Audi skysphere concept is the name of the 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, in which the interior becomes an interactive space and the vehicle a platform for captivating experiences. This is being made possible thanks to autonomous driving, a revolutionary redesign of the interior, and a seamless digital ecosystem.
The Audi skysphere concept shows how the brand is redefining luxury in the future – it’s no longer just about driving. The concept car was designed with the clear objective of offering its occupants captivating and world-class experiences.
To give passengers the maximum amount of freedom, the Audi skysphere concept was designed for 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 250mm. At the same time, the vehicle’s ground clearance is adjusted by 10mm 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-metre-long e-roadster themselves in “Sports” mode with a reduced wheelbase, while the rear-wheel steering ensures that the vehicle remains extremely agile despite its dimensions. Or they can choose to be chauffeured around in a 5.19m 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 keeps an eye on 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. Thanks to Audi’s own services and the ability to integrate digital services, the possibilities are nearly endless. In addition, the passengers can share their experience on the road with friends via social media, with images of the interior and the surrounding area. 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.
“Audi is renowned for its progressive concepts cars that demonstrate remarkable foresight and technological ingenuity,” said Andrew Doyle, Director of Audi UK. “The Skysphere concept is the first of a family of three, that will help shape the vision and direction of our brand as we electrify our business operation and future model lineups."
“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 750Nm of torque have an easy time with the roadster, which only weighs around 1,800kg. The weight distribution of around 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 – an ideal configuration 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 favor 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.
When it comes to their footprint – 5.23m in length versus 5.19; a width of 1.85 versus 2.00m – it is easy to see the similarity between the legendary Horch 853 convertible and the Audi skysphere. A striking difference, on the other hand, can be found in their height – the legendary Horch, with its iconic design, towered up to 1.77m depending on the body shape, while its autonomous descendant, the Audi skysphere, ducks down to the road in Sport mode at 1.23m flat, with an optimized centre of gravity and aerodynamics. The concept car pays its respects to the classic model without merely remaining a retro imitation.
After all, apart from its dimensions, it’s the lines that make a real difference. With its wide curved and flared wheel arches typical of the brand, the skysphere emphasizes the wide track – a visible indication of its dynamic talents. Viewed from the side, the proportions are impressive with a long hood and – especially at the front – 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. Two overnight bags designed specifically for the Audi skysphere find space under the glass, and are held in place with straps that are stretched in a crosswise pattern.
The front end – although no longer serving as a radiator grill – clearly features the brand’s typical Singleframe and the three-dimensionally designed, illuminated emblem with the four rings. The entire Singleframe and also the adjacent surfaces on the sides are designed with white LED elements to literally act as a stage for visual effects – both functional effects as well as 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 entire width of the vehicle. 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 front end of the car, 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 centimetres make all the difference. And not just technically, but also visually and, above all, in terms of the driving experience.
There’s no doubt that the Audi skysphere concept has two personalities – a GT and a luxury sports car. The key differences, however, can only be enjoyed in the interior, because here, behind the rear-hinged and wide-opening doors, the Audi skysphere offers highly contrasting experiences.
When it comes to the three upcoming concept cars Audi skysphere, Audi grandsphere, and Audi urbansphere, the brand is placing the space that surrounds the passengers (“sphere”) and which becomes an experience for them – the interior – at the centre of its designs. This is because all three vehicles are designed for level 4 autonomous driving – meaning that in certain defined road and traffic situations, the driver can delegate complete responsibility to the car and no longer has to intervene.
As a result, control elements such as the steering wheel and pedals can be swivelled into an invisible position and thereby completely removed from the interior. And passengers, including the one in the front left seat, can enjoy a new form of freedom – the freedom to relax in the open air, enjoy the scenery and the wind, or interact with the Internet and the world thanks to the connection with the digital ecosystem in the Audi skysphere.
Free of controls, the interior appears as a light, spacious environment, inspired in many areas by the Art Deco universe. The comfortable seats boast the visual elegance of designer furnishings, yet they fulfil the functions of a car seat in driving mode without any compromises – side support and safety features are part of the package. They are upholstered in sustainably produced microfiber fabric and, thanks to their variable position in the interior, offer the kind of freedom to move and legroom that can otherwise only be experienced when flying first class on an airplane. Environmentally certified eucalyptus wood and synthetically produced imitation leather are other sustainably manufactured materials that contribute to creating an unparalleled experience in the vehicle’s interior.
Should the Audi skysphere concept be used in driver-operated mode, then the interior transforms into an ergonomically perfect driving machine cockpit. Together with the chassis and body, the instrument panel and the monitor panel on the centre console also move to the rear. The driver finds all the controls, including the steering wheel and pedals, in the position that best suits them.
Large touch monitor surfaces – 1415 mm wide, 180 mm high – on the dashboard and in the upper area of the centre console are used to operate the vehicle and infotainment systems. In Grand Touring mode, this can be used to display content from the Internet, video conferences, or streamed movies. Small touch panels in the doors are used to operate the air conditioning.
A high-quality sound system – befitting of this luxury convertible – delivers concert hall audio quality even when the vehicle is in motion. The speakers are hidden behind the door panels; a few more in the rear interior wall even produce surround sound. The shape of the headrests prevents turbulence and also annoying wind noise.