Audi unveils its grandsphere concept study at the IAA 2021. The 5.35 m (17.6 ft.) long grandsphere sedan, like a first-class ride, blends the luxury of private transportation at the highest of comfort with a complete onboard experience. Level 4 autonomous driving unlocks new levels of freedom: without a steering wheel, pedals, or displays, the cabin transforms into a vast field of experience. And the front seats transform into a first-class lounge with more room, better views, and access to all of the capabilities of the Audi grandsphere’s comprehensive digital environment.
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The grandsphere is the second of the Audi “sphere” concept family
The Audi grandsphere occupies a unique position as the second of three “sphere” concept vehicles from the German manufacturer. That’s because the technology and design elements combined in it will appear in future Audi models within a few years. The Audi grandsphere concept exemplifies the brand’s claim to be the leader in technology change and totally new, comprehensive mobility solutions at the top of the automobile industry.
The Audi skysphere concept, a self-driving electric roadster with a changeable wheelbase, appeared in August 2021. It was a stunning vision of an autonomously driving GT that changes into a self-driving sports vehicle. These two concept vehicles, as well as the Audi urbansphere, which will join the trio in 2022, are connected by their general idea, which is based on their capacity to drive autonomously at level 4. Audi is collaborating with CARIAD, Volkswagen Group’s software research tank, to bring the technology to market in the second part of the decade.
Audi level 4 autonomy: freedom and luxury
The concept car not only transforms the conventional driver-oriented cockpit and passenger seats into a spacious lounge as soon as the steering wheel and pedals are lowered, but it also transforms the interior space of the traditional driver-oriented cockpit and passenger seats into a spacious lounge. At the same time, it gives all passengers unprecedented degrees of freedom.
That’s because the Audi grandsphere not only relieves the driver of driving duties whenever possible, but also provides everyone on board with a wide range of options for utilizing that freedom for individually variable experiences such as communication, relaxation, work, or withdrawal into a private sphere as desired. The Audi grandsphere idea evolves from a purely automotive vehicle to an “experience gadget.”
The options are almost limitless thanks to Audi’s own services and the ability to connect digital services. These may be used to access a range of services relevant to the current journey, such as creating a stunning scenic route or selecting a restaurant or accommodation.
The vehicle also handles mundane chores that aren’t related to the trip. The autonomous Audi grandsphere concept, for example, picks up passengers with information about their present location and manages to park and charge on its own.
Customized infotainment options are also available, including seamless integration of onboard streaming from previously utilized music and movie sources. Audi will also continue to provide customized and exclusive alternatives in the future, such as concerts, cultural events, and even sports events to which clients are invited.
The Audi grandsphere concept exemplifies the brand’s claim that it defines the progressive luxury of the future: for Audi, this means the option of new high-class experiences enabled by digitalization, as well as a holistic approach to sustainability with the goal of carbon neutrality along the entire value chain in the near future.
Design and comfort where it really counts: the interior
The front and rear doors of the Audi grandsphere concept are inverted, and there is no B-pillar. Passengers get access to the whole inner environment as soon as they board. However, the Audi grandsphere has already recognized its guests with a route identification – a unique feature – that opens the doors and greets them with specially prepared displays and ambient light.
The driver and passenger positions are automatically recognized, and a variety of personal comfort functions, including temperature control and seat adjustments, are customized for each seat. Simultaneously, the infotainment system accesses and restarts the passengers’ most recently utilized services within the vehicle.
For example, a movie streamed on a tablet by a passenger is immediately played back on the Audi grandsphere’s display surface. On the other hand, the projection surface on the driver’s side immediately picks up on showing the news that the person was reading before getting in.
The lines on the ornamental surfaces and utilitarian components in the interior are strongly horizontal. The absence of a steering wheel, pedals, or traditional dashboard contributes to the sense of distinct space.
The wide windshield, huge glass surfaces, and clear ceiling add to the impression. The same can be said about the side windows’ unique geometry: the top half is distinctly slanted, with the broadest portion only slightly over eye level. It’s a technique Audi originally showed in 2017 with its futuristic AI:CON concept vehicle, which is now being put into serial production.
The steering wheel and pedals vanish in level 4 driving, and the front section of the cabin becomes true free space in all of its width, with a superb view via the wide front and side windows and maximum mobility options.
When the two individual front seats are pulled all the way back, the cabin looks very spacious. The Audi grandsphere is a two-plus-two-seater vehicle. In the rear, there’s an upholstered two-person bench with an armrest that wraps around the side, and both front seats are built for first-class comfort and spaciousness.
When looking around the Audi grandsphere’s natural-colored, reduced-design interior, one thing stands out: before activating the driving functions, neither the batteries of the dial instruments nor the black screens for virtual display concepts are visible – the oft-cited digital detox at its finest.
Another surprise awaits you once the car comes to life at the touch of a fingertip: there are screens, but they are projected onto the wooden surfaces underneath the windscreen. They are either spread over the full width of the cabin or divided for the driver and front-seat passenger, depending on the driving state – whether manual with a steering wheel or level 4. All of the information needed for travel is available in high quality and is easily legible.
The MMI touchless response, which is positioned near the door cut-out on the inside cladding, is an exceptionally unique control feature. If the driver is in the active position behind the steering wheel, much to the front in the cabin, he or she may use that control to haptically choose various function menus through a rotating ring and buttons and click through the various levels.
If the driver, on the other hand, reclines the seat far to the back during level 4 driving, these comfort elements are not required. That’s because a mix of eye-tracking and gesture control is utilized at that moment. When the control unit is to be activated, a sensor aimed at the eye detects the line of sight. And the passenger may operate the device just as well without touching anything by making comparable hand movements – without bending over – that are similar to haptic operation.
The control panels are even included in the door armrests. As a result, the vehicle always provides passengers with invisible touch surfaces, which are indicated by an optic indication. Simultaneously, VR glasses can be found in the armrests of the left and right doors, which may be utilized in combination with infotainment choices, such as the holoride system.
Driving and power
The Audi grandsphere’s technological base, known as the Premium Platform Electric, or PPE, was designed specifically for battery-powered electric powertrain systems and therefore makes maximum use of that technology. In the grandsphere idea, the main part of PPE is a battery module between the axles that stores approximately 120 kWh of energy. Because Audi utilizes the whole vehicle base between the axes, a flat battery arrangement is feasible.
This, along with the big wheels, results in fundamental proportions that are ideal not just from a design standpoint. The main advantages are the large cabin and, as a result, legroom in both rows of seats. In electric vehicles, the lack of a transmission cover and a cardan tunnel further improves space comfort.
Nonetheless, the Audi grandsphere retains the brand’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive technology. This is due to the concept car’s independent electric motors on the front and back axles, which utilize electronic coordination to provide all-wheel drive on demand while maintaining a perfect balance of driving characteristics and energy economy. The two electric motors of the Audi grandsphere concept have a combined power of 530 kW and torque of 960 Nm.