The variable-length Skysphere illustrates the direction in which Audi design and technical development will move.
The latest study car from the luxury German company made its debut at a prestigious show called Monterey Car Week in Pebble Beach, California. This is the first of three Sapphire electric cars that Audi will unveil in the coming months. The Skysphere is followed by the Grandsphere at the Munich Motor Show in September, which will showcase the future of the A8, and then in 2022 comes the Urbansphere, which will be a self-driving city entertainment vehicle.
But let’s get back to the topic of our article, the Skysphere, an electric, partially deformable, self-driving Level 4 roadster whose stunning appearance was inspired by the 1937-1938 Horch 853 Roadster, designed by Audi California. In his design studio.
The newest representative of this “luxury, progressive” design language, the upcoming Audigen of the series will surely feature a single-frame grille lined with white OLED screens, narrow laser headlights, a gradient tailgate, and beautifully curved fenders.
However, the Skysphere’s biggest feature, the variable length/wheelbase is expected to remain a study privilege: The part between the front axle and the A-shaft is able to extend by 25 cm (in 5 seconds, even on the go), so the Audi study can alternately provide the stability, serenity and sportiness of a nimble roadster with a long wheelbase GranTurismo. When stretched, the impressive body length is 5,190 millimeters, which means it’s exceptionally large compared to a two-seater, but the 1.8-ton weight isn’t much of a luxury electric car.
The interior is inspired by 1930s Art Deco style, the seats are covered in a sustainably manufactured microfiber fabric, and the decorative inserts are made of eucalyptus and imitation leather. When using the Skysphere as self-driving, the steering wheel and pedals retract “by wire” to the dashboard. This makes the cabin more spacious. Almost all functions can be controlled from a huge touch screen measuring 1415 mm wide and 180 mm high, there are hardly any physical buttons, and the air inlets are hidden in the headrest, so you don’t have to close the roof in winter.
More than 80 kWh is the total capacity of the battery panels placed behind and between the seats, which theoretically provide a range of up to 500 km. All wheels feature an advanced double-wishbone suspension with new generation Audi three-chamber air springs and active stabilizers, and the rear wheels have been steered to provide proper handling and cornering stability.
Unfortunately, Audi has no plans to mass-produce the Skysphere, although VW’s flexible, adaptive electric vehicle platform, the SSP architecture, will provide a good basis for that. True, the variable length would be a nightmare for engineers in terms of manufacturability, safety and licensing as well.
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