Audi Skysphere Concept Revealed — Perfect Vehicle for ‘Knight Rider’ Reboot?

Audi skysphere concept PB21 (2)

Skysphere imagines an EV Audi future where drivers toggle between autonomous grand touring and immersive sports car performance. 

A futuristic black car racing across the desert on a lone strip of two-lane blacktop. The man behind the wheel isn’t driving. In fact, there isn’t even a steering wheel. Future car’s in autopilot mode. The man speaking commands, eyes on a dash layered with screens, an artificial voice answering. And then at the press of a button, future car changes. Wheelbase shrinking. Steering wheel and pedals folding into position. And the man takes control. No, we aren’t watching Knight Rider, but gazing upon Audi’s Skysphere roadster concept.

“Welcome to the future,” Head of Audi Brand, Henrik Wenders says, standing before a breathtaking electrified grand tourer that turns into a sports car. Literally. Skysphere, the first of three forthcoming Audi concepts, shortens its wheelbase 250mm (9.84 inches) when switching between GT mode and Sports mode. And that’s only the tip of the technological iceberg. But let’s back up a little bit.

Malibu Designs Made Real

Audi skysphere concept PB21 (17)

Audi describes Skysphere as, “more than a car. More than a concept car. More than just the hardware.” Audi imagined this future Bond movie title of a concept roadster at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu, California. (That’s just north of Los Angeles along the Pacific Coast Highway for those less familiar.) Audi Design Studio works fully digitally — no molding or sculpting. Digitized concepts are then presented to Audi execs in Germany via virtual reality.

The goal? Pay homage to the 1937 Horch 853 roadster with a modern twist. Audi calls it “progressive luxury” (despite, you know, being based on a vehicle made during the Nazi regime). In this all-electric future, the Skysphere offers Level 4 Autonomous driving in its GT mode. (That’s the level where the car does everything.) Here, passengers experience more legroom, an open-top or soft-top view, and a front dash adorned with an edge-to-edge screen. Sure, Level 4 autonomy doesn’t exist yet, but Audi conceptualizes Skysphere GT mode as your luxury, chauffeur mode for commuting or long drives. In this world, Skyphere knows when and where you want to go. And how to find its own charging.

But happen upon a lovely stretch of road where you want to take command and Skysphere transforms.

Audi skysphere concept GT mode

Audi skysphere concept Sports Mode

The 17.02-foot GT shrinks into a 16.2-foot sports car thanks to Skysphere’s variable wheelbase. A steering wheel and gas/brake pedals appear too. Then screens shift and the passenger moves rearward to give the cabin more driver-focus. You’re now ready to race this 465 hp EV to 100 kph (62.14 mph) in four seconds. Not earth-shattering numbers, I know. Here’s why: Audi forgoed the e-tron GT’s mutli-motor AWD system for a one-motor rear-wheel-drive setup inspired by mid-engine vehicles. With the electric motor in/as the rear axle, 70 percent of the batteries sit behind the driver, with the other 30 percent placed in a tunnel between the passengers. This gives Skysphere at 60 percent rear-weight bias for added traction during acceleration. In terms of range, Audi estimates 500km, or about 310 miles, per charge.

In short, we have a smart, interactive futurist sports car that can drive you around transforms for hot pursuit mode with the touch of a button. Look out, ’80s kids, your chance to bring Knight Rider to life is nearly here.

Skysphere First Impressions

Audi skysphere concept

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Now onto my two pennies worth of opinions, which I’ll separate into three categories.

First up, DESIGN. Visually speaking, it took me a few minutes to get used to Skysphere. When I first saw its teaser silhouette, it screamed modern interpretation of a 1930s roadster made to cruise around in an Art Deco world. But the actual concept vehicle is a touch on the chunky side.

Not bad, mind you. Just more angular when I was expecting something a little more swooping and sculpted.

Still, after diving in, out, and around Skysphere, the more I see, the more it impresses as something new and futuristic, but also classical and pure Audi. From the light-show front and tail ends with integrated sensors and comm devices to the rearward-opening doors, Skysphere does everything a concept should do. It dreams of a future while evolving and evoking the company’s current design language. Also, I’m totally sold on the light-infused digital grilles that evoke Audi’s last design decade.

