The less you drive this luxury sedan, the more you’ll enjoy it.
By J. Fingas
If Audi’s Skysphere concept is a driver’s car with an autonomous option, the company’s follow-up is the polar opposite. The automaker has introduced a Grandsphere concept electric sedan that uses Level 4 self-driving (full autonomy in limited conditions) to help you avoid driving “whenever possible” — this is a luxurious living room that just happens to let you take the wheel.
Invoke the driverless mode and the Grandsphere will ‘reduce’ the wheel and pedals to make it clear you’re supposed to relax. The displays are really projections on wooden surfaces that adapt based on whether or not you’re driving — you can watch media or participate in video conferences. While Audi’s familiar MMI controls are available in an upright seating position, you can use eye tracking and gestures to navigate the infotainment system while you’re reclining. VR glasses in the armrests help you immerse yourself in entertainment during your commute.
Audi is promising extensive personalization that would refine the interior as you step in, ranging from basics like climate control through to the media services you last used. The car would even display the news you were reading on your phone, according to the company.
The design itself is a large “2+2” seater with a grand tourer-like profile but a wheelbase longer than the stretched version of the A8. Like Mercedes’ EQS, you won’t be hurting for range — Audi is claiming 466 miles of driving with the 120kWh battery. An 800-volt charging architecture can give you 186 miles of driving in ten minutes, and bring the Grandsphere from a five percent charge to 80 percent in 25 minutes. It’s not the fastest vehicle with a 0-62MPH time of “just over” four seconds, but you clearly wouldn’t buy this to win drag races.
Not that you’ll likely buy this car in the first place. As with the Skysphere and the upcoming Urbansphere concept, this is more to illustrate Audi’s vision of its autonomous EV future. At least some of the technologies (such as that news display) are more what Audi aspires to build than something you could expect any time soon. It won’t be shocking if some of the features or design cues make their way into production cars, however, and there’s little doubt that many car brands will have to rethink their designs when manual driving becomes more of an exception than the rule.