Audi activesphere Concept Hands-On: Sportback Sedan on Top, SUV on the Bottom

This week Audi USA invited AudiWorld to see its fourth sphere concept — the activesphere — in person. Here’s everything you need to know.

The Audi activesphere concept — born in the minds of Audi’s Malibu, California-based design team — answers the question, what would happen if one combined the sports car aesthetics of an Audi Sportback with something more rugged than any of Audi’s current SUVs or Allroad offerings? The result is a concept SUV that looks like a futuristic, lifted Audi S7.

It’s my personal favorite of the four Audi concepts.

audi activesphere side

At the time of this writing, the only sphere concept currently evolving toward a production model is the grandsphere. British magazine Autocar reported that the grandsphere will inspire the next generation A8. Which makes sense. (Although this week, Audi told me any grandsphere-inspired vehicle would debut a little further back, closer to 2028. So we’ll see.)

The activesphere, for its part, remains purely a concept electric vehicle. It has dual electric motors, a large battery pack, and a charging plug, of course. But it’s also a non-driver with a minimal, non-DOT-approved feature set that requires a human to stand by with what looks like a TV remote control for every interaction.

audi activesphere

With this in mind, check out the two videos embedded to enjoy a tour of the activesphere. For this post, let’s discuss the three main goals an auto manufacturer might have for any concept vehicle like this one–

  1. Establish new design languages
  2. Experiment with next-generation technology, and
  3. Test the waters for future models

So, how does the activesphere stack up in these categories? Let us know your thoughts HERE in our AudiWorld form thread! Here are my subjective reactions…

Audi activesphere Design Language

Audi activesphere

Because I can’t help but make a mullet dad-joke, the Audi activesphere concept is business up top and party at the bottom. In my opinion, regardless of whether or not it’s an SUV or a genuine Sportback, the activesphere is a visual stunner. Simple, sleek, elegant, and clean, it speaks to me as something that fits in the current Audi stable, but also as something more futuristic.

Here, the designers have reimagined Audi’s current-generation lightning characteristics, body lines, and the overall shape of the nose. Despite its dramatically textured lower half with beefy, big-ass wheels, Audi describes this approach as less aggressive. And when one focuses on the body alone, that seems clearer. The front-end, in particular, is softer and smoother than Audi’s current wider, chunky faces.

It’s also nice to see someone approaching an SUV as something other than a box-on-wheels. These designers, to quote one of our members, appear to have embraced their inner 16-year-old, for better or worse. And the result is something that’s more stylish and sleeker than most SUVs currently in the market.

Could a design like this ever make it to production? Probably not, but we’ll see.

Along these lines, however, I’d also like to note that, to my eyes at least, the activesphere marks an improvement over Audi’s current EV design language. A language that tends to take its ICE vehicles and over-smooth them, save for the massive, fake-grilles. The activesphere feels more natural and aerodynamic, and I’d love to see these lines start to filter into future Audis.

Audi Dimensions (Future Technology)

activesphere in truck mode

The Audi activesphere showcases several new technologies that Audi may or may not implement going forward. Level 4 autonomous driving. A new augmented reality user interface called Audi Dimensions. Open-air, uncluttered cabins. And even a trunk that transforms into a truck bed with built-in e-bike tie-downs.

Level 4 autonomy, which I’ll touch on only very lightly here, is the level at which humans don’t have to pay attention to the car. It just drives. As represented philosophically in the activesphere, even the driver can sit in a passenger-style seat. Lest they find a nice patch and summon the steering wheel.

For these reasons, Audi calls the typical passenger seat location the, “co-driver’s seat” (ala co-pilot).

activesphere presentation

The interior, as stylish as it is, wasn’t particularly comfortable for my six-foot frame — especially when the wheel was revealing itself — but I have to say that the airy openness with glass panels in all directions is inherently relaxing.

