Audi has released details of its first SUV - the Q7 - ahead of its public debut at next month's Frankfurt motor show.

The new model is 5,086 millimetres long on a 3,002mm wheelbase and is 1,983mm wide and 1,737mm tall. Up to seven occupants can be accommodated in three rows of seats and Audi says 28 seat position/load layout permutations are possible.

The seats in the second row are individually adjustable for fore/aft movement and Audi claims the most legroom in the class. Both rear seat rows can be folded flat to provide a load area of 2,035 litres without the seats having to be removed.

If used as a 5-seater the Q7 boasts a load capacity of 775 litres - also claimed as best in the class.

The Q7 will be launched with a choice of two engines: the new 4.2-litre V8 with FSI petrol direct injection develops 257kW (350 bhp) and maximum torque of 440 Newton-metres.

The 3.0 TDI six-cylinder diesel engine has common rail injection and piezo inline injectors. It develops 171kW (233 bhp) and torque of 500 Nm.

The transmission with both engines is a six-speed tiptronic auto.

The Q7 has quattro permanent four-wheel drive with Torsen centre differential with a standard torque split of 40:60 front/rear.

The platform has numerous aluminium components - independent steel-sprung suspension with double wishbones at the front and rear and twin-tube shock absorbers.

The tilted position of the rear spring and shock absorber unit reduces overall height and creates more room at the rear.

18-inch light alloy wheels with 235/60 tyres (eight-cylinder: 255/55) are fitted as standard and all versions can be fitted with optional 19- or 20-inch wheels.

Adaptive air suspension is also optional. This permotes ground clearance to be varied from 180 millimetres to 240 mm in lift mode. The off-road mode, with 205 mm ground clearance and adapted damper control, allows cross-country driving. The loading sill can be lowered to enable heavy objects to be hoisted into the luggage area.

The Q7 has Audi's MMI operating system - first seen in the A8 and A6 - to contro items such as audio/TV, navigation and trip computer and this can optionally be extended in two stages to include a variety of additional functions.

A number of innovative driver assistance systems, introduced for the first time in standard production, are also optionally available: these include side assist with radar technology for lane-changing manoeuvres and an advanced parking system with optical/acoustic guidance and rear-view camera.

The ESP system includes numerous new functions such as hill descent assist. A special off-road mode optimises brake performance and traction on loose surfaces. The trailer stabilisation system reduces the risk of 'fishtailing' by means of targeted brake intervention.

UK dealers will start taking RHD Q7 orders in spring 2006, and deliveries are expected to start in the third quarter of next year.

The basic price for the LHD Q7 3.0 TDI in Germany will be €48,900 ($US60,300; £33,400 approx.).