Audi Concepts: Sky Sphere, Urban Sphere, and Grand Sphere

Audi will soon reveal a trio of concept cars that it hopes will set the stage for the company’s future—a future that Senior Vice President Henrik Wenders promises will be “unmistakably Audi.” But as you’ll see, the simple line-drawn silhouettes don’t much resemble Audi’s vehicles as we currently understand them. Squaring that circle—er, sphere—is the true challenge of any ambitious new design concept intended to set a distant waypoint for aggressive evolution.

The three vehicles are all riffs on the Sphere theme: Sky Sphere is a sleek range-topping grand tourer, Grand Sphere looks like a fastback luxury sedan that’s more A7 than E-Tron GT, and Urban Sphere has a two-box design that could be a crossover or MPV.

The “sphere” aspect of these concepts appears to be more about the notion of a personal “bubble” than a physical design element; all are intended to provide the sort of varied experiences that autonomous vehicles theoretically promise. Office on the go while the car drives itself? Sure, in the future Audi is envisioning with these concepts, that’s exactly the sort of thing you might use a sphere car for.

The Sky Sphere is the most driver-oriented of them all, but all embody a proactive vision of the future, with the vehicles able to understand occupant’s emotions, preferences, and favorite places, and provide seamless solutions to each. Meanwhile, the Urban Sphere—ironically, fairly boxlike—occupies the sort of “digital, connected social space” sort of segment that’s been a favorite of designers imagining future urban autonomous vehicles. Think four walls, two couches, and a digital lounge atmosphere—a high-tech living room on wheels. And while pegging down the powertrains of imaginary vehicles is a bit of a fool’s errand, we’d be shocked if the messaging about all of these is anything other than pure battery-electric motivation.

But these concepts are about where Audi wants to go, not where it is about to go. The sci-fi vision of autonomy is a long way off, but that’s not stopping Audi from imagining how vehicles can adapt to fill a myriad of enticing possibilities when the driver isn’t required to be constantly attentive. That’s thinking inside the, um, sphere.

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