- Audi's newest concept car is a sleek, sinister-looking electric convertible called Skysphere that blends Batmobile-like technologies with the amenities of luxury cars.
- The roadster concept can change sizes based on driving modes and boasts a digital cockpit with a retractable steering wheel that can stow away.
- The vehicle represents what Audi believes it could achieve, likely in the second half of this decade, as it pivots to electric and autonomous vehicles.
Audi's newest concept car is a sleek, sinister-looking electric convertible called Skysphere that blends Batmobile-like technologies and aggressive design characteristics with luxury amenities.
Most notably, the roadster concept features an adaptable wheelbase that can change sizes based on driving modes and a digital cockpit with retractable steering wheel and pedals that are designed to stow away when the car is driving itself.
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"This is what we call progressive luxury," Henrik Wenders, head of Audi, said during a media event for the vehicle's digital unveiling Tuesday. "This is not rather a car, it's an experience device."
The concept car represents what Audi believes it could achieve, likely in the second half of this decade, as it pivots to electric and autonomous vehicles, according to company officials. Audi plans to exclusively offer EVs by 2033, following the introduction of its last vehicle with an internal combustion engine in 2026.
Audi said the Skysphere is designed to drive itself but that it cannot actually do so at this time. It's unclear how feasible a vehicle that can change sizes would be for a production model. Its EV driving range is about 310 miles, according to Audi.
Wenders said auto brands such as Audi need to be thinking about what could be possible with EVs even if advanced technologies, such as an adjustable wheelbase, may not be currently on the horizon.
'Two vehicles in one'
Aside from the technologies, the vehicle signals a new design direction for the Volkswagen-owned luxury brand. Gael Buzyn, head of Audi's design studio in Malibu, said "a lot of elements" of the car will make it into future production vehicles.
Audi executives said the vehicle is essentially "two vehicles in one." The first is an aggressive-driving roadster capable of reaching 60 mph in about four seconds and offers about 553 pound feet of torque. The second is a grand touring coach car that will drive itself and expand about 10 inches for a larger, more comfortable cabin.
"It's not just a design study, it's a concept showing us, internally and externally, what's possible," Wenders said. "It is a concept showcasing us how we are combining both an automotive driving experience with an immersive digital experience. This is two-in-one."
The car was unveiled Tuesday for the 2021 Monterey Car Week in California, a high-end car festival that includes the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance car show.
The Skysphere is the first of a new family of concept vehicles focusing on Audi's changing from cars to "experience devices." The second vehicle, called the Grandsphere, is scheduled to be unveiled in September, followed by the Urbansphere in the first half of 2022.
The term "sphere" is meant to symbolize the interior space of the vehicles for drivers and passengers, according to Audi.
"These concept cars feature a new design that ultimately reimagines the interior, the passenger compartment, as the center of the vehicle and no longer subordinates the passenger experience to the requirements of the technology," the company said in a release.
Automakers routinely use concept vehicles to gauge customer interest or show the future direction of a vehicle or brand.