Audi says the concept will function both as a driver-focussed sports car and an “autonomous lounge”.
Audi has teased the new Sky Sphere concept ahead of its official launch on 11 August. The prototype will be unveiled at the company’s new design studio in Malibu, California.
The Sky Sphere is part of Audi’s trio of Sphere concept cars, which will showcase the company’s future design direction as it moves into the electrified (and autonomous) age. It joins the Grand Sphere luxury limo, which will be unveiled at the 2021 Munich Motor Show, and the upcoming Urban Sphere SUV.
Audi’s design boss, Marc Lichte, and vice president, Henrik Wenders, announced the Sky Sphere’s launch date in a short video, which also included a few teasers of the car.
The concept will be low and sleek, with a long bonnet, relatively short overhangs and a sweeping rear. Lichte and Wenders say the prototype’s lines were inspired by the Horch 853A – a similarly forward-thinking car for its period, which also features in the clip.
Despite the future-gazing design, teasers hint that the Sky Sphere’s grille will have a similar shape to Audi’s current models, while a shadowy silhouette of the car confirms that it will be a convertible. The concept will also have an unusual pixelated rear light bar, which appears to display animations to following road users.
Lichte discussed how the concept will have a dual personality, saying: “Driving autonomously is the pinnacle of progressive luxury. This concept is, one one hand, a real sports car, and it can transform in only a few seconds to an autonomous lounge.”
Audi is yet to release any specifics about the technology that will support this “autonomous lounge” function, or if it draws from existing engineering that will underpin future Audi models.
The EV can already take control of its own steering, throttle and brakes on the motorway (with the driver’s supervision), and the necessary hardware for this functionality is already available to the brand.
However, it is also worth remembering that the Sky Sphere is a concept, so it may not be based on any existing platforms within the Audi stable.
The brand did recently confirm that its Grand Sphere concept sibling will be based on Audi’s PPE Premium Platform Electric architecture. The prototype will be unveiled at this year’s Munich Motor Show, as a preview of the company’s pure-electric replacement for the A8 limo.
We know the Sky Sphere is an all-electric model though, so when it comes to performance it’s likely that the most powerful drivetrain available in Audi’s RS e-tron GT, which has a maximum output of 475kW thanks to two electric motors and an 85kWh battery pack, could find its way into the Sky Sphere concept.