Audi revealed the fourth and final model of its “sphere” family of electric concepts, this one dubbed activesphere, designed to cater to those with an outdoorsy/on-the-go lifestyle.
The newest version of the all-electric concept, which was teased in December, takes from the current design trend of coupe-style sedans, but places the body on 22-inch wheels to give it substantial ground clearance. Not only is it a coupe, it can convert to become a pickup truck as the rear becomes an open cargo bed or “active back,” as the brand describes it.
The four-door crossover coupe is designed to handle outdoor gear like skis and snowboards or even a pair of e-bikes. Not only can it carry the equipment, but it also features a powertrain designed to traverse the off-road terrain to get there.
Like its siblings, activesphere focuses on incorporating autonomous driving technology into the vehicle with the steering wheel and pedals allowing the driver to actively control the car, while also offering autonomous driving for a more relaxed time on the road.
“The activesphere is unique. It is a new type of crossover that cleverly combines the elegance of an Audi Sportback, the practicality of a SUV and true offroad capabilities,” said Gael Buzyn, manager of Audi’s design studio in Malibu, California.
With the rise in popularity of off-road vehicles, like the new Porsche 911 Dakar, Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness and even Audi’s on Allroad model, it’s no surprise the sphere family got an offering designed to head out in the great outdoors.
Designers made sure the vehicle was equipped to tackle more than fire roads and well-worn two-tracks.
With its massive wheel arches housing the 22-inch wheels and electronically controlled quattro all-wheel drive, it’s extremely capable. The Audi activesphere’s ground clearance is also variable; ideal for off-road use, it can be increased by 1.5 inches from the basic height of about 8 inches, or lowered by the same amount when driving on-road.
This helps with the center of gravity and aerodynamics when driving fast. The approach angle of the Audi activesphere is 18.9 degrees, the departure angle 28.1 degrees. Not quite Moab ready, but much better than most vehicles out on the trails.
The key to the activesphere is its capability. It’s a luxury crossover one minute and a go-most-anywhere truck the next. The rear window slides are almost flush with the roof while the lower, vertical segment of the rear folds horizontally, this opens up an ample cargo bed — much like the recent Ram Revolution shown at CES — called the active back that features brackets for e-bikes, for example.
The lateral surfaces of the rear, the C-pillars, remain in position to maintain the activesphere’s dynamic silhouette, the company noted, while a motorized bulkhead deploys from behind the rear seats in order to isolate the cabin from the elements.
A ski rack is integrated in the center of the roof, which sits flush and nearly invisible until its needed. At that point, it simply extends out so skis can be safely attached and transported.
Newest family member
The activesphere is follows the urbansphere, grandsphere and skysphere. The four members of the Sphere family present Audi’s vision for the premium mobility of tomorrow. The concept vehicles are united not only by a fascinating design, but also by the electric drive and the design for the possibility of automated driving.
“The sphere concept vehicles show our vision for the premium mobility of the future. We are experiencing a paradigm shift, especially in the interior of our future Audi models,” said Oliver Hoffmann, member of the Board of Management for Technical Development.
“The interior becomes a place where the passengers feel at home and can connect to the world outside at the same time. The most important technical innovation in the Audi activesphere is our adaptation of augmented reality for mobility. Audi dimensions creates the perfect synthesis between the surroundings and digital reality.”
The urbansphere was the most recent offering. Aimed at the Chinese market and its traffic-dense urban environs, it rides on Volkswagen Group’s Premium Platform Electric platform. The urbansphere’s cabin is the largest Audi has ever made. It boasts a 133.9-inch wheelbase and measures 217 inches long, 79 inches wide and 70 inches tall.
The second of the concepts, Audi described the grandsphere as a “private jet for the road.” 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 “lounge on wheels” 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. It also features Level 4 autonomy.
The skysphere concept aims to take the idea of a “convertible” to new extremes.
The long, low roadster’s roof can retract, but that’s just the start. It can even change its wheelbase at the touch of a button. And, when you get tired of putting the skysphere through its paces, the steering wheel and pedals tuck away, transforming the cabin into a luxurious lounge on wheels.
In the case of skysphere, the show car retains classic roadster proportions, Audi officials saying they were strongly influenced by the Horch 835, one of the most celebrated German luxury vehicles of the 1930s. Horch was one of the four brands that eventually became Audi.
The show car uses a single electric motor that punches out 623 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque through the rear wheels. Audi claims that will launch the roughly 4,000-pound skysphere from 0-60 in just 4 seconds.