Audi has unveiled its new Grandsphere concept – a self-driving, electric saloon car that is a glimpse of what the brand’s future luxury cars might look like.
Described by its designers as a ‘living sculpture’ and a ‘lounge on wheels’, the concept is the latest in Audi’s ‘sphere’ show cars, though this Grandsphere is set to be the one that’s closest to making its way into production.
Featuring full Level 4 autonomous driving capability, Audi says that ‘customers can decide at any time if they want to drive themselves or be driven’. At the press of a button, the steering wheel and pedals appear out of the dashboard and give back the driver full control of the vehicle, and vice versa for when self-driving is preferred.
It offers full connectivity, ranging from handling parking and charging with no interference needed by the driver, as well as seamless integration of music and streaming services across the huge widescreen touchscreen. If someone is half-way through a film on their tablet, for example, the car will automatically resume the film when they get in the car.
With full flexibility on the interior – which Audi says is the main focus on the Grandsphere – there’s no B-pillar interfering in interior space, while the doors open automatically as a driver or passenger approaches.
It also aims to shift the focus of a luxury car from the rear seats to the front – as typically cars in this class are used to being chauffeur driven, but the car can now do that autonomously. There’s even a water cooler beneath the front seats if you fancy a glass of water.
Much of the interior is made from recycled raw materials as well, with sustainability being another focus on the Grandsphere, which is also completely free of leather inside.
In terms of design, the Grandsphere measures an imposing 5.35m-long, which is roughly the same size as a long-wheelbase A8. Rather than the typical boxy saloon shape, though, this concept is more the shape of a GT car – something that could be expected on production models in the future. There’s also still a rather imposing grille on show, though the Grandsphere’s designers say this is to house all the radars and sensors needed for the safety systems, rather than for cooling.
One particular aspect that shows the Grandsphere isn’t just a far-fetched concept is the fact it sits on the same dedicated PPE electric car platform as Audi’s e-tron GT. Here, it features a large 120kWh battery, which is said to allow for a range of ‘more than 750km (466 miles)’, while 270kW rapid charging capability means the battery could be charged from five to 80 per cent in just 25 minutes.
Twin electric motors also combine to produce more than 700bhp and 960Nm of torque, which is said to allow for 0-60mph time of around four seconds.
Asked whether the Grandsphere was what to expect from the next A8, Amar Vaya, exterior designer of the concept, said that “a lot of what we see here will be seen in our future cars”.
The next-generation Audi A8 luxury car is due in 2025, and is set to be available as an EV alongside more conventional powertrain options.