Audi has unveiled the first member of a new family of concept vehicles, the skysphere roadster. With it, the brand is illustrating its vision for the progressive luxury segment of the future. This is being made possible thanks to autonomous driving, a redesign of the interior, and a seamless digital ecosystem.
The Audi skysphere concept shows how the brand is redefining luxury in the future—it’s no longer just about driving. The concept car was designed with the clear objective of offering its occupants captivating and world-class experiences.
To give passengers the maximum amount of freedom, the Audi skysphere concept was designed for two different driving experiences: a grand touring experience and a sports experience. This makes use of a spectacular technical detail—the variable wheelbase. Electric motors and a sophisticated mechanism with body and frame components that slide into one another make it possible to vary the wheelbase itself and the exterior length of the car by 250 millimeters. At the same time, the vehicle’s ground clearance is adjusted by 10 millimeters to enhance comfort and driving dynamics.
A characteristic feature of the side view are the rocker panels, which seem to protrude into the rear wheel arch—a necessary feature when varying the wheelbase actually pushes it backwards. The rocker panel is attached to the front end of the car, and as it moves, the panel also slides to the rear under the fixed door. In the process, the wheelbase is reduced from the standard size of an A8 L to the significantly more compact size of the curve-compatible Audi RS 5.
With the touch of button, the driver can pilot the 4.94-meter-long e-roadster in “Sports” mode with a reduced wheelbase, while the rear-wheel steering ensures that the vehicle remains extremely agile despite its dimensions. Or the driver can choose to be chauffeured around in a 5.19-meter GT in the autonomous “Grand Touring” driving mode while enjoying the sky and the scenery, maximum legroom, and the services offered by a seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem.
In this mode, the steering wheel and pedals move into an invisible area; the feeling of space in the concept car opens up completely new realms of possibility for such a sporty convertible. Meanwhile, the Audi skysphere automatically keeps an eye on the road and traffic with its sensor system and drives the occupants safely to their destination.
Similar to how the interior design offers a new, contemporary interpretation of luxury, digitization and the ecosystem open up unprecedented levels of freedom and worlds of experience for the vehicle’s passengers.
In addition, the passengers can share their experience on the road with friends via social media, with images of the interior and the surrounding area. The vehicle also takes care of everyday tasks that go beyond the ride itself. For example, the autonomous Audi skysphere concept picks up its passengers with information about their current destination and independently handles parking and charging.
The Audi skysphere concept will make its public debut on August 13, 2021, as part of Monterey Car Week. The concept car was conceived and designed at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu, just a stone’s throw away from the Pacific Coast Highway. Studio manager Gael Buzyn and his team are the creative minds behind the project. A legendary classic model from the company’s own history—the Horch 853 roadster—served as the inspiration for the new groundbreaking model. The convertible, which is also around 5.20 meters in length, was not only the definition of modern luxury in the 1930s, but also won the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach in 2009.
The drive system: 465 kW of power. An electric motor positioned on the powered rear axle is responsible for delivering power to the wheels of the Audi skysphere. A total of 465 kW of power and 750 N·m of torque have an easy time with the roadster, which only weighs around 1,800 kilograms. The weight distribution of around 60% on the powered rear axle results in ample traction and acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in just four seconds, if required.
The Audi skysphere’s battery modules are primarily positioned behind the cabin—an ideal configuration for the vehicle’s center of gravity and agility. Further modules can be found between the seats in the center tunnel of the skysphere interior—another position chosen in favor of vehicle dynamics. The battery’s capacity is expected to be more than 80 kWh, giving the car a range of more than 500 kilometers (311 miles) according to the WLTP standard in the economical GT mode.
The chassis: rear-wheel steering and adaptive air suspension. The vehicle features double wishbone axles in the front and the rear. The upper and lower wishbones are forged or cast from aluminum. Steering takes place via a steer-by-wire system that controls both the front and the rear wheels.
Because the system is not mechanically connected to the front axle, the driver can select different steering ratios and steering settings at the touch of a button. This allows the steering to be adjusted from extremely direct to comfortable, but also from high self-aligning forces to minimal self-aligning forces, for example when parking. The rear-axle steering and adaptive wheelbase also contribute to the car’s small turning radius.
A long-established Audi chassis technology ensures that the suspension delivers the necessary level of versatility—the latest evolutionary stage of Audi’s adaptive air suspension has been implemented in the concept car and features three independent air chambers to provide a comfortable base suspension.
Individual chambers can be deactivated for a more sporty ride with fast acceleration. The result is that the characteristic curve of the spring becomes more progressive, reducing roll and pitch to a minimum. Lowering the body by 10 mm reduces aerodynamic drag—particularly relevant when driving long distances.
The Audi skysphere’s active suspension plays a key role in the versatility of the car’s handling characteristics. When simply coasting along, the individual wheels are selectively raised or lowered to compensate for unevenness and undulations in the road surface—the result of a symbiosis between the navigation system’s digital predictions and the active chassis’ sophisticated control and actuation systems.
Mounted on aerodynamically styled 23-inch alloy rims, the 285/30 tires strike a balance between suitability for long-distance trips thanks to minimal rolling resistance and a sporty, active driving style with high longitudinal and lateral acceleration.