What you should be most excited about when looking at Audi’s stunning grandsphere and skysphere concepts, is the fact that they build speculatively on features that already exist
SINGAPORE – Audi’s has launched two of its sphere concept cars to date, with the third due in 2022. The two we have seen, namely the grandsphere and skysphere, bring plenty to the table of the imagination: Morphing capabilities, true ‘two-cars-in-one’ engineering, autonomous driving – and pretty much anything else a driver of the future could want.
The cynical might say, ‘They’re never going to make that!’ but with concept cars – from any brand – it’s never really just about cramming those features into one car destined to be born. The value lies in ‘concept’ rather than ‘car’ and the truth is some dreams are more difficult than others to birth – a pen doesn’t need to follow insurance laws but an autonomous vehicle does, for instance.
But to speak of pens, we think that the sphere concepts’ most exciting features are actually the ones that are plain to see. We’ve seen it in Audi concepts of the past, as the brand puts tremendous efforts into its future designs that crystallise into fantastic-looking cars you can enjoy today.
What we almost always see with serious Audi concepts is their place in time. We don’t mean a specific date, but how the design shows off future style directions while also linking to the present.
If you look at both grandsphere and skysphere, the initial impression is of far-off futurism: That flowing front end, coach-style doors (on the grandsphere), and that very dramatic rear section, almost a reverse-arrow shape. But rest your eyes – or look at an Audi brochure – and you’ll realise these are evolutions of design hallmarks already in place. You can clearly see them on the A7 Sportback, which despite being of The Now looks like it’s from some to-be metropolis.
The full-width light bar projects out from the body and was one of the first of its kind to achieve European homologation – the first being the Audi A8 luxury limousine. The A7’s exterior designer Sebastiano Rosso told us he was most proud of the rear end of the car, and for good reason. It opened the floodgates for the light bar craze we see now. Audi can rightly say it was there #beforeitwascool.
Skysphere is merely taking that styling component and turning it up a few notches. Goodbye to the lightbar trend, this is an all-out light show, as the entire rear end is dotted with electronically-controlled LEDs that reflect the car’s behaviour.
It’s the same with the front. We’ve grown used to Audi’s bearing a bold Singleframe grille for instant charisma and recognition, but with the sphere concepts being electrically-powered, the Singleframe is now filled with lights, it’s wider and almost borderless.
As Audi says, it becomes a stage for visual effects, both exciting but also grounded with real purpose. One example is the Audi RS 6 Avant: Its headlamps are the latest HD Matrix LED with Audi laser light, while the rear has an intricate LED taillamp display a welcome sequence that doesn’t just look lovely, but also helps you to find your car.
Audi grandsphere’s speculative fiction centres on spaciousness, enjoyment, luxury, sustainability, and large digital screens of course.
The car features a dramatic opening sequence thanks to its coach-style doors and open seating arrangement. Coach-style doors, while not impossible to make, will probably not make an appearance on Audis soon, but the ‘sphere’ in grandsphere is all about the experience of each occupant and tailoring things to suit them.
The grandsphere is purported to be the vision of what the next lap of Audi luxury will be like, and like we said before, it’s already delivering a taste of the sphere experience to its owners. An A8 L with optional four-seater layout already allows each passenger to adjust the climate control, seat position, even massage functions to their own liking, and if you are lucky enough to have onboard entertainment there’s more screens than there are people onboard.
Sphere design also centres on the ‘disappearance of the controls…and linking passengers to new service offerings’. Up front in the A8, the old button-filled cockpit is a thing of the past with the two major touchscreens – and driver’s Virtual Cockpit – allowing a clean presentation married with equally sleek aesthetics.
The pared down aesthetics belie a wealth of usefulness though. A key theme of all three sphere concepts is that of ‘progressive luxury’, which Audi spells out as ‘creating a vehicle experience that goes far beyond the purpose of merely spending time in a car to get from point A to point B, and even far beyond the driving experience itself.’
In Singapore, Audi already does that with the myAudi app. The app works in sync with Audi connect, the car’s onboard suite of connected services, so you can find your destination, plan your route, then send it to the car. Traffic jams, weather, and more are taken into account as well. And when you get to where you’re going, you can monitor your car’s status – lock it remotely, find out where it is, even what the latest service requirements are. In short, Audi takes care of many of the hassles of driving that aren’t actually the driving – that’s going far beyond driving, and well into life itself.
The sphere concepts ask: What’s the future experience of travelling in an Audi? But the current range of Audi vehicles already has serious answers to that, right now.