It’s a roadgoing lounge… it’s a movie theater… it’s a Level 4 autonomous car! Yes, the newGrandsphere concept is many things, yet it still comes across as more than the sum of its parts. This rakish sedan is the in Audi’s “sphere” concept series and it just made its world debut on Thursday ahead of the Munich Auto Show in Germany.
Joining theas well as the upcoming design study that’s due to be unveiled next year, this all-electric luxury sedan signals where the Audi wants to go in the not-too-distant future. Even though it’s dressed in some pretty futuristic bodywork, the Grandshpere’s styling still looks practical and restrained enough to actually make it into production. With long proportions, an elegant and clean front end and a curving roofline that terminates in a breathtaking rear, this sedan-that-could-be-a-grand-tourer has loads of presence and looks far better than the gimmicky, variable-length Skysphere concept.
Unlike many design studies, this one is clean and uncluttered. Up front, the Grandsphere’s single-frame grille is simple and, in some ways, prettier and better integrated into the front end than what you get on production Audis today. That grille also lights up, revealing a hexagonal pattern that brings to mind a traditional opening, even though this one is solid since airflow is not necessary because there’s no combustion engine to keep cool. The iconic four-ring badges at both ends of the car are also illuminated, ’cause why not?
As for the headlights, they resemble a cat’s pupil, though this elliptical shape is actually borrowed from the intersection of two rings in the Audi logo. The Grandshpere rolls on massive 23-inch wheels that features a twin 6-spoke design. These rollers were inspired by the Audi Avus concept’s rims from back in the 1990s, a nifty retro callback.
Another super-cool touch on this vehicle are the doors. They power open on their own, but the rears are hinged at the back, suicide style. With no B-pillar in the middle, you get an unobstructed view of the Grandsphere’s lounge-like interior.
Like flying first class
The idea with this car was to provide a super-premium passenger experience and it appears Audi succeeded. With room for four people in a two-plus-two configuration, the Grandsphere offers vast amounts of room and an uncluttered cabin that, as with its exterior, looks a lot like the future.
Keeping things to a minimum, the Grandsphere’s digs are incredibly clean. There aren’t really any visible speaker grilles, air vents or even screens. In fact, instead of traditional displays, the front wall of the dashboard serves as a backdrop where images are projected. This screen spans the width of the cabin and features eye tracking, which, along with gesture recognition, allows you to control various systems without the need for physical buttons or dials. Voice control, handwriting recognition and other inputs should be supported as well.
Aside from that, this concept’s door panels feature some physical dials, which allow you to adjust the climate-control system or seats. With a signature Audi click sound, these inputs should be satisfying to use, though they also support gestures, so if you’re reclined while the car is driving itself you don’t have to lean forward to make an adjustment.
As mentioned, this vehicle supports Level 4 autonomy, which means it can mosey along with minimal human intervention. However, if the owner wishes to takeover these duties, pedals pop up and a steering wheel and instrument cluster assembly elegantly motors out of the dashboard in a captivating mechanical symphony. When you’re done pretending to be Ayrton Senna or just want to go back to watching a movie, these primary controls disappear from whence they came, leaving you a blank canvas once again.
Sustainability and environmental friendliness are cornerstones of the Grandsphere’s interior as well. The hornbeam wood veneers are sustainably cultivated, there’s natural wool and plenty of recycled materials. Also, in a move that will make cows happy, this car contains no leather.
Upping the opulence factor, this Audi features an onboard cooler for chilling bottles (non-alcoholic beverages, of course) and it even comes with a couple glasses. Providing near-panoramic views, the car features large windows, an all-glass roof and a massive windshield.
Like other high-end vehicles from theGroup, Audi’s swanky Grandsphere concept is built on the automotive conglomerate’s architecture, which is designed for battery-powered vehicles. A sizable piece of work, this car clocks in at 17.6 feet long, 6.6 feet wide and 4.6 feet high. Its wheelbase spans 10.5 feet, which eclipses the extended-length Audi A8 hub to hub.
Like other EVs, this one features an electric motor at both ends, a configuration that provides all-wheel drive, an Audi hallmark. Together, these dynamos supposedly deliver 711 horsepower and 708 pound-feet of torque. That’s allegedly enough to propel this sizable sedan from a standstill to 62 mph in a little more than 4 seconds, a suitably brisk rip, especially for something that undoubtedly weighs a pavement-crushing amount (though an official figure has not been shared).
As for the battery, it measures a claimed 120 kilowatt-hours and is mounted exactly where you’d expect: below the floor and between the axles. On the generous WLTP testing cycle, this pack should provide around 466 miles of driving range, though an EPA figure would likely be appreciably lower.
When it’s time to juice up the Grandsphere, its 800-volt charging system can handle 270 kW of power for lickety-split battery replenishment. Hooked to an appropriate source, this concept car can go from a 5% state of charge to 80% in less than 25 minutes, an impressive time to be certain. Hell, it takes twice as long to get a scrambled egg and some toast at Bob Evans.
Enhancing its maneuverability, this Audi design study features rear-wheel steering, which should make that mammoth wheelbase just a little more manageable. Smothering road imperfections like a grease fire, the Grandsphere features an air suspension system with adaptive dampers. To reduce squat, dive and roll, each wheel can be adjusted independently in milliseconds via electromechanical actuators.
The future of premium mobility
The Grandsphere is just a concept, but this all-electric flagship-caliber sedan seems like something that could pretty easily go into production, certainly more so than the Audi Skysphere. The car’s design looks real, it offers a suitably upscale passenger experience and that battery-powered drivetrain is totally feasible. Really, the only aspects of this vehicle that don’t seem ready for primetime are the unusual doors and theautonomous capability, which, to be honest, is a feature that’s probably still many years away.
With cars like the, , and even the new leading the, um, charge, Audi has to be hard at work on a similar all-electric sedan. Let’s hope the swanky Grandsphere presages a series production model.