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Audi officially reveals its newest addition to the Sphere concept vehicle lineup, known as the Activesphere, with a pickup bed and lounge seating for four.
Built on the Premium Platform Electric architecture, the battery-electric luxury coupe boasts 435 hp, 372 miles of range, and an active air suspension with 9.76 inches of ground clearance.
Beyond its off-road capabilities, the Activesphere features a superimposed mixed reality world inside, accessible by an Audi-specific headset, and Level 4 autonomous driving modes.
Audi seems to be on a roll with striking designs and enthusiast engagement lately, as the brand launches its newest concept car—the Audi Activesphere. Gone are the days of typical sedan shapes and bulbous crossovers, in theory, as Audi calls the Activesphere a crossover and a luxury coupe. And you can't forget its retractable pickup truck bed, either.
If you think that sounds bizarre, you'd be right. Of course, this model is a certifiable concept vehicle, but its unorthodox styling and futuristic mixed-reality features make the model a spectacle worth pondering.
The automaker emphasized during the press briefing that there is no commitment to putting this model into production, but it's representative of an all-new lineup toward which Audi is working. In fact, it's the fourth model in the Audi sphere lineup, following the Grandsphere, Urbansphere, and Skysphere, but it's by far the most adventurous—just as Audi intended.
With no production plans, the sky is the limit in terms of features, and the Activesphere doesn't disappoint. For starters, the sportback rear of the Activesphere turns into an open cargo bed at the touch of a button—with the capacity for carrying equipment for your hobby of choice.
From e-bikes to water and winter sports gear as well as golf clubs, the so-called "ActiveBack" bed is augmented by a ski rack integrated into the center of the roof structure. This retractable space is made possible thanks to the transparent rear window slides and the motorized bulkhead behind the passenger area.
The Activesphere's ability to be a utilitarian vehicle is paired with the right mechanical setup, featuring a set of 22-inch wheels and knobby, off-road specific 285/55 tires. With up to 9.76 inches of ground clearance from the active air suspension as well as an approach angle of 18.9 degrees and a departure angle of 28.1 degrees, the model is fit to fulfill its Quattro heritage.
And if you do choose to take the Activesphere offroad, its abundance of electric torque should be a big help. Built on Audi's Premium Platform Electric (PPE) architecture and powered by a 100-kWh battery module, Audi says the model can produce around 435 hp and 531 lb-ft of torque from its two electric motors. Each axle is equipped with an electric motor.
To keep the power flowing, all models based on the PPE platform will have an 800-volt charging system, with charging speeds as high as 270 kW. Audi says 10 minutes of charging at this rate will yield 186 miles of range, while 25 minutes will boost the state of charge from 5% to 80%. In total, the Activesphere concept is set to have 372 miles of range.
Despite its off-road chops and sport coupe design heritage, Audi wants consumers to have the choice not to drive, or to drive with heavy assistance. With a Level 4 autonomous chauffeuring system—capable only on suitable terrain—the concept allows occupants to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride, as the steering wheel and pedals fold into the interior compartments.
Don't worry, the steering wheel and pedals can be folded out of the soundbar-style dash at a moment's notice, though Audi did not say if this feature could be used while in motion. Because Audi claims this will be a Level 4 system, it technically won't need driver intervention anyways, but Audi expects the transition from driving to self-driving should be gradual.
To that effect, Audi is introducing Audi Dimensions, a mixed-reality system accessed through proprietary high-tech headsets and then projected inside the cabin. Occupants will view the real world around them in addition to a set of superimposed drive functions, navigation, and even traffic safety information, with each occupant able to customize how they see this mixed reality.
Driving status and following or braking distances as well as interior control panels, such as audio and climate control, are shown in a tidy, minimalist design that remains hidden from the unaided eye, but is able to be manipulated by those using the headsets.
Even if all occupants chose not to wear the headset, the Activesphere remains driveable and the interior functions are designed with easy interaction in mind. Audi says the Sphere vignette is found throughout the concept, especially inside.
Using the wide, suicide doors to climb into one of the four lounge seats, passengers will find themselves sitting at the same level as the high, full-length center console, which serves as the interior layout's crown jewel, with heating and cooling capability as well as room for various bottles and even the proprietary headsets.
Despite the massive fender flares, 5.25-foot raised suspension, and maximalist glass exterior, the Activesphere concept is similar in size to an Audi A6 e-tron, the company's upcoming midsize EV sedan offering. And while many of the features are lofty in context with current technology, especially autonomous driving capabilities, the actual drivetrain is on par with current EV trends and its dimensions aren't that ridiculous.
Beyond this concept, the PPE chassis itself is set to join the Audi fleet, likely through the A6 e-tron, by the end of this year. And while Audi touts the mixed reality and autonomous driving possibilities of the Activesphere concept, it's likely that consumers would be just as excited by the lifted, Quattro-based fastback coupe design—especially when it can carry two e-bikes and four passengers up and down the mountain with power to spare.
Would you like to see Audi's Activesphere—or at least certain elements of it—go into production? Please comment below.