Following the stunning Audi Skysphere that was unveiled just a few weeks ago, the German brand has now taken the veil off the second show car in its series of three “sphere” concepts. Meet the Grandsphere, a private jet on wheels that promises total luxury and Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities. Previously, designers started with the outside and the general appearance of the car. This time, things were developed from the inside out. The cabin was the focus of the work since not needing a driver anymore opens up new possibilities for the people onboard.
Even though outside design apparently wasn’t a priority, this teaser of what a future A8 replacement might look like still cuts a pretty sleek figure. An assertive front with a new interpretation of the typical Audi grille flows beautifully toward a rear that really is the best-looking part of the car. Futuristic and elegant at the same time, the Grandsphere certainly looks like a vehicle that can turn heads and could take pride of place in a high-end car dealership.
Designed to feel like a first-class airline experience, the 5.35m concept car invites passengers into its cabin through huge doors, with the rear ones opening backward and without a B-pillar being in the way. With a massive 3.19m wheelbase (longer than the long version of the current A8), there are heaps of space for occupants to lounge around.
Embracing the concept of “digital detox,” the Grandsphere doesn’t overload travelers with lots of screens and switches, but instead hides its tech until it is needed. One neat example of this is the fact that there are no black screens to be seen before the vehicle is activated. Instead, screen content is projected onto wooden surfaces below the windshield when the car is switched on.
The whole interior is also held in subtle tones with high-quality materials like wood and wool surrounding anyone lucky enough to drive this machine (or be driven in it). While the car does have a steering wheel and pedals, the driving controls can be retracted when switching to Level 4 autonomous mode. Everyone onboard, then, really becomes a passenger while the car does all the work from continuing the video you were watching on your phone before entering, to getting you to your destination, parking, and even charging itself. Naturally, this spaceship from Ingolstadt runs on electricity (and quite a bit of it).
Capable of going from zero to 100km/h in just over four seconds, it also claims a range of up to 750km, and the 800V charging architecture allows for fast charging with up to 270kW. This means that to add 300km of endurance will take just 10 minutes, and a charge from 5% to 80% a mere 25 minutes—all with the right fast-charger, of course. Any trip is made comfortable with the help of Audi’s active air suspension system, and four-wheel steering makes sure the car remains maneuverable. Powered by two electric motors, it generates 711hp and 960Nm.
Some clever new ideas have also been put onboard to address the fact that the driver might be traveling in this car in two different positions, and therefore needs different ways to control the vehicle and its various functions. When sitting behind the wheel, he or she can use an interface located in the door to operate the car’s features. Once it’s time to retract the steering wheel and slide the seat backward for autonomous driving, everything is controlled with a mixture of eye-tracking, gestures and voice control. It even comes with VR glasses stored in the armrests to keep passengers amused while whizzing to their destination.
While it’s great to see that carmakers are making inroads into autonomous driving, the days when we will really see self-driving cars being used like regular vehicles on our roads are still some time away. But the direction is clear, and cars like the Grandsphere make us feel excited for the future. The car will be on display at the IAA Mobility in Munich next week with a third concept (called Urbansphere) to follow.