Audi unveiled the fourth and final member of its Sphere-branded series of concept cars, and the design study is unlike anything we’ve seen before. Called ActiveSphere, it’s an electric luxury sedan with a generous amount of ground clearance that can turn into a pickup truck.
Created at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu, California, the ActiveSphere stretches approximately 196 inches long, 81 inches wide, and 63 inches tall, figures that make it about as long as the current-generation A6, 7 inches wider, and 6 inches taller. It wears a rounded exterior design characterized by thin headlights, a transparent piece of trim where you’d expect to find a grille, and a fastback-like silhouette.
The sleek look hides a cool party trick. Instead of fitting the ActiveSphere with a hatch or a trunk lid, Audi developed a two-piece opening that consists of a glass panel that slides up and a tailgate that pivots down. This system gives the concept a small cargo box capable of carrying the kind of muddy gear you wouldn’t want to put in a standard luxury car, like a mountain bike. There’s also a ski rack integrated into the roof.
Inside, the ActiveSphere features a minimalist design and a long list of tech features. There’s space for four passengers on individual seats, and the person sitting in what we usually call the driver’s seat doesn’t necessarily have to drive — the concept can drive itself in the right conditions so the steering wheel, the dashboard, and the pedals tuck themselves out of sight when they’re not needed. Mixed-reality headsets give new meaning to the term “infotainment system” by integrating virtual content into the real world. For example, when driving off the beaten path the system is capable of projecting a high-resolution 3D topographical map over the landscape that’s in front of the car.
Audi built the ActiveSphere concept on the modular PPE architecture it’s developing jointly with sister company Porsche. Power comes from a pair of electric motors (one per axle) that draw electricity from a 100-kilowatt-hours lithium-ion battery pack to zap the four wheels with about 435 horsepower and 531 pound-feet of torque. The drivetrain is compatible with 800-kilowatt fast-charging technology, and Audi claims charging the battery pack from 5% to 80% takes under 25 minutes. It pegs the concept’s maximum driving range at around 375 miles.
What’s next? Your guess is as good as ours. Audi notes that it will unveil its first PPE-based electric model before the end of 2023, and an unverified report claims that the GrandSphere concept presented in 2021 will morph into the next-generation A8 in the coming years. Beyond that, it’s too early to tell whether the ActiveSphere concept will reach production, or if it will remain at the concept stage.
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