Audi has made it clear it’s migrating from internal combustion engines to all-electric drivetrains — but that’s only the beginning of the brand’s transformation, as the Sky Sphere concept is meant to demonstrate.
For the moment, the German automaker is offering just a hint of what’s in store, but in a teaser video, design chief Marc Lichte suggests that this concept will function as both a “real sports car” and as an “autonomous lounge.”
Curiously, to get a better idea of what that means they suggest we look to Audi’s past, in fact, back to a time before four brands came together to form Audi. More specifically, they point to the Horch 853A. It was one of the most heralded cars produced by that Audi predecessor back in the 1930s.
Looking back for today’s inspiration
Plenty of automakers like to gaze upon their past glories. Audi has a particularly strong heritage to draw from, especially when it comes to the designs of the long-gone Horch brand. (It also provided the modern company’s name. “Horch,” in German, means “to hear.” In Latin, “Audi” means the same thing.)
The new concept might harken back to the elegance of “golden age” products, but the Sky Sphere and the Horch 835A have key differences. The original sedan needed plenty of space up front to squeeze in its inline 8-cylinder engine. The new concept adopts the long, low dimensions of the Horch. But like the rest of the battery-electric vehicles Audi has coming, the Sky Sphere mounts its battery pack and motors underneath the load floor using a skateboard-style platform.
And that means some of the space normally devoted to an engine can be recaptured for an up-front frunk, or to expand the size of the passenger compartment. Add Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities and Audi could take things a step further. It could provide swivel seats, for example, so front and backseat passengers would be able to face one another.
Put the driver back in control, meanwhile, and the car’s low center of gravity and high-performance electric motors would give Audi a way to tune it for seriously sporty manners.
Even more design options
For now, we have little to go on besides a handful of details Audi has revealed:
- Up front, conventional headlamps have been replaced by a cluster of high-output LEDs. The approach would allow Audi to direct light precisely where needed — and darken out individual elements to avoid blinding oncoming drivers;
- The lighting layout is intriguing because it appears to replace a conventional grille. Since battery-electric vehicles need far less airflow than a model with a gas or diesel engine, there’s more opportunity to get creative with the face of a vehicle like the Sky Sphere;
- The concept’s emphasis on creative lighting continues around back, with more individual LED elements and lit Audi logos.
The Sky Sphere is part of a trio of all-electric concepts Audi is using to showcase its future, all-electric design direction. It previously offered some teasers highlighting the Grand Sphere sedan. And a model it has dubbed the Urban Sphere is expected in 2022. We’ll get a more complete look at the Sky Sphere Concept during a virtual presentation from Audi’s advanced design studio in California on Aug. 11.