As the fourth model in the series, the Audi activesphere concept marks the culmination of sphere concept vehicles by the brand with the four rings. Following on from the Audi skysphere roadster in 2021, and both the Audi grandsphere saloon, and the Audi urbansphere space concept in April 2022, a four-door crossover coupé with an astonishingly versatile body design is now making its debut. Standing 4.98 meters long, the highly elegant car is more than a mere luxury-class sports car, with impressive ground clearance, and large 22-inch wheels announcing its off-road talent. The Sportback rear of the activesphere can turn into an open cargo bed (“active back”) at the touch of a button – perfect for carrying recreational equipment such as e-bikes or water and winter sports gear.
By combining opposites in perfect synthesis, the Audi activesphere proves to be a versatile crosser of boundaries, with a drive system and suspension which make it equally adept both on and off the road. The steering wheel and pedals allow the driver to actively control the car, while also offering autonomous driving for a more relaxed time on the road. As a coupé that is as elegant as it is dynamic, it features classic proportions and lines, but in just a few seconds, the car transforms into a pickup for transporting top-class sports gear – there is even enough space for two e-bikes in the cargo bed.
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, the legendary coastal road. Studio manager Gael Buzyn and his team are the creative minds behind the project.
With an electric drive and quick-charging technology from Audi’s PPE modular system, the Audi activesphere joins the sphere family of concept vehicles. With no local emissions, a range of over 372 miles, and extremely fast charging times thanks to 800-volt technology, it combines the sustainability, dynamics and long-distance capability of state-of-the-art electric vehicles.
The autonomous chauffeuring capability on suitable terrain gives drivers and passengers a new level of freedom, which, thanks to the new display and operating technology, can be used in the activesphere in a variety of ways.
Its dimensions 4.98 meters long, 2.07 meters wide, and 1.60 meters high – make the Audi activesphere concept a member of the premium segment. Typical of an electric car, the wheelbase is a generous 2.97 meters, providing maximum legroom for passengers. The front and rear overhangs are correspondingly short for a much more compact impression than the mere numbers indicate. From all perspectives, the Audi activesphere concept appears monolithic, as if from a single mould.
Large 22-inch wheels and striking ground clearance, the flat cabin so typical of an Audi, and a dynamic roof arch give the car proportions that are distinctly reminiscent of a sports car. The 285/50 tires are voluminous enough for all types of terrain, and their contoured tread highlights the activesphere’s talent for off-road use. The wheels feature movable segments: when used off-road, they open for optimum ventilation, and they close on-road for optimum aerodynamics. The elegant, stylish camera mirrors on the two front doors are also designed specifically to minimize drag.
The absence of hard edges results in smooth transitions between convex and concave surfaces throughout the body, as well as in soft shadows. Viewed from the side and rear, the rear wheel wells appear markedly horizontal, visualizing the dynamic potential of the concept vehicle.
Glass surfaces make up a significant part of the vehicle’s body – and by no means just at head height. The front end of the activesphere features the brand face, the Singleframe, designed as a transparent glazing to afford passengers an unobstructed view through the large frunk of the road in front of the vehicle.
There are also glass surfaces on the side in the lower door area, which seem to dissolve the boundary between the natural world and the interior when the activesphere is in off-road mode. The wide, curved tailgate features extensive glazing for optimum lighting, whilst even the roof itself is transparent, letting plenty of daylight into the interior.
The exterior look specifically signals the vehicle’s off-road capability and, with its voluminous wheel arches, portrays the variable, electronically controlled quattro all-wheel drive. The Audi activesphere’s ground clearance is also variable; ideal for off-road use, it can be increased by 40 millimetres from the basic height of 208 millimetres, or lowered by the same amount when driving on-road. This benefits both the centre of gravity and aerodynamics when driving fast. The approach angle of the Audi activesphere – relevant for offroad drives – is 18.9 degrees, the departure angle 28.1 degrees.
The variable ground clearance is reminiscent of an Audi model family that has attracted an enthusiastic, loyal fan base in the C and later B segments since 2000 – the Audi allroad. From the first generation, this family also features air-spring suspension with variable ground clearance and a visually offset floor assembly with underride guard elements as a significant design feature. Equally significant for all allroad models is the Avant package option.
