Augmented reality, shapeshifting bodywork, and doors like those on the McLaren Senna all feature.
Audi has revealed the activesphere concept, the last in its series of "Sphere" concept vehicles.
The skysphere was a roadster, the grandsphere was a sedan, and the urbansphere was a sort of minivan. With that in mind, it makes sense for the final concept to be a tall luxury vehicle, but this is unlike any crossover we've seen before, with the ability to transform from a four-door coupe to a pickup at the touch of a button. In addition, the concept is ready for an autonomous future and features innovative mixed-reality technology.
Gael Buzyn, the manager of Audi's design studio in Malibu where this was penned, explains the idea behind this car: "The activesphere is unique. It is a new type of crossover that cleverly combines the elegance of an Audi Sportback, the practicality of [an] SUV, and true off-road capabilities."
The concept is underpinned by the Premium Platform Electric (PPE), which Audi says will feature on the first production models before the end of this year.
The 800-volt architecture with its 100 kWh battery promises a range north of 370 miles and the ability to recharge from 5-80% in under 25 minutes. In addition, 186 miles of range can be recouped in just 10 minutes, but driving is almost inconsequential in this vehicle, as the interior was designed before anything else. Like many other self-driving concepts, the activesphere is designed to relax and entertain occupants through technology and clever use of space.
But that doesn't mean designers didn't add flourishes to the exterior, where you'll find 'Audi eye' headlights that offer a different signature depending on the mode the car is in, while the daytime running lights and the taillights employ ultra-fine micro-LED technology "for even greater precision and contrast."
Speaking of space, this has a length of 196 inches, a width of 81.5 inches, a height of 63 inches, and a wheelbase of 116.9 inches, giving the concept a body (painted in Arctic Teal) that is roughly the same size as that of the Audi A6. And like a McLaren Senna, the doors feature glass in the lower door areas. More glass can be found in the transparent roof, while the frunk features a transparent Singleframe grille that can be peered through from within the cabin. All of this light adds to the feeling of a spacious cabin.
With electric motors on both axles, the all-electric concept produces 435 horsepower and 531 lb-ft of torque. Adaptive dampers feature in the adaptive suspension system, which can raise ground clearance from 8.2 inches to 9.7 inches. The approach angle is rated at 18.9 degrees, while the departure angle is 28.1 degrees, helped in part by 22-inch wheels. In off-road mode, the side skirts deploy studded elements to make the vehicle look more rugged.
At the rear, the Sportback style-rear window can slide almost flush with the vehicle's roof, while the vertical section of the tailgate folds horizontally to create a cargo bed with brackets for adventure items like e-bikes. The C-pillars do not move, but a motorized bulkhead deploys aft of the rear seats to isolate the cabin from the open bed. In addition, a ski rack has been almost invisibly integrated into the middle of the roof.
With this unique design, the activesphere blends the style of a coupe shape with the practicality of a pickup, effectively combining the benefits of multiple vehicles in one exciting creation.
Like the grandsphere concept, there is no B-pillar between the counteropening suicide doors, further enhancing the feeling of spaciousness. Four individual seats with integrated inner armrests connect to the center console in Lava Red, with Black, Anthracite, and Dark Gray also featured in the cabin. Since there is no need for a driveshaft in the EV, the center console acts as an onboard storage unit and heated or cooled bar with a transparent cover. In addition, a console on the roof houses four augmented reality headsets for the mixed reality system. More on this shortly.
In autonomous mode, the steering wheel, pedals, and even the dashboard disappear, adding extra legroom for front occupants. When this happens, occupants can see out the front grille element.
Those headsets we mentioned above superimpose digital elements over a view of the real world, with the system controlled using eye tracking and gestures. For example, when a user looks at their nearest speaker, the controls for media and volume appear. Similarly, the same happens for air vent controls. In addition, Audi foresees that this tech can project high-resolution 3D topography onto the real landscape, adding navigation info. This is useful when off-road, but the system could also display traffic info like jams, slippery roads, or other hazards.
Regardless, each occupant gets access to their own individual content thanks to these headsets. Each user can also control the temperature and air supply, access the web, and more. The headsets even have potential benefits outside the vehicle, such as to help navigate a bike trail or ski slope.
Car information like battery range and the nearest charging stations can also be accessed from outside the vehicle, while weather info, tire pressures, and other valuable data can be communicated to each user.
Audi says that the information your eyes lock onto will automatically expand to provide more detail, and when in the cabin, controls for the climate system or the infotainment setup will only appear when you look at the physical elements. This promises a clutter-free view that intends to aid relaxation.
As impressive as the cabin and its mixed reality system, there are other elements we may yet see on production cars before self-driving becomes a reality. Among these are the moveable elements in the wheels that open for maximum ventilation when off-road and close when on-road for optimal aerodynamics.
It's difficult to say if this concept previews a specific vehicle, but don't write off the idea of this foreshadowing the next R8. Seriously. The last Audi TT was prefaced by an off-road concept, and the R8 itself was originally presented as a mid-engine off-roader called the Nanuk Quattro Concept.
Whatever the future holds, it certainly won't be dull.
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