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Let's meet the Audi activesphere concept

Audi presents a prototype crossover with electric quattro propulsion system. A luxury coupe that has the ability to convert into a pickup. An innovative functional concept with augmented reality headset.


As the fourth model in a very interesting series of Audi concept models, the activesphere marks the culmination of the four-cycle spheres that the brand has brought to the fore. Following the skysphere roadster unveiled in 2021, but also the grandsphere and urbansphere that shone in April 2022, a four-door crossover coupe with a surprisingly versatile body design now makes its debut. Measuring 4.98 metres in length, the ultra-stylish concept is more than just a top-of-the-line luxury sports car, boasting impressive ground clearance and large 22-inch wheels that showcase its off-road capabilities. At the same time, at the flick of a switch the sportback rear of the activesphere can be converted into a pickup with an active-back cargo area - ideal for transporting recreational equipment such as electric bicycles or equipment for summer and winter hobbies.

By combining conflicting parameters in a perfect synthesis, the Audi activesphere emerges as a versatile crossover, with a powertrain and suspension that make it equally adept both on and off the road. The steering wheel and pedals allow the driver to actively control the car, while there is advanced level autonomous driving for more relaxed driving. As such a sleek and dynamic coupe, it has classic proportions and lines, but in seconds, it can be converted into a pickup to carry sporty equipment as there is even enough room for two electric bikes.

The concept was designed at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu, USA, a stone's throw from the Pacific Coast Highway, the legendary coastal highway. Studio director Gael Buzyn and his team are the creative minds behind this project and describe it as follows: "activesphere is unique. It is a new type of crossover that cleverly combines the elegance of an Audi Sportback, the practicality of an SUV and real off-road capabilities."

With advanced electrification technology and particularly fast charging thanks to Audi's variable PPE platform, the activesphere joins the concept family. The range is more than 600 kilometres, and the extremely short charging times thanks to the 800 Volt technology are surprisingly short.

The innovative Audi Dimension combines the physical and virtual worlds (i.e. a kind of mixed reality) by projecting digital content into the occupants' fields of vision in real time. The high-tech headset offers a view of the real environment and the journey, while simultaneously displaying 3D content and interactive elements - which are independently configurable for drivers and passengers.

This means that all useful information for the driver, such as driving status and navigation, can be displayed. At the same time, headset users can see the control areas and other virtual displays in an elegant, minimalist design. Mixed reality enables users to interact precisely with these real, but hidden from the eye and touch-sensitive zones, as the imaging headset displays and performs functions by reacting in real time whenever users touch them.



Exterior design - Solid style

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Its dimensions - 4.98 metres in length, 2.07 metres in width and 1.60 metres in height - bring the Audi activesphere to the highest levels of the premium class. A characteristic feature of an electric car is the long wheelbase of 2.97 metres, ensuring maximum legroom for passengers. The front and rear projections are correspondingly short for a much more compact and dynamic appearance.

The large 22-inch wheels and impressive ground clearance, the characteristic flat cabin and the dynamic roof arch give the concept proportions that clearly suggest a sports car. The 285/55 tyres are capable of all types of terrain and their large tread pattern enhances the activesphere's off-road temperament. The wheels feature variable sections: for off-road use, they open for optimal ventilation, while on asphalt they close for optimal aerodynamics. The stylish iconic exterior mirrors on the two front doors are also specially designed to minimise drag coefficient.

Glass surfaces are an important element of the concept's bodywork. The front of the activesphere is distinguished by the brand's iconic single-frame grille, which is partially transparent to offer passengers an unobstructed view through the large frunk (the front storage area).

There are also glass surfaces on the low sides of the doors, which give the impression of blurring the boundaries between the physical and interior worlds when the activesphere is in off-road mode. The wide, curved luggage compartment door has a large crystal for optimum lighting, and even the roof itself is controllably translucent, letting plenty of daylight into the cabin.