The activesphere marks the first time that a car with a Sportback hatchback incorporates the design elements and technical equipment of an allroad. For this reason, Audi calls the new body variant “active Sportback” in contrast to the allroad. Another new variation of the allroad theme – the Audi activesphere concept features dark, high-gloss paint finishes in Arctic Teal on the front and rear as well as underneath the doors in the side area, plus matte surfaces that visually juxtapose the floor assembly and cabin.
Metal strips with slightly offset vertical studs arranged parallel to one another, are integrated here. These elements deploy when the ground clearance is increased, visualizing the off-road mode. As with its relative, the Audi grandsphere concept, the doors of the Audi activesphere, which are attached to the A- and C-pillars at the front and rear, open in opposite directions; there is no B-pillar here either. This innovation means the entire interior space opens up to passengers as soon as they get into the car.
Right and left above the Singleframe, the narrow headlight units appear like focused eyes. The lighting units echo the logo of the brand with the four rings by enlarging and isolating the intersection of two rings to form a pupil – a new, unmistakable digital light signature that Audi first introduced in the Audi grandsphere: the Audi eye. In the activesphere, this signature is now varied – on-road and off-road driving modes each have their own variant. Daytime running lights and rear lights use ultra-fine micro-LED technology for even greater precision and contrast.
The epitome of clarity and tidiness – this is the first impression for passengers as they climb into the interior of the Audi activesphere through the wide-open doors. Vertical and horizontal surfaces, along with right angles dominate the architecture of the space.
The interior zones feature horizontal contrasting colouring and the reigning centrepiece is the seating surfaces and door and front panelling in warm lava red, which contrast with the dark exterior even when looking through the side windows. Above and below this central zone, dark colours (black, anthracite, and dark grey) also dominate.
The four individual seats are suspended like extensions of the high, full-length centre console. Resting on the centre console, the upper end of the seat shell’s inner side is shaped horizontally as an armrest. The designers imagined the seat, back, and shoulder surfaces as three separate, circumferential shells; the visual appearance alone already promises good lateral support. They also appear so light as to float and thus maintain the balance between automotive function and the elegance of a lounge chair.
When the Audi activesphere concept is driving in autonomous mode, the dashboard, steering wheel, and pedals disappear into an invisible position. Especially in the first row of seats, a wide space opens in front of the driver, which extends to the front end of the activesphere – and beyond. For a clear field of vision, the fully glazed Singleframe gives passengers an unobstructed view of the road in front. The dashboard itself works like a large soundbar as well as a smart, full-width air vent in both the deployed and stowed position. If the driver wants to take over the wheel, the dashboard, along with the steering wheel, swivels out from its flush position below the windshield – each driver can adjust the ideal ergonomic position individually.
The MMI touchless controls in the doors are always accessible to the eye and the hand, for example, to control windows and seat adjustments. The architecture and sense of space in the Audi activesphere are largely determined by the high, full-length centre console. Of course, in electric cars, the console is no longer needed to hold a driveshaft, but instead offers space for storage and an onboard bar – either cooled or heated. The top cover is transparent, which provides a view of the bottle and glasses, but also visually integrates the voluminous console in the interior.
Additionally, there is a console in the roof, directly above the centre console and reflecting its dimensions, where the four AR headsets for the mixed reality system are kept within easy reach for all passengers.
The heart of the drive technology in all future PPE models will be the 800-volt charging technology. Like the Audi e-tron GT quattro before it, this ensures that the battery can be charged with up to 270 kW in a very short time at fast-charging stations. This revolutionary technology will enter the high-volume mid-range and luxury segments with the PPE for the very first time.
After all, PPE technology enables charging times that come close to a conventional stop to refuel a combustion engine car. Just 10 minutes is enough time to charge the battery to a level sufficient to power the car for more than 186 miles. And in less than 25 minutes, the 100kWh battery charges from 5 to 80 percent. Together with its range of well over 372 miles, the Audi activesphere thus positions itself as unconditionally suitable for long distances, when need be.
In terms of dynamic qualities, the activesphere – as a genuine quattro and typical of an electric car – truly outshines its rivals with combustion engines. Thanks to its high torque right from the first revolution, it accelerates to 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds. The top speed can be variably fixed depending on whether the car is driving in on-road or off-road mode.
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