The new Grandsphere is the second of three futuristic concept vehicles Audi is introducing as a way to examine the massive transformation it sees coming as automakers combine cutting edge technology with more traditional luxury features.
The all-electric, fully autonomous Audi Grandsphere can be seen as a four-wheeled luxury jet or, if you prefer, a “first class lounge” on wheels. While the Audi concept is part of a long history of fantasy-in-chrome show cars, the automaker contends it shouldn’t be dismissed outright.
“The technologies and design features assembled in it are expected to turn up again in future Audi series,” the automaker said in a statement released ahead of next week’s Munich Motor Show where the show car will be officially unveiled. “The Audi Grandsphere concept illustrates the brand’s claim that it is becoming a trendsetter at the top of the automotive industry for technological transformation and completely new, holistic mobility offerings.”
Second of three
From a design perspective, the Grandsphere is a bit less radical of a departure than the earlier Skysphere which had the ability to stretch its length by nearly a foot, transforming itself from a sporty grand tourer into a mobile living room. The Grandsphere measures 17.6 feet, nose-to-tail, and vaguely resembles a stretched version of Audi’s current A7 line.
The technology built into the Audi Grandsphere falls roughly into three distinct categories. To start with, the show vehicle uses an all-electric drivetrain pairing twin motors — one on each axle — to produce 711 horsepower and 686 pound-feet of torque. According to Audi, that would permit a launch from 0-100 kmh, or 62 mph, in about 4.2 seconds.
Range is 750 kilometers, or 466 miles, using a 120 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. The system operates at 800 volts and can draw up to 270 kW from a Level 3 quick charger, letting it go from a 5 to 80% state-of-charge in just 25 minutes. In 10 minutes, it would yield another 300 km, or about 186 miles.
“Its range and charging speed can keep pace with those of combustion engines, making it the perfect universal car for everyday needs,” Audi claims.
Driving on its own
The Gransphere, meanwhile, features Level 4 autonomy. That’s not quite go-anywhere, anytime capability but could allow a driver to effectively hand off control on most roads and under most weather conditions.
When that were to happen, the concept could be transformed into a mobile lounge, with business jet roominess and seats that could recline or even swivel.
“In level 4 driving, the steering wheel and pedals disappear and the front area of the cabin becomes actual free space in all its breadth, with a perfect view through the large front and side windows, as well as maximum possibilities for movement,” Audi explained.
And this is where the third level of technology comes into play, the interior becoming a showcase of smart functions.
Sitting back and enjoying the ride
“The driver and passenger positions are automatically detected and an array of personal comfort features — such as the climate control settings and the seats — are adjusted for the individual seats,” noted the Audi statement. “At the same time, the infotainment system accesses the passengers’ most recently used services and seamlessly resumes them inside the car. For instance, a video that a passenger was streaming on a tablet is automatically played back over the display surface in the Audi Grandsphere.”
Numerous surfaces, in fact, double as video displays. And while it’s not quite up to Star Trek tech, there’s even what Audi calls a “holoride” system using VR, or virtual reality, glasses stored in pockets on the doors.
There’s actually a fourth level of technology built into Grandsphere, an active suspension system that uses sensors to not only respond to road surfaces but also predict how to respond before the concept hits a bump or pothole.
“That makes it possible to actively control the state of the chassis and therefore significantly reduce pitching and plunging when accelerating or braking,” the automaker said. “Thanks to the front camera, which recognizes unevenness, the adjustments happen predictively. The navigation system’s topographical data are also used to integrate curve radii, gradients, and inclines into the system’s projection.”
While Audi says the Grandsphere is a concept vehicle, it contends it will serve to influence future models it is working on.
Next up is the Audi Urbansphere. Set to debut sometime in 2022, that concept will show the sort of design and technologies the automaker believes will find a place in future products targeted for application in the crowded cities of tomorrow.