Audi shares its future vision as it unveils, The Skysphere concept.
Updated: Aug 14, 2021
A new family of concept vehicles are being developed and unveiled, the first of which is a spectacular roadster, the Audi skysphere concept. The car is an electric-powered, two-door convertible whose lines lead directly to the Audi design of tomorrow. With it, the brand is illustrating its vision for the progressive luxury segment of the future. Audi says the interior becomes an interactive space, whilst the vehicle is a platform for captivating experiences. In addition, the concept features autonomous driving, a revolutionary redesign of the interior, and a seamless digital ecosystem. Audi aims to demonstrate how the brand would redefine luxury for the future and point out that mobility is about driving but how all occupants experience the vehicle.
The brand says to offer passengers maximum freedom, the skysphere concept features two different driving experiences: a grand touring experience and a sports experience. This makes use of a spectacular technical detail – the variable wheelbase. Electric motors and a sophisticated mechanism with body and frame components that slide into one another make it possible to vary the wheelbase itself and the exterior length of the car by 250 millimetres. In addition, the vehicle’s ground clearance is adjustable by 10 millimeters, intending to enhance comfort and driving dynamics.
With the touch of button, the driver can take advantage of their freedom and choose their own driving experience, either they pilot their 4.94-meter-long e-roadster themselves in “Sports” mode with a reduced wheelbase. At the same time, the rear-wheel steering ensures that the vehicle remains extremely agile despite its dimensions. Or they can choose to be chauffeured around in a 5.19-meter GT in the autonomous “Grand Touring” driving mode while enjoying the sky and the scenery, maximum legroom, and the services offered by a seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem.
In this mode, the steering wheel and pedals move into an invisible area; the feeling of space in the concept car opens up completely new realms of possibility for such a sporty convertible. Meanwhile, the Audi skysphere automatically monitors the road and traffic with its sensor system and drives the occupants safely to their destination.
Similar to how the interior design offers a new, contemporary interpretation of luxury, digitization and the ecosystem open up unprecedented levels of freedom and worlds of experience for the vehicle’s passengers. The vehicle also takes care of everyday tasks that go beyond the ride itself. For example, the autonomous Audi skysphere concept picks up its passengers with information about their current destination and independently handles parking and charging.
The Audi skysphere concept will make its public debut on August 13, 2021, as part of Monterey Car Week. The vehicle’s unveiling in California is taking place more or less on its home turf. The concept car was conceived and designed at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu, just a stone’s throw away from the Pacific Coast Highway. This legendary coastal road connects the suburbs of Los Angeles with northern California. Studio manager Gael Buzyn and his team are the creative minds behind the project. A legendary classic model from the company’s own history – the Horch 853 roadster – served as the inspiration for the new ground-breaking model.
The Audi skysphere, features electric drive components between the front axle and the windshield, such as the charger and the DC/DC converter, plus the actuators and electronic and mechanical components for the adaptive wheelbase. It also features a spacious trunk filled with two golf bags specially designed for the concept car.
“New technologies like electrification, digitalization, and autonomous driving gave us the opportunity to create an experience that goes way beyond the one that typical roadsters offer today,” said design project manager Gael Buzyn.
An electric motor positioned on the powered rear axle is responsible for delivering power to the wheels of the Audi skysphere. A total of 465 kilowatts of power and 750 Newton meters of torque have an easy time with the roadster, which only weighs around 1,800 kilograms. Moreover, the weight distribution of approximately 60 percent on the powered rear axle results in ample traction and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just four seconds, if required.
The Audi skysphere’s battery modules are primarily positioned behind the cabin – ideal for the vehicle’s centre of gravity and agility. Further modules can be found between the seats in the centre tunnel of the skysphere interior – another position chosen in favour of vehicle dynamics. The battery’s capacity is expected to be more than 80 kWh, giving the car a range of more than 500 kilometres according to the WLTP standard, at least in the economical GT mode.
The vehicle features double-wishbone axles in the front and the rear. The upper and lower wishbones are forged or cast from aluminium. Steering takes place via a steer-by-wire system that controls both the front and the rear wheels. The driver can select different steering ratios and steering settings – all at the touch of a button. This allows the steering to be adjusted from extremely direct to comfortable and from high self-aligning forces to minimal self-aligning forces, for example, when parking. The rear-axle steering and adaptive wheelbase also contribute to the car’s small turning radius.
