The latest Audi concept is nod to a classic design with the latest technology that literally transforms between two driving modes.
The Audi Skysphere concept made its public debut at Monterey Car Week on August 13 at the Pebble Beach golf course, and it seems to have lived up to its goal of ‘progressive luxury.’ This 3,968-pound, electric-powered roadster is a two-door convertible with an interior and body shape that literally morphs, depending on its driving mode.
Let’s jump right into the specifics of the design!
Wow! That’s my immediate reaction. The Skysphere is Batman meets Tron: Legacy. This EV is contemporary and futuristic at the same time. It’s even more impressive when you see what it can do.
The idea for this concept car was created at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu, California. Inspired by the Horch 853 roadster, it started with a pencil and sketchpad. Borrowing some of the profile from the Horch 853, the dimensions are similar as well. The Horch was 5.20 meters (or 17 feet) in length, while the Skysphere is 5.23 meters (or 17.1 feet).
After the initial sketch, designers pulled in computers to make 3D models. They then checked those models using virtual reality goggles.
To achieve luxury and sportiness, the designers essentially created two cars in one: a grand touring car with long wheelbase, that is driven autonomously, and a sports car with a short wheelbase, focusing on driving dynamics.
That switch is made with the push of a button. That’s right, the car literally morphs as it’s driving! The steering wheel elevates from underneath the dash and the pedals appear from underneath the foot rest. In sport mode, the wheelbase decreases by just under 10 inches. The vehicle’s ground clearance is also adjusted, but only by 0.4 inches.
All of this change impacts the driving characteristics, allowing the GT mode to offer a smoother ride, while the Sports mode has an optimized center of gravity and the aerodynamics needed for an active driving style. This adaptive wheelbase makes for a smaller turning radius.
A steer-by-wire system controls the front and rear wheels, allowing the driver to select different steering ratios and settings, ranging from very direct to comfortable. The rear-wheel steering helps maintain the car’s agility, despite the dimensions.
Double wishbone axles, forged or cast from aluminum, are located in the front and rear of the Skysphere. Meanwhile, three independent air chambers provide the base suspension. Each chamber can be deactivated for faster acceleration and a sportier ride. Like I said: two cars in one.
Let’s talk a little bit more about that autonomous system, shall we?
The Audi Skysphere is designed for level 4 autonomous driving. That means the driver can let the car completely handle the driving in certain road and traffic situations. It’s why the steering wheel and pedals can swivel into an out-of-the-way position, completely removed from the interior.
The idea is that the driver can then, too, enjoy the open air, the scenic views, and the company of the other passengers. The Audi Skysphere concept can also pick up its passengers with provided geographic information and then independently handle parking and charging. If it works as well as they planned it to, this could be something you see more of in future Audi vehicles.
There are a lot of parts to talk about when it comes to this concept. We can’t not talk about the rear-hinged doors that open at a wide angle. I’m not sure they are any more or less practical than a regular-hinged door, but it adds to the look of the vehicle.
Then there are the lights. The grill is loaded LEDs. The sensors in the car detect whether it’s being driven in GT or Sports mode, changing the color depending on the mode. A similar light show can be seen from the rear of the car as well. Those lights can dim and pulsate as well.
The rear was developed in a wind tunnel. There’s a little bit of streamlined speedster from the back.
How about those aerodynamic hubcaps on the 23-inch wheels? They definitely stand out in a crowd! The metallic of the hubcaps goes well with the glossy black on the body.
The long hood, flared wheel arches, low body, and wide track all add to the futuristic look of this vehicle.
The Audi Skysphere distributes a total of 623 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque. It uses an electric motor, positioned on the powered rear axle, to deliver power to the wheels. The battery modules are mostly located behind the cabin, but other modules are found between the seats. Its capacity is 107 horsepower and a range of 310 miles.
To vary the wheelbase, the Skysphere uses electric motors, a sophisticated mechanism with body and frame components that slide into one another.
Between the front axle and windshield, it’s mostly electric drive components like the charger and the DC/DC converter, plus the actuators and electronic and mechanical components for the adaptive wheelbase.
Audi describes the Skysphere as a stylish lounge on wheels, with two ergonomically situated seats.. It features eco-friendly microfiber, vegan leather, and sustainably-harvested eucalyptus wood.
The feeling of a relaxing, cheerful experience is heightened with the lightened interior of what looks to be a mix of gray and seafoam tints. The seats look comfortable, seemingly conforming to the contours of the human body. The Audi designers liken it to flying in first class. They haven’t figured out how to make up for the absence of the flight attendant just yet.
The interior, packed with technology, becomes an interactive space where you can take photos and videos from a system your dash. Since there is an autonomous feature, Audi wants to provide a full-on experience for the driver. They offer the ability to display content from the Internet, stream movies, and link their on-board streaming service to music providers. All of that is controlled by the large dashboard touch monitor surfaces, measuring four feet wide by seven inches tall. The infotainment system also pinpoints your location and offers invites to nearby exclusive sporting, musical, or cultural events. Audi wants to become an experiences platform in that way.
I’m not sure how Audi can top this. It’s literally a transformer! Granted, this car won’t turn into a human-friendly alien from outer space, but it’s the next best thing. This is just the first member of a new family of concept vehicles Audi plans to debut, though. The Grandsphere and Urbansphere are also on the horizon, completing the trilogy of the transformative Audi vehicles.
Is this the way of the future? It’s hard to say. So many factors determine whether or not something becomes an industry staple. There’s no doubt it is forward-looking. If they can make concepts like this affordable for the general public, then I’m sure there’s a large part of that population that would be willing to at least give it a try.