Save the date: September 2 will see a completely new type of Audi unveiled.
Last month, Audi teased three revolutionary new concepts: the Sky Sphere, the Grand Sphere, and the Urban Sphere. Each of these is meant to preview the future of Audi design, specifically with autonomous driving as the designs' core focus. We've already seen the Sky Sphere, with this model being revealed as a 624-horsepower roadster with shapeshifting abilities, and if that's how these 'sphere' concepts are being introduced, we expect loads more spectacular technology. Fortunately, it appears that we won't have long to wait before we get details on the next concept, which will be the Grand Sphere. We already knew this would debut at the IAA motor show in Munich, but Autocar has now confirmed this, and confirmed with Audi's head of design, Marc Lichte, that this will essentially be a concept version of Project Artemis.
This car will, like the other sphere concepts, showcase what is possible with the implementation of Level 4 autonomous driving. Level 4 means unsupervised self-driving in certain scenarios, while Level 5 means full autonomy. That kind of tech may still be some way off, but Audi intends to reveal the production version of the car in 2024 as the luxury flagship in its range, superseding the A8 sedan. It is expected to go on sale early in 2025 and, according to Audi design boss Marc Lichte, will be "a very concrete teaser of the Artemis project". It will showcase "a new revolution in design" that focuses on making the cabin something altogether new, rather than just a place to sit.
Lichte rightly acknowledges that a new approach is needed if Audi wants to steal Mercedes-Benz's thunder. "The S-Class has been a lot more successful than our A8, so we have to come up with something completely new to attack the S-Class. This is the result." Thus, the Project Artemis production car that will succeed the A8 and rival Mercedes-EQ's new EQS limo may launch under the name Landjet, a reference to the first-class luxury of a private jet.
It will be the first VW Group vehicle to use the new SSP architecture and one of the first to use the Group's unified-cell battery tech. A9 was considered as a name, but Audi needs people to know that this is something all-new, something revolutionary, something special. If all goes according to plan, we can expect around 373 miles of range (on the WLTP cycle) and charging rates of up to 350kW.
So what can we expect besides a phenomenal electric platform? Well, since the concept was designed from the inside out, it has seats that can recline up to 60 degrees, more than any other production car, a large center console in the first row with a drinks bar, a retractable steering wheel, and a clean dashboard with no physical buttons or screens. Instead, Audi is "working with projection mapping."
Lichte explains: "We have some clever ideas on how we will integrate the displays in driving position. There's a very nice application, and if you need a screen for sat- nav or watching a movie [when the car is] in autonomous mode, we will project all the content onto this application."
We're also told that this car will remain a pleasure to drive when you're in control, but unlike an S-Class where most of the luxury is in the back, a car with no driver can make the front row feel like first class and the second row feel like a lounge. It will be massive, but sleek too, with a low and wide windshield and some familiar Audi design traits like the Singleframe grille shape and 'muscle lines'. The concept is said to highlight the "breathtaking proportions" of the final car, so it sounds like this concept will look as large as a small shed but be sexy enough to arrive at a swanky New York hotel like the St. Regis in.
We can't wait to see what this all looks like on September 2.