It's pretty much impossible to miss this camouflaged SUV hammering around the Nürburgring's Nordschleife loop. It's not the first time we've seen a prototype of the forthcoming Audi Q9 in public, and its size – not to mention that large grille – certainly makes it stand out. However, is this really a Q9? More on that in a bit.
First, let's talk about what we see. It's still wearing the same curious camo wrap seen in previous sightings. In fact, according to the number plate on the front, it's the exact prototype we caught in a series of spy photos at the end of October. Nothing has changed since then, but the video gives us a better perspective on how this sizable SUV likes speed. The driver doesn't seem to push things too hard, but occasional tire squeal in the corners indicates this isn't some Sunday drive. In response, we see minor body roll but otherwise it looks composed, if a bit lackluster. We suspect performance is not the Q9's primary mission.
That could also explain why this test vehicle is extremely quiet. We don't think it's an EV or a hybrid, as we don't see the typical markings required on such vehicles to test at the Nürburgring. However, we also don't see any exhaust outlets, save for one fleeting moment around the 1:03 mark. There appears to be something glinting in the light on the lower left side, but in the spirit of transparency, we still can't say for certain it's an exhaust tip. An ultra-quiet luxury SUV with internal-combustion power is certainly possible, but perhaps regulations regarding hybrid and EV test vehicles have changed?
This brings us back to the question of whether this is actually an Audi Q9. The camouflage wrap reportedly matches what Audi uses for Chinese-market test vehicles. We've also heard the Q9 could ride on the MQB platform, compared to the MLB platform on the Q8. Such a vehicle with MQB bones wouldn't make sense as a Q9, so could this actually be some kind of special China-only offering? We've seen how much China loves large SUVs, and a large, inexpensive Audi with ties to the VW Atlas could make sense there. It's also possible the MQB rumor is wrong, making this a legit Q9 not just for China, but the world.
In either case, we expect answers to come sometime next year when the camouflage is finally removed for a full reveal.