German automaker Audi has revealed the fourth member of its “sphere” concept vehicles after wowing us with the skysphere in 2021. Meet the Audi activesphere concept, a crossover with many quirky features that could make it the ideal family hauler.
For example, it has an extendable rear that converts into a modest pickup-style bed to carry bikes or other toys, but it has a swooping four-door coupe design like a sports car. It has chunky tires and more ground clearance than most car-based crossovers. And like the skysphere, the activesphere is an all-electric vehicle that delivers up to 373 miles (600 km) of driving range.
“The activesphere is unique,” said Gael Buzyn, Audi Design Studio Manager. “It’s a new type of crossover that cleverly combines the elegance of an Audi Sportback, the practicality of an SUV, and true off-road capabilities.”
Ticking All The Boxes
The Audi activesphere is the automaker’s rendition of its next-gen allroad station wagon. It bears similar dimensions to the existing Audi A6, and its meaty 22-inch wheel and tire combo means it could go farther off the trail than a typical shooting brake or crossover. The activesphere has standard air suspension that offers roughly 10 inches of ground clearance, while its 18.9 and 28.1-degree approach and departure angles would merit a thumbs-up from off-road aficionados.
Housing the all-terrain hardware is a slender, coupe-shaped body with C-pillar mounted rear doors that negates the need for conventional B-pillars. However, the activesphere’s most convincing feature is its “convertible” back end (Audi calls it an “active Sportback”). The “active” part is a lower rear section that folds to reveal a pickup-style bed.
It all sounds fine and dandy, and the folks at Audi Design Studio did a fabulous job penning the concept’s all-rounder shape. But you couldn’t expect it to handle like a sports sedan over smooth tarmac due to its high center of gravity and chunky rubber. Moreover, we’d think twice about thrashing the activesphere over highly challenging terrain unless we risk scraping or denting the monolithic body panels.
Underpinning the Audi activesphere’s athletic vibe is the brand’s PPE (Premium Platform Electric) architecture, co-developed with fellow German carmaker Porsche. PPE is the same platform utilized for the Audi grandsphere and urbansphere, and it’ll debut in the magnificent-looking A6 e-tron concept before the end of 2023. Furthermore, the modular chassis design would allow Audi to expand its lineup of battery-electric vehicles in the profitable B and C segments.
Powering the Audi activesphere is a 100 kWh battery pack that feeds two electric motors. Audi claims around 435 horsepower and 531 lb-ft. of torque is provided to all four wheels using a five-link axle and Quattro AWD. When the batteries run dry, the concept has 800-volt charging capabilities to replenish the juice from five to 80 percent in about 25 minutes using a 100 kWh DC fast-charger.
Sophisticated Tech Features
As it turns out, the Audi activesphere concept’s bed-on-demand feature is not its most compelling asset. So instead, we’re keener on trying its digital ecosystem. It has mixed-reality headsets for each occupant that “take the possibilities of AR head-up displays to a new level in flexibility, precision, and displayable content.” In other words, it’s super futuristic!
For instance, passengers can view virtual content like floating HVAC controls near the air vents that respond to gestures or high-resolution 3D topography graphics. Audi said passengers could take the headsets out of the vehicle and use them to help navigate bike trails or ski slopes.
Of course, the Audi activesphere concept could function in autonomous mode, giving the occupants more time to talk about the concept’s many embellishments. The automaker said the dashboard, steering wheel, and pedals elegantly fold out of view during full autonomy, allowing an unobstructed view of the road ahead and below via glass panels on the Singleframe front grille and lower half of the doors.
The Future Crossover?
Previous attempts at building or conceptualizing a jack-of-all-trades vehicle have typically resulted in an eye-searing mess. Words like “Pontiac Aztek” and “Chevy SSR” are first in mind, but Audi pulled it off with its activesphere concept. We also thought about the GMC Envoy XUV and its folding rear roof section upon laying eyes on Audi’s newest concept, although there’s no denying the latter is more desirable.
The Audi activesphere is the future of high-tech crossovers, but could it live up to its multi-hyphenated visage? It will be interesting to see what the future holds.
Alvin Reyes is an Automoblog feature columnist and an expert in sports and performance cars. He studied civil aviation, aeronautics, and accountancy in his younger years and is still very much smitten to his former Lancer GSR and Galant SS. He also likes fried chicken, music, and herbal medicine.