Lastly, let’s talk about Audi Dimensions, the automaker’s augmented reality user interface that we were able to demo. (There are clips of AD in the top video). The activesphere lacks screens. No gauges, radio, infotainment or HVAC. Instead, drivers and passengers wear augmented reality glasses that project information into 3D space. Everything from 3D maps to temperature controls to music selection to typical road and vehicle performance data.

activesphere steering wheel

In reality, the demo is fascinating for the way it makes the real world less cluttered; and the augmented space more so. If the idea is to keep things clean and not distracting for drivers, I’m not sure a demonstration bursting with information and graphics is the best way to showcase it. That said, the interactivity worked well and, again, it’s really nice to have an open cabin that’s not cluttered with screens.

I’d like to see Audi experiment more with this, but as with 3D televisions and VR sets, do most people — especially those who already have prescription glasses — really want to wear glasses to see vital vehicle information?

Should Audi Make a Production activesphere? (Hell Yeah!)

journalist touring the concept

Everyone knows that saying about as– er, bellybuttons. Everyone has them. And I’m sure for every person like me who looks at the activesphere fondly, there are others who don’t. Still, to my eyes, the activesphere looks like an S5 or S7 Sportback with much more aggressive A6 Allroad features and capabilities. It looks cool as hell and I’d love to see it realized along with an Avant version. (#WagonLife)

For a production version, many things would have to change, of course — proportions, safety, etc. And the interior seems less likely to be the foundation of anything we’d see this decade. But imagining this sleek Sportback silhouette with a current S or RS interior, Audi air ride suspension, and chonky tires, and you’ve got the makings of a very cool enthusiast-focused SUV with sports car heritage.

Thanks so much to Audi USA for the chance to see the activesphere concept in person!

Photographs by Michael S. Palmer

Additional video footage courtesy of Andi Hedrick and Audi USA

Father. Writer. Photographer. Auto enthusiast.
Current Stable: 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 2013 Cadillac ATS-4 3.6, LS3-Swapped 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon, 1987 Mercury Cougar XR-7, and usually a Press Loaner.

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Odds & Evens: Audi Reveals New Plan for EV & ICE Model Names

Audi Q4 e-tron

As Audi introduces new models and refreshes old ones, electric Audi model names will be even-numbered, while ICE vehicles transition to odd.

Earlier this week, Audi CEO Markus Duesmann revealed the company is going to delineate between its BEV (aka e-tron) and internal combustion-powered vehicles as new models debut and current models receive mid-cycle refreshes. In short, electric vehicles going forward will join the Q4 e-tron with even numbers. (Which is why Audi is transitioning the original e-tron into the Q8 e-tron when it releases its mid-cycle refresh.) And all hybrid and ICE-only vehicles will transition to odd numbers.

As many of you already know, Audi is done developing new internal combustion powerplants as the company makes the full transition to an all-electric auto manufacturer. The plan, as we understand it, is to roll out 20 new or refreshed vehicles by the end of 2025. And we’ll see the final new internal combustion Audi in 2026.

As for future electric names, we already know the Q6 e-tron will arrive sometime this year. The aforementioned o.g. e-tron will soon become the Q8 e-tron. Plus rumors indicate Audi’s working on vehicles based on the activesphere concept as well as the grandsphere concept (which may become the A6 e-tron). Audi also says it’s working on a vehicle that’s smaller than the current Q4 e-tron, which could mean an A4 e-tron or an A2 e-tron.

What Does This Mean for Audi’s ICE Vehicle Names?

Audi RS 3

Exactly how this will play out is anyone’s guess. Well, Audi knows, but, doesn’t “comment on future products.” But let’s look at what we know and what we’ve heard. Naturally, the A3, A5, A7, Q3, Q5, and Q7 are safe at the moment (well, until they’re phased out and everything Audi makes in a BEV).