The distance of the activesphere from the ground is variable. This is ideal for off-road use, as it can be increased by 40 mm from the standard height of 208 mm or reduced by the same amount in highway driving. Something that benefits both the centre of gravity and aerodynamics in fast driving. The Audi activesphere's approach angle for off-road driving is at 18.9 degrees for the approach angle and 28.1 degrees for the escape angle.

The variable ground clearance refers to the Audi model range that has an enthusiastic audience loyal to allroad models. From the first generation, this range also features air suspension with variable ground clearance and a visually differentiated set that includes protective elements. Equally important for all allroad models is the Avant package option.

The activesphere marks the first time a Sportback hatchback-style model has incorporated the design elements and technological equipment of an allroad. For this reason, Audi calls the new body version "active Sportback" to differentiate it from the allroad. Another new differentiation from the allroad is that the activesphere concept features dark, glossy Arctic Teal finishes, front and rear, as well as on the sides under the doors and matte surfaces that create a visual juxtaposition between the floor and the cabin.

As in the original Audi grandsphere, the doors of the activesphere are attached to the A- and C-pillars at the front and rear and open in opposite directions. There is no middle pillar here either, which means that the entire interior space opens wide to the passengers.

To the right and left of the singleframe front grille, the narrow headlights look like a dynamic gaze and echo the brand's four-ring logo by magnifying and isolating the intersection of two rings to form a new digital light signature that Audi has introduced for the first time in the grandsphere: the Audi eye.


Sportback and active back - variable rear architecture

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Audi's definition of the activesphere is a crossing of boundaries that shapes the basic concept of transformation. In particular, the rear section reflects the dynamic active lifestyle of drivers who would like it and makes it possible to carry even the bulkiest sports equipment without sacrificing elegance and Sportback character.

When conditions require it, the transparent rear windows are almost as transparent as the roof of the activesphere. At the same time, the lower, vertical part of the rear folds up horizontally to create a flat loading area called the activeback, which has brackets e.g. for mounting electric bicycles.

A ski rack is built into the centre of the roof and is in such a discreet position that it is practically invisible and only extends when required, so that skis can be safely moored and transported.


Priority on the inside - with a focus on people

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The "Sphere" motif sets the tone: the common element in the name of the Audi skysphere, the grandsphere, the urbansphere and now the activesphere, refers to the interior. Kilowatts, km/h or lateral acceleration are no longer at the forefront of design specifications for this new generation of cars. Instead, the focus is on the interior, in a sense the sphere of living and experience of the occupants. Based on this pattern, the design process itself is changing to focus on the design of the interior.


Functional and minimalist - the interior

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The epitome of clarity and orderliness - this is the first impression for passengers when they find themselves inside the activesphere and after the doors have been opened wide and upside down. The zones inside feature horizontal contrasting colours when the dominant central element is the seat surfaces, door and front trim in warm lava red. These contrast with the dark exterior even when looking through the side windows. The four independent seats seem to float as extensions of the tall centre console. The designers envisioned the surfaces of the seats, backrest and head restraints as three separate elements.

When the Audi activesphere concept is in autonomous driving mode, the dashboard, steering wheel and pedals disappear from the occupants' field of vision, offering a clear field of view with an unobstructed view of the road. If the driver wants to take action and grab the steering wheel, the dashboard, together with the steering wheel, folds down from its recessed position under the windscreen - each driver can ideally adjust the ergonomic position they want. The MMI controls on the doors are touch-sensitive and always accessible, for full control of the windows and seat settings. The architecture and sense of space in the Audi activesphere are largely determined by the long centre console.


Audi Dimension - crossing new worlds

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Pushing the boundaries is the power of Audi's activesphere - and this also applies to the interface between the car, the user and the environment. For the first time, the new system combines physical reality and the digital sphere to create a new world: the Audi Dimension. The centrepiece of the new system is the innovative mixed reality headset - available separately for the driver and each passenger. Users have access to a comprehensive digital ecosystem the moment they are in the Audi activesphere.

