Audi has unveiled its first concept vehicle for the sphere electrical vehicle series. Audi Skysphere Concept Car was unveiled at Monterey Car Week in Pebble Beach, California. It gives us a first look at Audi’s next-generation design theme. Developed around the principle of Level 4 autonomy, the Skysphere is a two-door convertible electric car that can drive independently on roads with the required infrastructure.
In spite of being a pure-electric vehicle, the Skysphere is a traditional grand touring machine with a styled front bonnet. The concept was designed to contribute a “classic sense of prestige”, according to Audi’s Malibu design studio director Gael Buzyn. In addition, he said, the electric drivetrain gives us a lot of flexibility. We can do a lot [of different] things, but that wasn’t the focus here.” In designing the Skysphere, the Auto Union merged four companies which, following a merger, formed Horch 853 that served as a key inspiration for the Skysphere’s dimensions and proportions. Due to its variable wheelbase, the concept has two possible driving states: one as a luxury grand tourer and the other as a sports car.
With its extended form, the Skysphere stands 5,190mm tall, sits on large 23-inch wheels, and weighs around 1,800kg. Sport mode reduces the ground clearance by 10mm and shortens the wheelbase to 4,940mm for an engaging driving experience. An extendable section is located in front of the A-pillar to create extra length. The Skysphere’s retro-style dimensions disguise a forward-looking design that previews Audi’s next-generation ‘progressive luxury’ style. The grille retains the single-frame design of Audis. While the surface of the grille is made up of white LEDs, instead of providing cooling air to the engine radiator, it can display moving light sequences, including indicators. A second LED panel runs the length of the rear of the car.
The ‘engine bay’ is where the electric drive components, including the charger and converter, are housed, while the boot accommodates two custom-made golf bags. With short overhangs, the concept features wheels tucked as close to the corners as possible.
Interior design is seen by Audi as one of the crucial factors for the development of its ‘sphere’ concepts in order to showcase the capabilities of autonomous automobiles. When necessary, Audi’s Skysphere offers a more driver-focused interior when pre-programmed but offers grand tourer comfort in autonomous mode as well. Previously, convertibles did not have a feeling of space, said Buzyn.
Art-deco architecture from the 1930s inspired interior design. In autonomous mode, the steering wheel and pedals retract into the dashboard, and the seats are upholstered in sustainably produced microfibre and are designed to be as comfortable as those in the first-class cabin on a plane. Genuine imitation leather and eucalyptus wood interior trim are used.
A futuristic touch-sensitive surface dominates the dashboard, which measures 1415mm wide and 180mm high. The touchscreen is used for all vehicle controls and the infotainment system. In Sport mode, the instrument panel adjusts the controls and screens according to the driver’s preferences.
According to Audi, the Skysphere isn’t based on any particular production vehicle platform, although it may suggest what the Volkswagen Group’s new SSP platform can do. A 624 horsepower electric motor powers the Skysphere’s rear wheels only and is mounted on the axle. It delivers 553lb-ft and can achieve 0-62mph in a claimed 4.0sec.
Batteries are primarily located behind the cabin in order to optimize the centre of gravity, although additional modules are placed in a central tunnel between the seats. It was revealed that Audi’s battery would have a capacity of more than 80kWh, which would allow the vehicle to travel 310 miles on the WLTP cycle. It has two double-wishbone axles at each end, as well as a steering system that allows the driver to easily select different ratios and settings.
A system of three independent air chambers with three independent air springs is used in Skysphere’s adaptive air suspension system, making it a key component of the car’s handling versatility, both during sports and in autonomous driving.
However, despite Audi insistence that the Skysphere concept has no production plans, it claims that such a machine “will become a platform that expands beyond the mere ride in the coming years”. The Volkswagen Group’s SSP architecture is flexible enough to handle a similar GT despite the Skysphere being an official concept.
In September, the Munich motor show will present this concept vehicle, which previews the new Landjet-derived A8. While the new autonomous SUV concept, which will premiere in 2022, is planned to be part of Audi’s new product line-up, the Urban sphere concept is also expected to arrive in production.