Audi Skysphere wants to be best of both worlds
Audi is bringing somewhat of a peculiarity to Monterey car week. Their concept car Skysphere, a modern interpretation of the swooping grand tourer lines of the old but infamed Horch 853, is several cars in one.
Take that literally. Actuated by electric motors and a telescopic nose structure, this sports car can actually be redimensioned. As such, it has a longer wheelbase in autonomous mode, comparable to an A8, but it can be shortened by 9,8 inches when the driver wants to be in full control. Then the car isn’t longer than a RS 5.
According to the designers, the transformation process also accounts for the interior, which is a subtle homage to Art Deco. The steering wheel, pedals, and gear lever can be fully retracted, while the dash around the driver can move backward to create a lounge room.
You have to bear in mind that the Skysphere is all set for autonomous driving Level 4, which is considered fully autonomous, with the driver requesting control as he or she pleases. It’s still under development, technologically and legislatively.
Altering the inside of the car is made possible through by-wire technology. There’s no mechanical connection between the steering wheel and the car, and the same applies to the pedals. Audi is quite specific about the details and figures of the Skysphere, which was conceived in their design studio in Malibu.
Obviously, the driveline is fully electric. Underneath this sleek grand tourer is a battery pack of 80 kWh. Most of its cells are located in the back, but 30% sit between the passengers, good for a weight distribution of 40:60. The electric motor drives the rear tires and can dump 623 hp and 750 Nm. The range is expected to reach 600 kilometers.
Like the looks and the low center of gravity point out: this car wants to be driven when its owner is not commuting. Therefore, the Skysphere can reach 100 km/h in 4,0 seconds and is supplemented with rear-wheel steering for agile reactions.
Audi talks about active architecture. The driver can not only personalize the steering feedback to taste. Each wheel is independently controlled by the chassis.
Two more ‘Spheres’
In GT mode, the Skysphere has a closed roof. But transform it into Sport mode, and it folds away, while active aerodynamics in the front and rear are then functional. They help to guide the airflow, creating more downforce. Needless to say that the Skysphere is a future vision, paving the way for Audi’s design for tomorrow’s cars.
In that light, Audi intends to build a concept trilogy around the ‘Sphere’ name. The Skysphere breaks the ice but will be followed by the Grandsphere later this year and the Urbansphere in 2022. Every single one of them will be centered around a flexible interior created with Level 4 autonomous driving in mind.
It’s all about the choice of enjoying the drive or relaxing while doing so, according to Audi.