Which leaves us with the following:

  • A4Motor Authority says a new A4 is coming in 2024, at which point it may become the A5. How this impacts the actual A5 remains unclear.
  • A6 – An new A6 should also be coming for 2024, but no word on if it’s joining the A7 family.
  • A8 – It appears as though this name will remain until the model is discontinued.
  • Q6 – It’s unclear what will happen to the China-exclusive Q6.
  • Q8CarBuzz says the Q8 is set to receive a midcycle refresh late this year and may be renamed the Q9
  • R8 – We are in the final model year of the R8, so it’s going away regardless.

Photographs by Michael S. Palmer

Father. Writer. Photographer. Auto enthusiast.
Current Stable: 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 2013 Cadillac ATS-4 3.6, LS3-Swapped 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon, 1987 Mercury Cougar XR-7, and usually a Press Loaner.

When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.

RS e-tron GT vs e-tron GT: Is the RS Really Worth an Extra $40 Grand???

Audi RS e-tron GT

The RS e-tron GT vs e-tron GT comparison is shockingly similar at times — is 115-121 extra horsepower worth a $40,000-plus premium?

Funny how timing works. Today Audi announced the new limited-edition project_513/2 RS e-tron GT, and we just wrapped up back-to-back loans with the RS e-tron GT and e-tron GT, Audi’s current flagship EV sports sedans. Since we’re a couple of years behind on reviewing vehicles that debuted in 2020 and 2021, the goal today isn’t to do a traditional review. Instead, we’d like to offer an RS e-tron GT vs e-tron GT comparison for anyone who might be on the fence between the two. Basically, is the RS really worth an extra $40,000 to $60,000 more over the base car?

RS e-tron GT vs e-tron GT Basics

Audi RS e-tron GT

As most folks know by now, the RS e-tron GT and e-tron GT are Audi’s versions of the (shared-platform) Porsche Taycan. But, where Porsche offers a whopping 10 model variants, including wagons, Audi settled on two variations. Visually, Audi’s flagship EV sedan siblings most closely resemble the A7, S7, and RS 7 and the e-tron’s six-figure pricing is in line with the RS 7, RS 6 Avant, and S8.

Audi e-tron GT

On the inside, the e-tron GT siblings mostly resemble the 6 and 7 series Audi products. Sporty seating for five. Optional fine Napa leather. A full digital gauge cluster. However, the e-tron GTs forgo Audi’s dual-screen approach for the infotainment and HVAC systems that one finds on the A6, A7, S8, and the original e-tron SUV. Instead, the more expensive e-tron GT’s physical buttons more resemble the lower trim Q4 e-tron. To be clear, we generally applaud physical HVAC buttons, but the layout and materials lack a certain premium one looks for in higher-end Audis.

e-tron GT

Here’s a breakdown of the two models’ features —

RS e-tron GT

Audi RS e-tron GT

  • Boost Mode: 637 horsepower & 612 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Standard Power: 590 horsepower & 612 lb.-ft. Of torque
  • 0-60mph: 2.9 seconds (with Boost, as Tested by MotorTrend)
  • Quarter mile: 10.3 seconds
  • Top Speed: 155mph
  • Sport Adaptive Air Suspension
  • Curb Weight: 5,151 lbs
  • Dual Electric Motors — single speed (front); 2-speed transmission (rear)
  • 93.4 kWh Battery Pack (83.7 kW of accessible capacity)
  • 240V 0-100% Charging: 10.5 hours
  • 270 kW DC 5-80% Fast Charging: 22.5 mins
  • Range: 232 miles

e-tron GT

audi e-tron GT

  • Boost Mode: 522 horsepower & 472 lb.-ft. of torque
  • Standard Power: 469 horsepower & 464 lb.-ft. Of torque
  • 0-60mph: 3.6 seconds (with Boost, as tested by MotorTrend)
  • Quarter Mile: 11.9 seconds
  • Top Speed: 152mph
  • Sport Adaptive Air Suspension
  • Curb Weight: 5,060 lbs
  • Dual Electric Motors — single-speed (front); 2-speed transmission (rear)
  • 93.4 kWh Battery Pack (83.7 kW of accessible capacity)
  • 240V 0-100% Charging: 10.5 hours
  • 270 kW DC 5-80% Fast Charging: 22.5 mins
  • Range: 238 miles

Similarities Abound

e-tron GT (left); RS e-tron GT (right)

Debadge an Audi RS e-tron GT and e-tron GT and, shockingly, it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart inside and out.

