MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA - It’s a conundrum that many premium carmakers have faced when creating a new product - do they make it small and sporty, or larger and more luxurious? The Audi Skysphere concept, revealed in Monterey this week, attempts to solve this conundrum with a shape-shifting design that offers two distinct driving experiences.
Thanks to a series of body and chassis components that can slide into one another at the touch of a button, the Audi Skysphere concept can vary its wheelbase by 250mm.
In Sports mode the vehicle measures 4.94 metres and sits 10mm lower to the ground, but when the owner no longer feels like driving, the touch of a button transforms it into a 5.19m autonomous vehicle. In this ‘Grand Touring’ mode, the pedals and steering wheel fold away and the cabin becomes something akin to a lounge, complete with a seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem. The vehicle also provides its occupants with information about their destination and also automatically handles parking and charging.
“The Audi 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," said Audi UK boss Andrew Doyle.
And although it’s very unlikely that we’ll see a shape-shifting car like this coming out of Ingolstadt any time soon, the company does state that its exterior styling leads directly to the Audi design of tomorrow, particularly the grille design - which is not actually a grille in this case given its EV status.
Being a futuristic autonomous roadster, and electric drivetrain is a given, and this comes in the form of a rear-mounted electric motor that produces 465kW and 750Nm, enabling the open top vehicle - which weighs just 1800kg - to dart from 0-100km/h in under four seconds.
Positioning most of the batteries behind the cabin also allowed for a weight distribution of around 60 percent on the powered rear axle, to enable a more engaging and agile driving experience. This is also aided by a drive-by-wire front and rear-wheel steering system that is highly adjustable, while adaptive air suspension ensures occupant comfort.
“Audi Skysphere, Audi Grandsphere, and, coming in 2022, Audi Urbansphere are the three concept cars that the brand with the four rings is using to showcase its vision of progressive luxury,” Audi said. “These concept cars feature a new design that ultimately reimagines the interior, the passenger compartment, as the centre of the vehicle and no longer subordinates the passenger experience to the requirements of the technology. This is reflected in the variable layout of the interior, the disappearance of the controls, and the sheer expanse of the cabin.”