A long-established Audi chassis technology ensures that the suspension delivers the necessary level of versatility – the latest evolutionary stage of Audi’s adaptive air suspension has been implemented in the concept car and features three independent air chambers to provide a comfortable base suspension. Individual chambers can be deactivated for a more sporty ride with fast acceleration. The result is that the characteristic curve of the spring becomes more progressive, reducing roll and pitch to a minimum. In addition, lowering the body by 10 mm reduces aerodynamic drag – particularly relevant when driving long distances.
The Audi skysphere’s active suspension plays a key role in the versatility of the car’s handling characteristics. When simply coasting along, the individual wheels are selectively raised or lowered to compensate for unevenness and undulations in the road surface – the result of a symbiosis between the navigation system’s digital predictions and the active chassis’ sophisticated control and actuation systems. Mounted on aerodynamically styled 23-inch alloy rims, the 285/30 tires strike a perfect balance between suitability for long-distance trips thanks to minimal rolling resistance and a sporty, active driving style with high longitudinal and lateral acceleration.
Audi says the skysphere, ducks down to the road in Sport mode at 1.23 meters flat, with an optimized centre of gravity and aerodynamics. With its wide curved and flared wheel arches, the skysphere emphasizes the wide track, indicating its dynamic talents. The proportions are impressive, with a long hood and a short overhang. The surfaces of the wheel arches and front hood are organically curved. The rear end was developed in a wind tunnel and combines elements of a speedster and a shooting brake with large glass surfaces in a traditional streamlined design.
Although no longer serving as a radiator grill, the front end clearly features the brand’s typical Singleframe and the three-dimensionally designed, illuminated emblem with the four rings. In addition, the entire Singleframe and the adjacent surfaces on the sides are designed with white LED elements to act as a stage for visual effects literally – both functional effects and moving welcome sequences when the vehicle is opened and closed.
Gentle dimming and a structured, rhythmically pulsating light produce an elegant effect. The daytime running lights in the side front sections, in turn, give the lighting units a resolute, focused “gaze.” If the wheelbase is changed, the LEDs in the front and rear display a specially composed dynamic sequence.
The rear end is also dominated by a digitally controlled LED surface that extends across the vehicle's entire width. Countless red LEDs are scattered like rubies across the vertical rear surface. Reflections create dynamic lighting and shadow effects when the lighting units are switched on and off.
Upon changing the wheelbase and thus the operating mode from GT to Sport, the light signature also changes and sends a clear indication of the changed character of the Audi skysphere concept, particularly in the area around the Singleframe.
A characteristic feature of the side view are the rocker panels, which seem to protrude into the rear wheel arch – a necessary feature when varying the wheelbase actually pushes it backwards. The rocker panel is attached to the car's front end, and as it moves, the panel also slides to the rear under the fixed door. In the process, the wheelbase is reduced from the standard size of an A8 L to the significantly more compact size of the curve-compatible Audi RS 5 – 25 centimeters make all the difference. And not just technically, but also visually and, above all, in terms of the driving experience.
The brand will use Audi skysphere, Audi grandsphere, and Audi urbansphere are the three concept cars to showcase its vision of progressive luxury. In the process, Audi is creating a vehicle experience that goes far beyond the purpose of merely spending time in a car to get from point A to point B, and even far beyond the driving experience itself.
These concept cars feature a new design that ultimately reimagines the interior, the passenger compartment, as the center of the vehicle and no longer subordinates the passenger experience to the requirements of the technology. In Grand Touring mode, this allows both passengers to enjoy a smooth and pleasant journey and combines it with new service offerings.
Customized infotainment options are also available, such as linking the on-board streaming service to music and video providers used at home. And in a further step, Audi also aims to provide personalized and exclusive options for users of its luxury cars in the future – such as concerts, cultural events, or even sporting events that are only available upon special invitation. Audi believes in this way, a vehicle like the Audi skysphere concept will become a platform for experiences that expand horizons beyond the mere ride in just a few years.