Typically, RS Audis benefit from aggressive body styling over the standard A/Q or S models. But not so in the e-tron GT family. Without the subtle differences that only enthusiasts notice — RS badge, brightly colored brakes, and different wheel options — they’re the same car. Especially if one swaps out the standard carbon fiber roof on the RS for the glass moonroof that’s standard on the e-tron GT.

e-tron GT (left); RS e-tron GT (right)

The inside is equally similar, although Audi fans will likely recognize the RS model’s bright stitching and seatbelts. Plus, you can order up a lot more carbon fiber on the RS model. But both can be optioned with fine Napa leather interiors and heated, ventilated, and massaging front seats (that should be standard on a car this expensive, but I digress). Even the base model Premium e-tron GT comes with Alcantara everywhere.

Again, it’s so shocking to see an RS Audi that’s this similar to a base model, which had me seriously wondering…

Is the RS e-tron GT Worth a $40K to $60K Premium?

Audi RS e-tron GT

Would you pay $40-grand-plus for roughly 115 to 121 extra horsepower and to shave 7/10ths of a second off your 0-60 mph acceleration runs?

We were honestly prepared to say no until we drove both and spent a good deal of time debating power-to-weight ratios. Audi LOVES to tell the world about the peak power of these two EVs. But the e-tron GT can only hit 522 horsepower for 2.5 seconds when one enters into Dynamic Mode, comes to a stop, and holds the brake and accelerator for 1-second to engage launch control. The rest of the time, you’re cruising at 469 horsepower. Which, to be fair, isn’t exactly slow. But it’s not exactly fast either when your vehicle weighs over 5,000 pounds and you can buy lighter, almost 600-horsepower twin-turbo V8 Audis.

e-tron GT

In short, the e-tron GT is a quick car, and a lovely-driving car, but unless you activate boost mode, it’s not exactly fast. (In Boost mode, however, please be careful, the launches are serious.)

The RS e-tron GT is a different beast altogether. Those extra 121 ponies — going from 469 to 590 horsepower — in normal driving conditions are a MASSIVE improvement. A power band that feels more like driving the Audi S8 without turbo and transmission lag. The RS e-tron GT is, quite honestly, one of the most exhilarating Audi driving experiences available today that we can best sum up thusly…

Zipping onto a highway one day, we were stuck behind a truck going 45 miles an hour. So, when a gap opened up, we floored it and doubled our speed in the time it took to take a single breath. (Before, you know, slowing back down.) And, again, that wasn’t a boost-mode moment. It’s just an electrifying (haha, get it?) way to drive.

Not a One-Trick Pony

RS e-tron GT

For those concerned about EVs being one-trick we-accelerate-quick ponies, the Audi driving experience you probably know and love is all here as well. You might as well be driving an RS 7 in terms of the suspension damping in a vehicle that weighs a little more than the S8. But thanks to its lower center of gravity, the RS e-tron GT corners impressively as well. Not to mention the optional carbon fiber brakes which reduce speed quickly and quietly without as much dust as the steelies.

And, of course, you can also drop into Dynamic mode, come to a stop, hold the brake and accelerator for 1-second, and blast off like a rocket ship. An experience that’s literally like driving a roller coaster… or one of the other insane road-going EVs on sale today… all while sitting in a ventilated massaging bucket front seat listening to Apple CarPlay.

Is the RS e-tron GT worth paying a 40% premium over the e-tron GT?

Every single penny.

RS e-tron GT Image Gallery

e-tron GT Image Gallery

Photographs by Michael S. Palmer

Father. Writer. Photographer. Auto enthusiast.
Current Stable: 2013 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 2013 Cadillac ATS-4 3.6, LS3-Swapped 1992 Buick Roadmaster Wagon, 1987 Mercury Cougar XR-7, and usually a Press Loaner.

