Audi Grandsphere: new electric limousine concept unveiled

This is the Audi Grandsphere: the latest in a trio of ‘Sphere’ concepts that 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 could provide us with our first hints of an upcoming A8 e-tron electric executive limousine, the concept aimed at offering drivers “first-class” levels of comfort and space, according to Audi.

While the exterior of the Grandsphere is impressive (more on that later), the interior is where Audi has focused most of its effort. 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 into the dashboard and the floor to maximize interior space for the driver and passengers.

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

It should be noted that while executive limos generally focus on rear passenger comfort, the Grandsphere, while seating four people, is considered a 2+2 and places more emphasis on the driver and front passenger. The rear is therefore more compact than you would expect from this class of vehicle and features a single bench seat. The front seats, however, can recline up to 60 degrees.

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

Style-wise, the Grandspehre stands out from the rest of Audi’s current lineup. Not only does it feature coach doors, but the rear is also wider and coupé-like than that of the current A8, with the 5.35 meter long concept car looking more like the 4-door A7 coupés and Audi RS7 Sportback. Up front, the Grandsphere features a shark-shaped nose and large grille – like that of the A6 e-tron concept unveiled in April – and 23-inch alloy wheels.

Beneath the bodywork is the same PPE (Premium Platform Electric) that debuted on the Audi A6 e-tron, and will eventually underpin a series of all-electric SUV and saloon, estate and “Sportback” saloon 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 together produce 711bhp and 960Nm of torque – enough for a 0-62mph time of just over four seconds.

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

The Grandsphere shares the same 800v charging technology as the Audi e-tron GT, meaning it can be charged at speeds of up to 270kW. At that speed, Audi says, you should be able to add enough charge to cover 300 km in just ten minutes, or wait less than 25 minutes and you’ll recharge the 120 kWh battery from 5 to 80 per cent.

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