyshots
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2016 Audi SQ7 Caught Testing: Spy Shots Exterior Spyshots
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2016 Audi SQ7 Caught Testing: Spy Shots Interior Spyshots
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This Q7 might not look all that special on the outside, but a closer look reveals why it is worthy of an "S" badge. The first hint is noticeable around back, where a quad-exhaust configuration replaces the Q7’s usual layout. And we all know two extra tips usually means a more powerful engine. A second hint lies in the areas around the fog lamps. Normally surrounded by plastic inserts, the ones seen on this mule have been cut out for better cooling. A more powerful engine requires better cooling, right?

What else goes well with a powerful engine? Massive, carbon-ceramic brakes of course, which are less visible, but there behind the wheels. Lastly, and perhaps the most telltale change, the SUV sits a lot closer to the ground. The final version will, of course, sport a more aggressive body kit, but it looks as if we’ll have to wait a few months to see it up close.

As for the interior, look for mild updates, but plenty of goodies exclusive to the SQ7, such as inserts, badges, and revised details. Naturally, two sports seats will replace the standard units.

While I can’t see what’s under the hood, I can tell you that the SQ7 will probably pair a V-6 TDI powerplant with an electric supercharger as it did in the RS5 TDI Concept in 2014. Output ratings are still a mystery, but the combo should crank out in excess of 500 horsepower. A twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 running on gasoline is also possible given most RS-badged Audis still use it.

Read our full review here.

Why it matters

The high-performance SUV Audi has been promising for a few years is finally taking to the streets on its way to becoming a strong competitor for the likes of the BMW X5 M and Porsche Cayenne. This prototype announces the arrival of the most powerful Q7 yet, as well as the most expensive, and a version that could make better use of the SUV’s wagon-like shape.

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