The Audi grandsphere concept is a Level 4 autonomous vehicle with a retractable steering wheel
Like the open-topped, extending-wheelbase skysphere that we saw back in August and the presumably city-sized urbansphere that is set to be unveiled next Spring, Audi’s latest grandsphere concept doesn’t much care for capital letters.
As with those other two concepts, the grandsphere has also been designed from the inside out and places its main focus on the interior. Audi rather nauseatingly refers to it as a “private jet for the road” and uses plenty of definitely normal language such as “holistic digital ecosystem”, “oasis of wellbeing” and “digital detox” when describing the interior. We promise to never repeat those terms on these pages.
Before you can even get inside, though, the grandsphere will have independently handled its charging situation and will recognise your gait as you approach. If you own the thing or have been granted access, only then will the giant suicide doors open up.
What you get inside is a subversion of the usual luxury saloon layout. Yep, in the grandsphere the posh seats are up front – with two fancy armchairs looking out onto a wraparound wooden dash that’s made from recycled materials and has all of your infotainment/navigation needs projected onto it. There’s even a drink chiller between the chairs. Rear seat passengers are limited to a small bench and just get a plant to look at. Plebs.
That focus on the front row is because the whole steering wheel, column and pedals can be retracted at the touch of a steering-wheel mounted button. Press it and everything you need for driving is swallowed up by the dash to create a massive open space with plenty of room for activities. The grandsphere then enters ‘lounge mode’ where it drives itself using Level 4 autonomy, and passengers can sit back and watch a film or just enjoy the lack of standard screens. The climate control knobs on the doors are particularly interesting too (not something we say often) – they can be turned using gesture control that’ll make it look as though you have The Force. Heck, Audi’s designers do admit that much of the interior was inspired by sci-fi movies. Very cool.
Outside of that interior, the grandsphere is absolutely massive. The design is essentially a cross between a standard saloon and a modern four-door coupe, with a swoopy rear end and a massive rear overhang. Anyone else getting Peugeot vibes from that front end, though? And we’re talking before Peugeot started making good-looking cars…
At 5.35m the grandsphere is even longer than the stretched version of Audi’s A8, and the wheels it currently sits on are 23-inchers despite being dwarfed by the vast expanses of bodywork.
The new light signature is one of the many design features that Audi is suggesting might make it onto future models, as are the curved side windows and windscreen. In fact, despite the futuristic retractable steering wheel and the Level 4 autonomy gubbins, the grandsphere is apparently the closest of the three sphere concepts to a production car.
Apparently this design language will be taken into Audi’s future executive saloons, and the grandsphere is actually based on Porsche and Audi’s new PPE platform that’ll underpin real-life versions of the electric Macan and the A6 e-tron.
That means although it went from sketch to fully-functioning concept car in just nine months, we get a proper spec sheet to peruse. Audi tells us there’s an electric motor on the front and rear axles for proper quattro all-wheel drive, and the two combine to produce a total of 700bhp and 960Nm of torque.
That makes for a 0-100kph time of just over four seconds, whilst a hefty 120kWh battery provides an impressive range of over 750km. Oh, and like the current e-tron GT it’ll fast charge at speeds of up to 270kW.
Reckon the grandsphere and its Level 4 autonomy can redefine the luxury saloon sector?