Audi skysphere concept is the name of the electric-powered, two-door convertible whose lines lead directly to the Audi design of tomorrow. With it, the brand is illustrating its vision for the progressive luxury segment of the future, in which the interior becomes an interactive space and the vehicle a platform for captivating experiences. This is being made possible thanks to autonomous driving, a revolutionary redesign of the interior, and a seamless digital ecosystem.
The Audi skysphere concept shows how the brand is redefining luxury in the future – it’s no longer just about driving.
To give passengers the maximum amount of freedom, the Audi skysphere concept was designed for two different driving experiences: a grand touring experience and a sports experience. This makes use of a spectacular technical detail – the variable wheelbase. Electric motors and a sophisticated mechanism with body and frame components that slide into one another make it possible to vary the wheelbase itself and the exterior length of the car by 250 millimeters. At the same time, the vehicle’s ground clearance is adjusted by 10 millimeters to enhance comfort and driving dynamics.
With the touch of button, the driver can take advantage of their freedom and choose their own driving experience– either they pilot their 4.94-meter-long e-roadster themselves in “Sports” mode with a reduced wheelbase, while the rear-wheel steering ensures that the vehicle remains extremely agile despite its dimensions. Or they can choose to be chauffeured around in a 5.19-meter GT in the autonomous “Grand Touring” driving mode while enjoying the sky and the scenery, maximum legroom, and the services offered by a seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem.
In this mode, the steering wheel and pedals move into an invisible area; the feeling of space in the concept car opens up completely new realms of possibility for such a sporty convertible. Meanwhile, the Audi skysphere automatically keeps an eye on the road and traffic with its sensor system and drives the occupants safely to their destination.
The drive system: 465 kW of power
“New technologies like electrification, digitalization, and autonomous driving gave us the opportunity to create an experience that goes way beyond the one that typical roadsters offer today,” said design project manager Gael Buzyn.
An electric motor positioned on the powered rear axle is responsible for delivering power to the wheels of the Audi skysphere. A total of 465 kilowatts of power and 750 Newton meters of torque have an easy time with the roadster, which only weighs around 1,800 kilograms. The weight distribution of around 60 percent on the powered rear axle results in ample traction and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just four seconds, if required.
The Audi skysphere’s battery modules are primarily positioned behind the cabin – an ideal configuration for the vehicle’s center of gravity and agility. The battery’s capacity is expected to be more than 80 kWh, giving the car a range of more than 500km according to the WLTP standard, at least in the economical GT mode.
The chassis: rear-wheel steering and adaptive air suspension
The vehicle features double wishbone axles in the front and the rear. The upper and lower wishbones are forged or cast from aluminum. Steering takes place via a steer-by-wire system that controls both the front and the rear wheels. Because the system is not mechanically connected to the front axle, the driver can select different steering ratios and steering settings – all at the touch of a button. This allows the steering to be adjusted from extremely direct to comfortable, but also from high self-aligning forces to minimal self-aligning forces, for example when parking. The rear-axle steering and adaptive wheelbase also contribute to the car’s small turning radius.
The Audi skysphere’s active suspension plays a key role in the versatility of the car’s handling characteristics. When simply coasting along, the individual wheels are selectively raised or lowered to compensate for unevenness and undulations in the road surface – the result of a symbiosis between the navigation system’s digital predictions and the active chassis’ sophisticated control and actuation systems. Mounted on aerodynamically styled 23-inch alloy rims, the 285/30 tires strike a perfect balance between suitability for long-distance trips thanks to minimal rolling resistance and a sporty, active driving style with high longitudinal and lateral acceleration.
The exterior: reverence without retro
When it comes to their footprint – 5.23 meters in length versus 5.19; a width of 1.85 versus 2.00 meters – it is easy to see the similarity between the legendary Horch 853 convertible and the Audi skysphere. A striking difference, on the other hand, can be found in their height – the legendary Horch, with its iconic design, towered up to 1.77 meters depending on the body shape, while its autonomous descendant, the Audi skysphere, ducks down to the road in Sport mode at 1.23 meters flat, with an optimised centre of gravity and aerodynamics. The concept car pays its respects to the classic model without merely remaining a retro imitation.
