The final model, that makes up the trio of the ’Sphere Concepts’ breaks cover with some ground breaking tech and innovationsby Khris Bharath, on
Audi just took the wraps off of a 5.5-meter-long concept car called the Urban Sphere. The concept is primarily targeting Asian markets and shows off what the future of luxury urban mobility means for the revered German marque.
As you might have seen over the past year, Audi does not hold back when it comes to its concept cars. After the Skysphere and the Grandsphere concepts showcased last year, it is now time for the Audi Urban Sphere concept. The Ingolstadt-based brand is in fact third in a series of prototype cars with the suffix ’-sphere’ in its moniker.
The Audi Urbansphere Concept has been designed keeping the current Chinese cities in mind, where space is a constraint. The idea is that the Urbansphere would be your little cocoon away from the outside world.
Designed to be a space where you can unwind and relax, while your Urbansphere swiftly wafts you along to your destination in absolute comfort. However, Audi is confident that the principle is applicable to pretty much any congested metropolis across the world.
What will the future shape of Audi's luxury sector look like? "It fundamentally challenges the class's conventional thinking," reads a side note for a city car that appears like it's far from easy to drive.
Now, the name Urbansphere might have implied that this was going to be a small city car, however, the exterior dimensions are nothing short of enormous. When creating the Urbansphere, it appears that Audi didn’t really pay much attention to the dimensions.
The EV is 5.51 meters long, 2.01 meters wide, and 1.78 meters tall. To give you some context, this all-electric van is longer than the A8 L Horch. Okay, so this is far from an urban runabout, but Audi has thrown in rear-wheel steering and Level 4 Autonomous driving tech to make life that bit easier.
Enough about size and heft, lets’s talk exterior styling for a moment here because there’s a lot going on here. That one-piece element that forms the single frame upfront has a vast array of LEDs that can do so much more than just lighting.
The entire surface essentially behaves like a canvas, hence the name - Audi Light Canvas. They can show you everything from the state of charge, acceleration, and braking.
These are dynamic lights on steroids. You’ve got a similar lighting setup at the rear as well. Staking a step back and looking at the profile, the Urbansphere comes off as a cross between a van and a jacked-up wagon.
Everything comes together with a glass canopy roof and the massive two-tone 24-inch wheels, that pay homage to the Audi Avus concept from the 90s, do add to the visual drama. In short, the Urbansphere Concept is Ingolstadt’s futuristic take on something like the Chrysler Voyager.
Okay, now to the pièce de résistance of the Urbansphere: When you approach the vehicle, the doors open suicide-style, and what appears to be a virtual red carpet is projected onto the ground. Now that should make every ride an occasion, shouldn’t it?
Also, inspired by Chinese umbrellas, hidden within those suicide doors lies a self-illuminating umbrella. Getting in and out should be a breeze as a footstep also automatically deploys while the seats swivel out at the same time.
Once inside, and seated in one of the four futuristic armchairs, you’re greeted with what could very likely be the future of car interiors. Wood, wool, and synthetic textile fabrics are what make up the seat coverings (made out of ECONYL) a recycled polyamide, floors carpets of this well-lit air cabin, thanks again to that glass roof.
Now Audi is paying a great deal of attention to the wellness aspect of people who ride in the Urbansphere. The car, for example, includes an integrated stress detection system.
This adaptive technology employs facial scanning and voice analysis to identify the passenger’s mood and gives individual relaxation alternatives, such as a meditation application accessible via a personal screen or a private acoustic zone in the headrest.
The four individual seats provide nothing short of an experience that you’d currently find in any First Class cabin in one of the many premium airlines. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that this is one step ahead, especially in terms of tech.
Another highlight feature in the cabin has to be the transparent OLED screen that pivots vertically from the roof, which can further be used as a split-screen for both occupants seated in the reading.
"Space concepts for large families are highly popular in a rising market like China," explains Oliver Hoffmann, head of technological development. We're presently analyzing what this might entail for Audi.
The Urbansphere comes to life at the touch of a button. You can choose to manually operate the vehicle or summon the level 4-autonomous driving tech. If you enable this system, the pedals, and the steering will retract into the dash and the driver too can unwind, using one of the many displays in the cabin. We’ve also seen something similar on the BMW Mini Urbanout.
Under the floor of the Urbansphere lies a 120 kWh battery pack and is based on the PPE (Premium Technology Electric) platform.
The battery powers the front and rear axles’ electric motors that have a combined output of 368 horsepower. An 800-volt system with a maximum output of 270 kW can be used to put charge back into this battery pack. You should be able to replenish about 186 miles or 300 kilometers in 10 minutes. The 120 kWh battery can be charged from 5% to 80% in 25 minutes. The WLTP range is over 466 miles or 750 km.
The adaptive air suspension is designed to isolate you from what’s happening underneath the vehicle, ideal for those riddled surfaces that you find in the heart of any city these days.
Audi has some pretty ambitious plans for electric mobility over the coming few years, and they aim to bring over 20 EVs by 2025. This year’s all-electric innovation will be confined to a redesigned E-Tron, which will be dubbed Q8 E-Tron.
In 2024, the Q6 E-Tron SUV will be the next significant EV, as for the Urban Sphere, this is just a concept, but the innovations and technologies showcased in it can trickle down to an Audi that you can purchase by the middle of the decade.