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.
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.
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–
- Establish new design languages
- Experiment with next-generation technology, and
- 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
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)
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).
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.
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!)
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
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