Audi skysphere concept

However, in terms of PERFORMANCE, Skysphere is less impressive. I know it’s easy to get sucked into figures and spec sheets and that’s a waste of time. Especially for something that’s not going into production. Still, I’d argue a 4-second 0-100 kph rear-wheel-drive-only drivetrain is less evocative than the already-in-production RS e-tron GT. I don’t mean to knock Audi’s accomplishments, of course, but how does a lesser vehicle inspire us. How does a rear-wheel-drive vehicle fit into the Audi Quattro ethos? Plus, Skysphere aims to be a split personality vehicle… in a world where Level 4 Autonomy doesn’t actually exist.

Give Audi credit for dreaming, mind you. Give them props for thinking Level 4 autonomous chauffeuring might actually be a reality before the end of this decade. (I have a few doubts, personally.) But, in my head, if a concept car can’t actually demonstrate a technology, it just seems more like a PowerPoint demonstration on wheels than a technology showcase. (You know, give me a rocket car at the World’s Fair!)

Lastly, as a LODESTAR FOR FUTURE AUDIS, Skysphere admirably conveys Audi’s goals. Skysphere isn’t a vehicle coming out in the next year or two. It’s very much an artistic fantasy designed to guide Audi’s forthcoming designs. Expect to see Skysphere (and other concept) influences across Audi’s production lineup. Bigger screens. Fewer carbon emissions. More connectivity. Moving toward autonomous vehicles while maintaining a driver’s spirit.

This last bit, to me, means the most.

I know many enthusiasts loathe the end of the internal combustion engine. The sounds. The smells. It’s almost as if ICE-vehicles are alive, cheering us on as we push them to their limits. And a good chunk of that immersion evaporates when we switch to electric.

But Audi wants to keep enthusiasts at the focus.

Sure, they’re going to make quieter, more efficient vehicles. They’re going to chase a world where our cars drive us — hopefully preventing distracted driving accidents and enabling more relaxation and productivity. But Audi isn’t going to take the fun out of their vehicles (if you want that). And with designs like Skysphere, I can’t wait to see what Audi dreams up and forges into reality.

Audi skysphere concept

Mostly so I can finally pretend to be… a man who does not exist. A young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals that operate above the law.

Photos: Audi USA

Audi skysphere Concept Set for Reveal August 10th

Audi Sky Sphere Concept

Car design is entering exciting new territory — and Audi’s skysphere concept is a glimpse of what to expect.

Last month, we wrote about the hat trick of wild concept cars Audi is set to release over the next year. And now, we know the wraps will come off the first design exercise on August 10th. Dubbed the skysphere, the darkened profile in the teaser shows a long hood, space for two, an open top, and some gloriously pointy hindquarters. Given that this is a concept car, and not destined for production, pesky little things like pedestrian safety regulations aren’t really a concern.

In the video below, Audi senior vice president Henrik Wenders and design chief Marc Lichte share that the inspiration for the futuristic ride came from the gorgeous Horch 853A. If you’re looking to create a GT masterpiece? That’s hardly a bad place to start, but in keeping with Audi’s pivot toward electric vehicles, all the concepts will be pure electric. So the long hood is a bit of puzzler. My guess is that the car rides on a skateboard-style chassis with motors at each corner, which would leave the space free for passenger luggage.

That’s presuming it’ll be able to move under its own power, of course, which many concepts don’t. What will presumably function are the trick banks of lights in the front fascial and rear section. Upon the reveal, I’ll expect to see some shock and awe from these set ups, as lighting is one of the next frontiers in automotive design. But what I’m really stoked to check out is the cabin, which will have the capability to transform from a cockpit to a lounge, where drivers can either control the machine or let the autopilot take over.

At this point, the skysphere concept is still largely a mystery. But it will certainly speak to the challenges and opportunities facing the folks who’ll design the next generation of personal transport. Because in the next few decades, the rulebook that’s defined car design is going to be thrown out the window, and we’re all going to get a chance to see what engineers and artisans can do with a truly clean sheet design.

Check out the video to for more about the philosophy behind this concept — and stay tuned for the reveal next month!

Photos: Audi

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Entering the Electric Sphere — Audi Bosses Drop Huge Future Hints via LinkedIn.