Initially, VR glasses were limited to displaying a virtual reality without real-world elements. However, the technology has evolved towards augmented reality, where the real world is enriched with virtual content. Mixed reality is now able to display virtual content in the real world in all three dimensions. There is no doubt about it: in the future, mixed reality will take the capabilities of head-up AR displays to a whole new level in terms of flexibility, accuracy and projected content.

Audi's activesphere is the first to use an innovative version of this technology, which in turn adds the dimension of interaction to the dimension of the overlapping real and digital worlds. With unprecedented visual precision, higher resolution and exceptional contrast, the innovative system brings control surfaces and displays into the user's field of vision while behind the wheel.

It can then gesture to control the car's functions, while the user interface (the virtual screen in the headset) reacts to changes in real time, like a conventional instrument. A particularly user-friendly feature, virtual control is offered to the user so that he or she can interact comfortably with the interface, regardless of the seated position.

Even so, the potential of this technology is by no means exhausted. In the off-road programme, for example, high-resolution 3D illustrations of the real landscape can be displayed and information on navigation and destination can be shown. Road safety information, i.e. alerts on traffic congestion or slippery roads, can also be used in this case.

At the same time, users can fully control the air conditioning, as well as navigate through the sound system's menu of music options, which each passenger can use individually. Because the headset has been precisely designed to match the geometry of the activesphere's interior, it can even display virtual index cards on the center console to illustrate access to web content. Since the sensors of the mixed reality headsets calculate every bit of the interior with millimetre precision, the virtual content can be tailored to personal requirements and even used for individual interaction.

Information about the car itself, battery range and the nearest charging stations is also accessible both inside and outside the vehicle. And when required, there are advance warnings such as low tyre pressure as well as a weather forecast service as a criterion for choosing a route.


PPE - Adaptive Motion Technology

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Due to its dimensions and performance levels, the activesphere prototype is ideal for the use of the most advanced platform for electric propulsion systems: the Premium Platform Electric or PPE. Like the related Audi grandsphere and Audi urbansphere prototypes, the activesphere is based on this variable mass-production set. It is being developed by Audi together with Porsche AG - the next-generation Audi production cars based on PPE will be introduced, one after the other, before the end of 2023. The models based on the PPE platform are designed exclusively for battery-powered electric drive systems and can therefore take full advantage of all the benefits of this technology.

The PPE is the first platform designed to accommodate an unprecedented range of high-volume models - including SUVs and CUVs with a long ground clearance, as well as lower-shaped models such as the Audi A6 range, whose exterior dimensions and wheelbase are almost identical to the Audi activesphere prototype. The key element of the future PPE platform range is a battery array between the axles. In the Audi activesphere prototype it has around 100 kWh. Using the entire width of the car between the axles makes it possible to achieve a relatively flat arrangement for the battery. The electric motors on the front and rear axles of the four-wheel drive Audi activesphere deliver a combined 325 kW and 720 Nm of torque. The front and rear wheels have five-link suspension and Audi air suspension with adaptive dampers.


Rapid charging with 800 V

The heart of all future PPE platform models is 800 Volt charging technology. This ensures that the battery, such as that of the Audi e-tron GT quattro, can be charged in a very short time at fast-charging stations with up to 270 kW of power. This revolutionary technology will be introduced for the first time in the medium and luxury high-volume segments via the PPE platform.

The PPE platform allows charging times approaching a refuelling stop similar to that of a conventional internal combustion engine car. Just 10 minutes is enough time to supply the electric concept with enough energy to drive for more than 300 kilometres. This is because the high-voltage, 100 kWh battery can be charged from 5% to 80% of its contents in less than 25 minutes,. Together with a range of more than 600 kilometres, whenever needed the Audi activesphere can travel long distances and long journeys without the stress of charging.