Audi grandsphere concept revealed, previews electric A8 replacement – PPE platform, 720 PS, 750 km range

In the run-up to the Munich Motor Show, Audi revealed the second instalment of its “sphere” trio of concepts, the grandsphere. This luxurious large fastback differs from the earlier skysphere by being a production preview – the car is tipped to sire an electric replacement for the A8 flagship, due out in 2024.

As per the earlier skysphere, the “sphere” part of the grandsphere’s name refers to the interior, which takes pride of precedence in the design process – now that cars are becoming electric and Level 4 autonomous driving capabilities are on the horizon. In particular, the latter has freed up plenty of possibilities inside, with the steering wheel and pedals able to be folded away when not required.

The driver and passengers are welcomed by the automatically-opening suicide doors and personalised displays and ambient lighting. Once inside, you’ll find that the traditional luxury car interior design has been turned on its head – instead of the boss’ seat being at the back, the focus is now firmly on the front seats, which have the best views, the most freedom of movement and access to the infotainment system.

Speaking of which, the system can detect the identity of the people walking in the car and can adjust settings for the seats and climate control to suit, as well as resuming services (such as media streaming and news) that were previously used by each person. Gesture controls are also taken to the next level – users can manipulate the system simply by looking at the specific menu function and using hand gestures to remotely rotate the MMI knob on the front doors, handy for when your seat is reclined.

Indeed, the front occupants are able to lie in a lap of luxury – the heavily-bolstered individual chairs can be reclined up to 60 degrees in autonomous driving mode and are enhanced with cabin scenting and Mazda MX-5-style in-seat speakers. Other passengers are relegated to the two-seater rear bench with integrated side armrests as part of the grandsphere’s 2+2 interior layout.

Sustainable materials take centre stage on the inside – instead from the usual leather, the grandsphere utilises wool and synthetic fabric upholstery, augmented with metal trim. The full-width infotainment displays are projected onto the hornbeam wood veneer dashboard and disappear when not in use. Concealed under a metallic cover between the front seats is an onboard cooler with two glasses and a specially designed bottle.

Despite the inside-out design philosophy, the grandsphere is certainly not a minger on the outside, sporting a dramatic sweeping roofline and muscular shoulders. It’s also huge – at 5.35 metres long, two metres wide and 1.39 metres tall and with a 3.19 metre wheelbase, the car comprehensively shades even the long-wheelbase A8 in every dimension bar height.

At the front, you’ll find a concave hexagonal version of Audi’s Singleframe grille, illuminated under a transpired cover and flanked by slim trapezoidal headlights. The latter’s graphics are inspired by the interlocking four-ringed logo and are reminiscent of pupils, giving the grandsphere concept a sharp gaze – a design that is mirrored at the rear of the car.

Along the sides, the short front overhang and the forward-pushed windscreen have been made possible thanks to the electric powertrain, although the lines emanating from the front of the car stretch far along the flanks to visually lengthen the bonnet. A second shoulder line runs around the entirety of the grandsphere, broken up by the large wheel wells hiding 23-inch six-split-spoke alloy wheels. These rollers hark back to the 1991 Avus concept while also featuring a lightweight motorsport-inspired aesthetic.

At the rear, the glasshouse is drawn inward, terminating in a vertical rear windscreen and a large glass spoiler that continues the expansive glass roof. This contributes to the airiness of the cabin in concert with the angled upper side windows, visually separated via a chrome strip and the side-view cameras. Taking a leaf from the AI:CON concept from 2017, these windows will be carried over to production, said Audi.

The aforementioned MMI control knob and the seamless integration of smartphone apps are also features actual buyers will be able to experience, the company added. As will the underpinnings – the grandsphere rides on the Volkswagen Group’s Premium Platform Electric (PPE), a development of the J1 architecture that forms the basis of the e-tron GT and Porsche Taycan.

Under the skin sits an electric motor on each axle, providing quattro all-wheel drive and a total system output of 530 kW (720 PS) and 960 Nm of torque. So equipped, the massive grandsphere can sprint from zero to 100 km/h in under four seconds, while the flat 120 kWh lithium-ion battery enables a range of up to 750 km.

The 800-volt electric architecture also allows for up to 270 kW of DC fast charging (the same as the e-tron GT), which can fill the battery from five to 80% in under 25 minutes. Put it in another way, you can add up to 300 km of additional range in just ten minutes.

Suspension is handled by a five-link axle at the front and a multilink setup at the rear, both made from aluminium. Also fitted is single-chamber active air suspension, using a front camera and the navigation system to read the surface of the road ahead and electromechanical actuators that can push up or pull down each wheel separately, providing individual corner control. The grandsphere also comes with adaptive dampers and rear-wheel steering.

The skysphere and grandsphere concept will be followed by the urbansphere, which will be shown next year. That car will be able to fit more than two occupants and appears to take the form of a futuristic SUV.

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