Audi Grandsphere: new electric limousine concept unveiled

The Grandsphere concept is the second of a trio of concept cars previewing the future of Audi design, following on from the Skysphere two-seat roadster revealed last month

This is the Audi Grandsphere: the latest of a trio of ‘Sphere’ concepts Audi is unveiling to showcase the future of its design philosophy – so don’t expect to see it in showrooms anytime soon. However, the Grandsphere may provide us with our first hints of an A8 e-tron electric executive limousine to come, with the concept aiming to provide drivers with “first class” levels of comfort and space, according to Audi.

While the exterior of the Grandsphere is impressively striking (more on that later), the interior is where Audi has focused most of its efforts. Like the previously unveiled Skysphere roadster concept, the Grandsphere also features 'Level 4' autonomous driving technology. In autonomous mode, the car’s steering wheel, pedals and displays fold away into the dashboard and floor to maximise interior space for the driver and any passengers.

Up front, rather than a central infotainment screen, the Grandsphere projects images onto the dashboard when in autonomous mode. This feature can display movies or even be used for video conferencing. If you do want to drive normally, or pay someone else to do it for you, the display splits for the driver and the front passenger. It uses Audi’s newly developed MMI touchless response system to recognise gestures that control functions on the car, however, there are still physical switches and dials for the climate control on the doors and steering wheel for when the driver is in manual control.

It’s worth noting that while executive limousines typically focus on prioritising rear passengers’ comfort the Grandsphere, while still capable of seating four, is considered a 2+2 and places more importance on the driver and front passenger. The rear is therefore more compact than you might expect from this class of vehicle, and features a single bench seat. The front seats however can recline up to 60 degrees.

There is also no leather used in the Grandsphere’s interior; instead Audi has opted to use a selection of recycled materials throughout the cabin.

Styling-wise, the Grandspehre stands out against the rest of Audi’s current line-up. Not only does it feature coach doors, the rear is also more sweeping and coupe-like than that of the current A8, with the 5.35-metre-long concept car more closely resembling Audi’s A7 and RS7 Sportback 4-door coupes. At the front, the Grandsphere gets a shark-line nose and large grille – like the one on the A6 e-tron concept unveiled back in April – and 23-inch alloy wheels allround.

Underneath the bodywork is the same PPE (Premium Platform Electric) that debuted on the Audi A6 e-tron, and that will eventually underpin a series of fully-electric SUV and saloon, estate and 'Sportback' hatchback models. However, the first production model to use it won’t be unveiled until 2022.

The Grandsphere also uses rear-wheel steering, air suspension and two electric motors which combined produce 711bhp and 960Nm of torque – enough for a 0-62mph time of just over four seconds.

It features a 120kWh battery, which is larger than even the 107.8kWh unit fitted to the Mercedes EQS – a car that a production version of the Grandsphere would directly rival. According to Audi, the 120kWh battery will allow the concept car to cover 466 miles on a single charge.

The Grandsphere shares the same 800v charging technology as the Audi e-tron GT, which means it can be recharged at speeds of up to 270kW. At that speed, according to Audi, you should be able to add enough charge to cover 186 miles in just ten minutes, or wait less than 25 minutes and you’ll recharge the 120kWh battery from 5 to 80%.

The Grandsphere’s unveiling follows the debut of the Skysphere roadster concept in August. The final addition to Audi’s trio of outlandish concept cars will be the Urbansphere in 2022, which is expected to be a city-focused electric SUV.

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