You’ve got to admit, if Audi follows this design direction for its more dynamic electric model range in the future, it’s going to be a hit. The skysphere is part steampunk Batmobile, part futuristic lightshow with the ability to drive autonomously and encompassing a digital ecosystem which supposedly offers occupants experiences that are “no longer just about driving”.
Audi will release the next two concepts in the series – the ‘grandsphere’ and ‘urbansphere’ – in due course.
One of those experiences that stands out (and is very much conceptual rather than likely to ever hit the road) is the variable wheelbase. At its shortest, the skysphere is a 4.94-metre-long roadster which uses tech such as rear wheel steering to remain agile, despite its size. At the touch of a button, the car can be transformed into a long-distance, autonomous GT by increasing the wheelbase by 250mm – extending the car to 5.19m to maximise interior roominess.
Aside from the extending wheelbase gimmick, the skysphere is a proper looker which takes inspiration from the Horch 853 Roadster – a similarly huge two-door convertible roadster from the 1930s and previous Concours d'Elegance winner at Pebble Beach in 2009. Despite a lack of internal combustion, Audi has retained the long bonnet, under which is housed the electronic drive components and actuators for the adaptive wheelbase. At the rear, that arbitrary measurement of two golf bags is used to denote boot space.
LED lighting is used heavily to help define the exterior visuals of the skysphere. Dynamic lighting at both the front and rear is used, with the rear LEDs ‘scattered like rubies’ across the vertical rear surface. Light sequences, reflections and shadow effects are used during on/off sequences, and when the wheelbase is adjusted.
The cabin is where the ‘sphere’ element of the name comes in by placing the occupants at the centre and surrounding them with tech and materials. Level 4 autonomous driving would be utilised, making true hands-off driving possible and allowing elements like the steering wheel and pedals to be stowed, increasing space.
Using the inverse of autonomous mode creates an ergonomic cockpit which is designed to heighten driving engagement. Expansive screens house vehicle information and infotainment, which can be used for leisure in autonomous mode and driving displays when the driver takes over. With the roof down, the head rests are shaped to minimise turbulence, whilst the sound system has been designed to provide concert hall audio even at speed.
A rear-wheel drive powertrain with a single 624bhp, 553lb-ft motor provides ample performance in the skysphere, which weighs in at around 1800kg – a remarkable figure for the size. Zero to 62mph takes four seconds. A battery of around 80kWh, situated behind the cabin and distributed to aid dynamics, give a range of around 310 miles on the WLTP cycle in the car’s more economical GT Mode.
An adjustable chassis offers 10mm of height adjustment, variable ratio steering, air suspension and rear-wheel steering to aid both the car’s turning circle and its handling.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the USA and can get to the Monterey Car Week at Pebble Beach, the Audi skysphere will be on display throughout the show. We’re hopeful it’ll come to the IAA at Munich in September so a European audience gets a look, too.
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