Audi has unveiled the Activeshpere concept, the fourth vehicle in its sphere lineup of futuristic autonomous all-electric prototypes, after several teasers that seemed to preview a sort of coupe-styled SUV.
Well, now we have all the details on the Activesphere, and it’s interesting to say the least, in the sense that yes, it’s a sleek four-door SUV with big wheels and a slope back roof, but it’s so much more than that.
With 22-inch wheels that feature movable segments that can open during off-roading and close when driving on tarmac, Audi’s latest concept has a so-called active back, which means the car can transform into a pickup truck at the push of a button.
Granted, it’s not the biggest cargo bed out there, considering the whole car measures 196 inches (498 centimeters) long, but it’s more than enough for a pair of e-bikes or water and winter sports gear.
Dubbed “a master of metamorphosis” in the official press release, the Activesphere has a motorized bulkhead that deploys from the rear seats to isolate the cabin from the elements and, at the same time, the rear window slides over the roof and the tailgate folds horizontally to open up the cargo compartment.
There’s also a ski rack integrated into the center of the roof structure that sits flush with the roofline and can extend when needed.
Gallery: Audi Activesphere Concept (2023)
Based on Audi’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture, the latest sphere concept uses an 800-volt charging system and offers a maximum estimated range of over 372 miles (600 kilometers) from a 100-kWh battery.
The Activesphere has two electric motors – one for each axle – that provide all-wheel drive capabilities and offer a combined output of 325 kW (436 horsepower) and 531 pounds-foot (720 Newton-meters) of torque.
The concept also has adaptive air suspension and is said to be a distant successor to Audi’s first Allroad wagon from the 2000s, being built with off-roading and comfort cruising in mind, just like the rugged A6 from the naughties.
To this effect, the Activeshphere’s suspension can raise and lower by 1.5 inches (40 millimeters) from its standard position, for a maximum ground clearance of 9.76 inches (248 mm). But the off-road-oriented features don’t stop here, because Audi’s prototype also has transparent glass surfaces on the bottom of the doors and up-front where the grille usually sits on a conventional vehicle, that help with visibility when navigating a rough off-road track.
The press release even mentions the approach and departure angles of 18.9 degrees and 28.1 degrees respectively, which is interesting, but they’re not actually that impressive, seeing how a standard Jeep Wrangler has an approach angle of around 40 degrees and a departure angle of approximately 36 degrees, depending on the trim level.
What’s much more interesting than the off-road specs is the interior of the car. As with all the other sphere concepts, the Activesphere was designed starting from the inside, and it shows. “The epitome of clarity and tidiness,” is how Audi describes the interior of its latest concept, which features a steering wheel instrument cluster and pedals that can disappear from the driver’s view when the car is put into autonomous mode.
The four individual seats are suspended like extensions of the high, full-length center console and seem to float in mid-air. Or at least that’s how the German carmaker describes them.
Another cool feature of the Activesphere is its mixed-reality headsets that project all sorts of information for the driver and passengers, like navigation prompts or multimedia overlays, all of which is interactive, as in the people wearing the headsets can point their fingers in the air and simulate button presses and knob rotations. Pretty cool and futuristic.
“The hand can then intuitively follow the user’s gaze to control car functions, while the user interface (the virtual display in the headset) reacts to changes in real-time like a conventional instrument. A particularly user-friendly feature, the virtual control moves towards the user so that he or she can interact comfortably with the user interface, regardless of sitting position,” says the company about its augmented-reality system.
Audi’s Activesphere concept was conceived and designed at the company’s design studio in Malibu, California, and isn’t intended to go into production. Instead, it – along with the Skysphere, Grandsphere, and Urbansphere concepts – wants to show how the German brand envisions the future of the car: all-electric, autonomous where it’s possible, and with a clear purpose.
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