Audi reveal their second of three new concepts: The grandsphere

Like a first class flight, the 5.35m long grandsphere sedan combines the luxury of private travel in the greatest of comfort with a comprehensive onboard experience.

The autonomous Audi grandsphere concept picks up its passengers with information about their current destination and independently handles parking and charging.

With Audi’s second of three “sphere” concept cars, the grandsphere (yes, it’s all lowercase) explores the possibilities autonomous driving will bring to occupant comfort and it’s an exciting peak into the future direction of the brand.

At a monolithic 5.35m long, 2m wide, and 1.39m high, the Audi grandsphere hints at the luxury end of the market and offers a 3.19m wheelbase that overshadows the longest wheel base version Audi’s A8 executive limosene.

We like that it doesn’t look overtly like a traditional sedan – rather more like a tightly drawn four-door GT. All without any decor or superfluous flourishes presumably to achieve optimum aerodynamic efficiency and range from the electric drivetrain.

The grandsphere offers an excellent insight into how Audi see autonomous cars benefitting owners, featuring 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 technology.

This is reflected in the variable layout of the interior, the disappearance of the controls, and the sheer expanse of the cabin, in addition to linking them to new service offerings.

Thanks to Audi’s own services and the ability to integrate with other digital services the grandsphere not only frees the driver from the tasks of driving whenever possible, but at the same time also offers everyone onboard a wide range of options to use that freedom for individually variable experiences: communication or relaxation, work or withdrawal into a private sphere as desired. The Audi grandsphere concept transforms from being strictly an automobile into an “experience device.“

The digital services can be used to access a variety of service options related to the current trip – such as designing a spectacular scenic route, as well as restaurant or hotel options. The vehicle also takes care of everyday tasks that go beyond the ride itself. For example, the autonomous Audi grandsphere concept picks up its passengers with information about their current destination and independently handles parking and charging.

Customised infotainment options are also available, such as seamless integration of onboard streaming from music and video providers that have been used previously.

One surprise when looking around in the Audi grandsphere's natural-colored, reduced-design interior: neither batteries of dial instruments nor black screens for virtual display concepts are visible before activating the driving functions – the oft-cited digital detox at its finest.

Instead, there are clearly articulated and sedate areas with materials of the highest quality. Wood and wool, synthetic textile fabrics and metal are visible and pleasant to touch as wall cladding, seat covering, and carpeting. Many of these materials, like the hornbeam veneers, come from sustainable cultivation or are made from recycled raw materials. There is no leather in the Audi grandsphere – even this is in keeping with a progressive understanding of luxury, which is always inseparable from sustainability.

Another surprise whenever the vehicle comes to life: there are displays – but they take the form of projections on the wooden surfaces under the windshield. Depending on the driving status – whether manual with a steering wheel or level 4 autonomous driving – they are either distributed across the entire width of the interior or segmented for the driver and front seat passenger. All the information that is necessary while traveling is there in high resolution and precisely readable.

Alternatively, the projection surfaces can also be used – in automated driving mode – as CinemaScope screens for infotainment content or even as screens for video conferences. In addition, a sensor bar is integrated under the projection surfaces for quick switching between content – for instance, for music or navigation. It shows all the functions and applications that are active in the car.

The Audi grandsphere concept’s two electric motors can deliver a total power output of 530kW and torque of 960 Newton metres (Nm).

The heart of the drive system is the 800 volt charging technology. Like the Audi e-tron GT before it, this technology ensures that the battery can be charged with up to 270kW in a very short time at fast-charging stations.

This technology makes charging times that approach a refueling stop for a car with a conventional engine possible. Just ten minutes are enough to charge the battery to a level sufficient to power the car more than 300 kilometres. In less than 25 minutes, you can charge the 120kWh battery from 5 to 80 percent.

Together with a range of more than 750 kilometres – depending on the selected drive system and power output – the Audi grandsphere concept is unconditionally suitable for long distances. Furthermore, its range and charging speed keep pace with those of combustion engines, making it the perfect universal car for everyday needs.

The high-tech active suspension system can separately pull up or push down on each wheel separately in milliseconds via electromechanical actuators. That makes it possible to actively control the state of the chassis in every driving situation and therefore significantly reduce pitching and plunging when accelerating or braking.

In terms of dynamic qualities, the Audi grandsphere concept – as is typical for an electric car – truly outshines its rivals with combustion engines. Thanks to the instantly available high torque, acceleration from 0-100km/h takes just over four seconds.

Of course grandsphere is purely conceptual, and while it seems like science fiction now, the technology leveraged is all due to be a reality in just a few short years.

As vehicle-to-vehicle and the internet of things technology becomes more prevalent over the next generation of cars, the features we see here will be excitingly accessible before we know it.

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