Audi’s been on a run lately with some interesting concept cars, tackling everything from a giant urban people mover to a villainous sedan that drives itself. The latest is the Activesphere, an extremely sleek-looking electric luxury coupe that can transform into a pickup truck with off-roading capabilities.
With some truly impressive ground clearance, big 22-inch wheels, and a hatchback that can transform into an open cargo bed at the touch of a button, the Activesphere is described as Audi’s most versatile concept. When you’re tired of cruising the mean streets of whatever city you live in, you can take this rugged spaceship of a car onto the open road without any concern about leaving the pavement behind.
The Activesphere is the “culmination” of the German automaker’s sphere concepts
The Activesphere is the “culmination” of the German automaker’s sphere concepts, four concepts to represent each of the four rings in Audi’s logo. (Guess we won’t be getting a fifth ring to bind them all together in the darkness. Probably for the best.)
And the Activesphere isn’t just a design experiment — it also sits atop a modular electric drive platform that Audi is developing in collaboration with sister company Porsche that will have real-world implications for future production vehicles. The Activesphere’s platform is called the Premium Platform Electric, or PPE, and will undergird a future Audi performance vehicle to be released later in 2023.
The PPE platform will include 800-volt architecture to enable fast charging, similar to the Audi E-tron GT Quattro. That means gaining as much as 300 kilometers with just 10 minutes of charging.
The PPE will accommodate an “unprecedented range of high-volume automobiles”
The PPE will accommodate an “unprecedented range of high-volume automobiles — including SUVs and CUVs with high ground clearance as well as cars with a flat silhouette that are part of Audi’s core product range, such as the Audi A6 series, whose external dimensions and wheelbase are almost identical to the Audi activesphere concept,” Audi says.
But this is a concept. Who cares about all the boring technology? Give us the good stuff! How about augmented reality and “mixed reality optics”? Or “high-tech headsets [that] provide a view of the real environment and the route, while simultaneously displaying 3D content and interactive elements”? That nutty enough for you?
Audi is only the latest automaker to embrace in-car AR and VR features as a way to enhance or supplement the driving experience. Of course, the Activesphere has its share of autonomous capabilities, so the use of headsets to provide more details about the car shouldn’t necessarily be seen as distracting or dangerous. (It’s just a concept, after all.) And when the steering wheel and other driving controls retract, riders are able to get the full experience while wearing these devices.
The Activesphere covers a range of intriguing design choices, including carriage doors to provide a wider entry into the vehicle and the aforementioned retractable steering wheel to emphasize the vehicle’s autonomous capabilities.
In fact, the Activesphere is a veritable buffet of moving parts.
In fact, the Activesphere is a veritable buffet of moving parts. The vehicle’s ground clearance is adjustable by as much as 40 millimeters from the basic height of 208 millimeters. It can also be lowered by the same amount when driving on-road. When the vehicle moves up or down, the driver gets a visual representation thanks to a row of interlocking metal strips underneath the doors on either side. It really needs to be seen to be believed.
The rear hatch can also reconfigure itself into an open-air cargo bed, which Audi says is perfect for transporting e-bikes or other outdoor gear. A partition raises up to separate the riders from the back cargo area, much like a mid-gate in a pickup truck. Audi is calling it the “active back.”
The Activesphere is the fourth in a series of concept cars that the German automaker said would “reinvent mobility as we know it today.” The first was the Skysphere, a sleek, villainous-looking electric convertible with an adjustable chassis. Next was the Grandsphere, a spacious electric sedan with an interior that looks like it was designed by a Kardashian. And the third was the Urbansphere, a humungous autonomous people-mover for traffic-dense megacities.