2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2 Debuts as Ultra-Limited Camo-Wrapped Variant

2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2

The 2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2 is a factory-built ‘prototype’ that’s limited to just 75 total units.

The 2023 Audi RS e-tron GT is already a pretty impressive entry into the performance-focused, luxury EV sedan space and a fine alternative to its Porsche Taycan brethren. With 637 horsepower on tap (using its boost feature for launches), the RS e-tron GT rockets to 60 mph in a mere 2.9 seconds and boasts its fair share of next-level tech to boot, making it the perfect vessel for someone who appreciates performance and luxury but doesn’t want to give up anything in terms of style, either. However, for those that crave a bit more of that – plus some added exclusivity – the brand new 2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2 is here to fulfill all of those needs.

The most obvious update that makes this oddly-named Audi unique is its exterior treatment, of course, as it’s the very first vehicle of any kind from the German brand to emerge from the factory wearing a camouflage graphics-skinned and wrapped exterior. This isn’t just some out-of-the-blue creation, however, as Audi is known for using camo wraps to conceal the designs of its prototypes when they’re out testing, which makes this a pretty cool idea.

2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2

In this case, that camo is comprised of the same red and black color combo used on original prototype test mules, but it also features red Audi rings at both ends for the very first time. The look is further enhanced by a set of 21-inch black aero wheels that cover ceramic brakes with red calipers, while “project_513/2” is etched in the rear quarter glass to boot.

2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2

Moving inside the cabin, the 2023 Audi RS e-tron project_513/2 continues that red and black theme with red air vents and detailing on the steering wheel, floor mats, and nappa leather honeycomb stitched seats, while the dash features carbon fiber inlays with camo graphics. The special edition name adorns the center armrest and the infotainment screen as well, just to remind occupants that they aren’t sitting in any old, regular Audi. One thing that hasn’t been upgraded is performance, but then again, the RS e-tron GT already has plenty of that on tap.

2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2

As for that odd moniker, project_513/2 is also an homage to the development process, as it’s precisely what Audi uses to name its developmental vehicles in terms of segment, generation, and body style, though that info is typically only utilized internally – another cool nod to this ages-old process.

2023 Audi RS e-tron GT project_513/2

Audi plans to build just 75 examples of this special “prototype” production model starting this spring – all for the U.S. – with a price tag of $179,900. But for anyone that’s ever dreamed of owning their own Audi test mule – or a prototype of any sort from any manufacturer – this is likely about as close as one can get, save for scouring auction sites looking for one that escaped an automaker’s crusher.

Photos: Audi

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Repaired with Rice: Flooded Audi e-tron GT Given Clean Bill of Health

donutsAudi e-tron GT is an impressive all-electric sports sedan. And even though it undercuts the price of its Porsche Taycan sibling the Audi is not exactly cheap. In fact, the one you see here stickered at $110K. So, even if one is damaged in a flood, you really don’t want to give up on it. It is worth trying everything to get it running and driving again. And that is exactly what YouTuber Rich Benoit from the Rich Rebuilds channel has done. We have shown you previously that he was miraculously able to get the flooded e-tron GT running again by using the old-fashioned rice trick. After submerging the car in thousands of pounds of rice the e-tron GT started and moved under its own power. Truly an impressive result.

However, starting and rolling forward 6 inches is one thing. To prove that the rice trick is truly viable the car has to actually behave like a car. Benoit still paid $56K at auction to get this car. And while that is far less than the original MSRP, it is still a serious chunk of change. And for that kind of money the car still needs to do all the things that an e-tron GT is capable of doing. That means driving at highway speeds, acceleration runs, and most importantly donuts in an empty parking lot. Once that road test is complete it is taken to an Audi dealer for inspection. Is the Audi really free of defects now? Let’s find out.

Clean Up in Aisle Four

Audi e-tron GT rice cleanup

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