The Audi Grandsphere Is a Level 4 Autonomous EV Concept With a Disappearing Steering Wheel
It’s designed to take your mind off driving—without huge TV-like screens
Audi announced its Vorsprung 2030 vision for electrification, autonomy and development last week, saying all its new models will be electric by 2026, and by 2033 it'll end all combustion engine production. Today, it's unveiled the Grandsphere concept vehicle, designed to be a "private jet of the road."
You might argue, as the world slips into what feels like ever more hell-laden scenarios, that a "private jet for the road" is not, honestly, the concept most of us were hoping for. But hey, at least it's not another luxury SUV and no one's tried to turn it into a gaming room to livestream the apocalypse so, sure, let's get into it.
The Grandsphere is the second of three "sphere" concepts that the brand with four rings is coming up with to showcase how it sees the future. The first, shown last month, was the Skysphere, an ultra-engineered electric roadster that can adjust its wheelbase to go from sports car to GT.
This one absolutely cannot do that but does lean in hard to another part of Audi's perception of the future. The Grandsphere is intended to be luxurious to sit in because, with Level 4 autonomy, you're meant to only need to use the limited controls occasionally. The whole minimalist steering wheel and dash can tuck away, leaving an uninterrupted experience free of monstrous LED screens, for what Audi's calling a "digital detox."
Displays hidden under wood in the dash only come to life when they're activated—like the driving controls, you have to ask to interrupt the car's natural vibe. The interior is, of course, produced from luxury materials but taken from sustainable sources and without the use of leather.
So, what do you need to know? Well, it's a concept so it's not like we're all gonna be rushing out and buying it but something interesting about the Gransphere is boy they are not kidding about it being grand. This is, for a sedan, a real big boy.
It's 17 feet and seven inches long, six feet and seven inches wide, and four feet and seven inches tall. Audi is calling the dimensions "an unambiguous example of the luxury class automobile," saying the 126-inch wheelbase "indicates top value." Whatever that means, on a concept you can't actually purchase that's designed to speak to outlandish indulgence.
Audi says the Grandsphere is designed around traditional automotive beauty concepts. That's strange to me as it in no way resembles a 1989 Saab C900 but to each their own. The point is that it's not meant to, despite being a concept, look futuristic. Everything about this car is supposed to, in a strangely simulated way, be analog.
With all the proposed autonomous technology in the car, there's no real driving experience to be had. The idea of the minimal controls is that they're there if you need to temporarily use them but should be tucked away like the tray table for take-off—this land yacht's getting sold as a private jet because you're meant to just sit back and sip the champagne. That is, unless you're in the driver's seat because Level 4 autonomy does say you will need to remain fit and ready to drive at all times, even if the car should be able to cope on its own.
Again, it's a concept so you probably don't care about the range on the thing but it's packing a 120-kilowatt-hour battery so even at that size, it should go a decent distance. It's not an EPA estimate, obviously, but Audi reckons it'll go 466 miles on a charge. Impressively, given it is absolutely enormous and probably weighs the best part of two tons, it should go zero to 60 mph in under four seconds.
I'll be seeing the Grandsphere up-close next week at IAA, so if you've got questions or stuff you'd like me to poke at, let me know. No, I can't steal the plant.
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