After all, apart from its dimensions, it’s the lines that make a real difference. With its wide curved and flared wheel arches typical of the brand, the skysphere emphasises the wide track – a visible indication of its dynamic talents. Viewed from the side, the proportions are impressive with a long hood and – especially at the front – a short overhang. The surfaces of the wheel arches and front hood are organically curved. The rear end was developed in a wind tunnel and combines elements of a speedster and a shooting brake with large glass surfaces in a traditional streamlined design. Two overnight bags designed specifically for the Audi skysphere find space under the glass, and are held in place with straps that are stretched in a crosswise pattern.
Upon changing the wheelbase and thus the operating mode from GT to Sport, the light signature also changes and sends a clear indication of the changed character of the Audi skysphere concept, particularly in the area around the Singleframe. There’s no doubt that the Audi skysphere concept has two personalities – a GT and a luxury sports car. The key differences, however, can only be enjoyed in the interior, because here, behind the rear-hinged and wide-opening doors, the Audi skysphere offers highly contrasting experiences.
The interior: two spheres of experience in one
When it comes to the three upcoming concept cars Audi skysphere, Audi grandsphere, and Audi urbansphere, the brand is placing the space that surrounds the passengers (“sphere”) and which becomes an experience for them – the interior – at the centre of its designs. This is because all three vehicles are designed for level 4 autonomous driving – meaning that in certain defined road and traffic situations, the driver can delegate complete responsibility to the car and no longer has to intervene.
As a result, control elements such as the steering wheel and pedals can be swiveled into an invisible position and thereby completely removed from the interior. And passengers, including the one in the front left seat, can enjoy a new form of freedom – the freedom to relax in the open air, enjoy the scenery and the wind, or interact with the Internet and the world thanks to the connection with the digital ecosystem in the Audi skysphere.
Free of controls, the interior appears as a light, spacious environment, inspired in many areas by the Art Deco universe. Should the Audi skysphere concept be used in driver-operated mode, then the interior transforms into an ergonomically perfect driving machine cockpit. Together with the chassis and body, the instrument panel and the monitor panel on the center console also move to the rear. The driver finds all the controls, including the steering wheel and pedals, in the position that best suits them.
Large touch monitor surfaces – 1415 mm wide, 180 mm high – on the dashboard and in the upper area of the center console are used to operate the vehicle and infotainment systems. In Grand Touring mode, this can be used to display content from the Internet, video conferences, or streamed movies. Small touch panels in the doors are used to operate the air conditioning.
The vehicle experience: luxury without limits
Audi skysphere, Audi grandsphere, and, coming in 2022, Audi urbansphere are the three concept cars that the brand with the four rings is using to showcase its vision of progressive luxury. In the process, Audi is creating a vehicle experience that goes far beyond the purpose of merely spending time in a car to get from point A to point B, and even far beyond the driving experience itself.
These concept cars feature a new design that ultimately reimagines the interior, the passenger compartment, as the center of the vehicle and no longer subordinates the passenger experience to the requirements of the technology. This is reflected in the variable layout of the interior, the disappearance of the controls, and the sheer expanse of the cabin. In Grand Touring mode, this not only allows both passengers to enjoy a smooth and pleasant journey, but also combines it with new service offerings. These can be used to access a variety of service options related to the current trip – such as designing a spectacular scenic route, as well as restaurant or hotel options.
Customised infotainment options are also available, such as linking the on-board streaming service to music and video providers used at home. And in a further step, Audi also aims to provide personalised and exclusive options for users of its luxury cars in the future – such as concerts, cultural events, or even sporting events that are only available upon special invitation. In this way, a vehicle like the Audi skysphere concept will become a platform for experiences that expand horizons beyond the mere ride in just a few years.
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