Audi Announces Spheres
Execs Wenders & Lichte Reveal Great Future Audi Electric Models & Technology ’Spheres’.

Has Audi just confirmed an unexpected trio of electric cars via the social media? That may very well be the case if the video shared by Audi’s senior vice president of brand, Henrik Wenders is anything to go by.

As is becoming the trend among auto industry execs, their personal social media posts are proving ever more relevant. Only a couple of weeks ago, BMW M boss Markus Flasch dropped news of his company’s impending Le Mans return (against Audi, of course) on Instagram. Now Audi has taken it another step as Wenders posted a most revealing YouTube video on his personal LinkedIn page earlier in the week.

Henrik Wenders

Socially Sharing Big News is a New Auto Trend

Wenders and Audi colleague, chief of design, Marc Lichte reveal a chunk of crucial brand info in the video. And its’s exciting stuff, especially if you happen to be a battery Audi fan…

Wenders cuts straight to the point in the smartly executed close to black and white You Tube flick. “Over the next year, we are going to show you what the future looks like with three breathtaking concept cars,” he promises. He goes on to suggest that this news will, “reinvent mobility as we know it today.” He describes the concepts as ‘Spheres’ that showcase unique high class experiences with technology.

“They will recognise you, listen and read wishes in your eyes,” Marc Lichte continues. “They will know your preferences, know what you love and like and where to find it.”

Audi Sky Sphere

The Sky is the Limit

The Audi colleagues waste little time to outline each of their new ’Spheres’. “The Sky Sphere is where the sky is the limit,” Henrik Wenders beams, before explaining that it will be, “a driver’s car and autonomous at the same time.” The profile sketch that flickers onto the screen suggests that the Sky Sphere will be a grand tourer in profile. But wait — does that sky rhetoric not suggest that it is actually a convertible? Time will tell…

Perhaps the most exciting of the three new concepts, the Sky Sphere promises to be an Audi like never before. The outline alludes to a longer and grander car than an A5. More in the realm of a BMW 8 Series or Mercedes S-Class Coupé with a long body and its cabin set well back on the body. As if it had a V12 up front. Even though this one would be electric, and different prospect altogether.

Audi Grand Sphere

Grand Sphere Expectations

Design guru Marc Lichte then takes over to describe the second concept. “Grand sphere is all about grand appearance, immersive and personal and a grand high-class experience for all senses.” If anything, the Grand Sphere appears to be an electric answer to the existing Audi A7 Sportback. A sleek and sexy grand coupe in classic sleek style.

The Audi A7 already delivers a heady level of car to driver interface, so one can only wonder how and where Ingolstadt will make further progress in this regard. So expect the Grand Sphere concept to deliver on a few most attractive connectivity developments. Never mind performance. Especially considering that the existing RS7 is already a petrol power benchmark. Could whatever this car reaches the market as, take on the Tesla Plaid?

Audi Urban Sphere

Private & Personal. At Another Level?

Wenders picks up the baton to describe the final of Audi’s new Spheres. “The Urban Sphere is a private space in an urban environment,” Henrik promises. “Digital and social; involving and perfectly centred around you.” All we know is that the Urban Sphere will be SUV-like in profile. A bit of an electric Q8 with extra sensory perception to serve as your vehicular slave.

Marc Lichte closes off, confirming, “Together they are an expression of how we are creating our future already today.” And Henrik Wenders concludes: “They are all unmistakably Audis.”

Everything else about these Audi ’Spheres’ remains purely speculative. Whether they will be called A9, A7 and Q8 E-Trons, if they are to be developed by Audi’s Artemis skunkworks, and even whether or not they will spawn Porsche and, or Bentley siblings, remains to be seen.

Audi Sky Sphere Lurking?

Audi is Entering an Electric Sphere

All we can tell you is that all three of these concept ‘Spheres’ will likely appear before the end of 2022. And probably appear on Audi showroom floors by 2025, too. Audi already sells the E-Tron, E-Tron GT and Q4 E-Tron, and will soon add the Q6 and A6 E-Trons.

And considering its June announcement that it will launch its final internal-combustion powered car as soon as 2026, this little video may very will be far more significant than many of us give it credit for…

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