I’ll say this for Audi concept vehicles, the German luxury marque isn’t afraid to take big swings.
Automotive concepts are inherently provocative but the last few from Audi have really pushed the limits of what these vehicles can be and what they could mean for future production vehicles.
The Audi activesphere concept, is the last of four EV “sphere” concept reveals that began with the skysphere roadster in August 2021. The grandsphere sedan followed in September 2021, and the urbansphere space concept was unveiled last April.
The Audi activesphere is, arguably, the most striking of them all. A four-door crossover coupé with a rugged, high-riding off-road stance, this is a concept built around versatility that leans heavily on digitalization and autonomous driving.
Dimensionally, the activesphere has a commanding presence. The vehicle rides on 22-inch wheels wrapped in 285/55 all-terrain tires. The wheels feature moveable segments that open for ventilation during off-roading and close on tarmac for improved aerodynamics.
The Audi activesphere is built on the new PPE (premium platform electric) EV architecture Audi is developing with Porsche, which includes 800-volt fast charging technology that has already been deployed in the Audi e-tron GT
and Porsche Taycan
This system will allow for charging speeds of up to 270 kW, which means roughly 300 km of range can be achieved with about 10 minutes of fast charging, and a five to 80 percent charge takes about 25 minutes. Total range is pegged at north of 600 km. The activesphere’s propulsion comes from front and rear axle-mounted electric motors that deliver 436 hp (325 kW) and 531 lb-ft. (720 Nm) of torque.
Despite having an off-road stance, the activesphere’s body is rakishly smooth, with curved lines and a sloping rear roofline that appears drawn from a GT or sports coupe, not a crossover. In profile, the activesport appears to be two designs that have been fused into one – bottom half off-roader, top half luxury coupe.
Audi has also given the activesphere a large greenhouse which extends beyond the upper windows and windscreens into the front grille area, the Singleframe, which gives passengers a transparent view of the road ahead through the frunk. Glass is also used on the lower sides of the activesphere’s doors, as is the roof to allow for natural light.
Given its intended use as an on-and off-road vehicle, the activesphere has an air suspension that can increase ground clearance from its base 208 mm (8.2 inches) ride height up to 248 mm (9.8 inches), with an approach angle of 18.9 degrees and a departure angle of 28.1 degrees. The activesphere is also fitted with electronically controlled quattro all-wheel drive and active dampers.
Because the Audi activesphere is designed to accommodate various sports activities, it has an “active Sportback” hatch area designed to carry equipment such as e-bikes. This cargo area, known as the “active back” allows bikes to be carried upright with their front ends secured by brackets in the cargo floor. After the cargo area is secure a motorized bulkhead deploys to seal off the cabin from the elements. The activesphere also has a ski rack integrated into the roof’s centre structure, which extends outward when needed and folds neatly away when not in use.
Like other sphere concepts, the activesphere’s cabin is a luxury lounge focused on the needs and comforts of its occupants. The absence of a b-pillar means the doors open and close “suicide” style, allowing occupants to access the car’s four seats with ease.
The cabin itself has a minimalist design with lots of right angles and sharp lines that exude a strong futuristic feel. The seating area is bisected by a centre console that runs the length of the cabin front to back with interior trim panels that are a mix of black and red. The seats have a form-fitting sporty design and look as if they are extensions of the console.
As for cockpit controls, there are none in autonomous mode, but a square-shaped steering wheel, pedals and dashboard fold out when the driver takes control. Because it’s an EV, the activesphere has extra space that can be devoted to storage and an on-board bar, which can be either cooled or heated.
In terms of digitalization, the activesphere uses mixed reality (MR) headsets, that look like designer sunglasses, that are available for each of the car’s occupants. These glasses offer a wide array of digital content and functions, including gesture control to adjust climate and stereo functions, and augmented reality (AR) technology which can superimpose virtual content into the real world.
Occupants need only to look at the control they wish to interact with and adjust it with their hand virtually which then inputs the change as if it was being made with a conventional knob.
The activesphere is the first Audi concept to utilize this technology, which can also be used in off-road settings to display 3D topography, along with navigation directions onto the car’s windshield and cockpit area, or traffic and road conditions when driving on road.