AUDI has taken the wraps off its Grandsphere concept car, a second glimpse at how the future of autonomous driving could look, after the recent Skysphere, in a trio of sphere-themed design studies being shown this year.
Unsurprisingly, the Grandsphere is pure-electric, and it uses Audi’s new PPE (Premium Platform Electric) underpinnings, hinting that this could be closer to a series production model than it appears.
The PPE architecture will be used for future large electric Audi cars and uses 800-volt technology similar to that in the Audi e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan, allowing for ultra-rapid charging at up to 270kW. That’s enough to add 186 miles of range in ten minutes.
The Grandsphere uses a 120kWh battery, which is larger than anything Audi currently uses, and is claimed to be allowing for a total driving range of 466 miles.
Performance should be equally impressive thanks to a dual-motor setup with maximum outputs of 711bhp and 708 lb ft.
At 5.35m, the Grandsphere is longer than an extended Audi A8 limo. It’s wider too, in order to maximise the interior for its four occupants.
The sleek four-door Audi Grandsphere is as much about the interior as it is the exterior design. Entry is eased thanks to its rear suicide doors and pillarless opening.
The tops of the doors have large transparent sections similar to the roof. This increases the amount of light and therefore feeling of space inside — something that Audi says it is working towards implementing in future production models.
The cabin is where the most interesting elements of the Grandsphere can be found, with a vast sweeping dashboard that wraps around the interior of the car.
Rather than the expected glossy high-definition digital display, Audi has employed a natural colour wood surface and projects the relevant information onto that from beneath the windscreen.
The oblong steering wheel is fixed onto a small digital instrument display in a single unit that extends from the main dashboard and appears to float in front of the driver. When not in use, the steering wheel folds into the instrument binnacle that then retracts behind a panel to leave more space for the front occupants.
Adding to that is a centre console that slides forward and contains a drinks dispenser, so those travelling inside can enjoy a chilled soft drink on their journey.
Audi has acknowledged that there are no self-driving cars on the market as yet and has already had to row back on claims that the current A8 saloon would be capable of Level 3 autonomy — where the car can perform limited driving tasks but requires the driver to be ready to take over at any stage.
However, the German car maker is confident that it will begin to roll out Level 4 vehicles capable of fully automated driving in the second half of this decade. This would mean that cars could complete all journeys without any human input, though a driver could take control if they wished.
- After reading how the elegant Audi Grandsphere concept car previews self-driving luxury future, with 711bhp, you might be interested in the Tesla Autopilot system under investigation by US safety organisation
- Read how an Audi Quattro sold for record price of £163,125 at auction
- Check out the Audi Skysphere concept that previews autonomous luxury of the future