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Audi urbansphere Concept shows off what a future utility vehicle could look like

The third installment of Audi’s “sphere” concept cars has finally broken cover and it shows what a utility vehicle of the future could look like. Called the Audi urbansphere Concept, this vehicle looks like a cross between a traditional crossover and a multi-purpose vehicle or small minivan but with suicide doors. A collaboration between Audi’s design studios in Ingolstadt, Germany, and Beijing, China, the urbansphere sports suicide doors and an 11.2-foot wheelbase. At 18 feet long, 6.6 inches wide, and 5.8 feet high, it’s the largest of the three “sphere” series show cars. Despite its size, the urbansphere doesn’t sacrifice maneuverability thanks to a standard air suspension optimized for all-electric vehicles and features rear-wheel steering and adjustable dampers.

Why is the Audi urbansphere Concept so large? That’s because it’s been designed to maximize passenger use and fit as many seats as possible while optimizing comfort. The lack of a B-pillar and the use of counter-hinged doors means the car becomes an open, welcoming space. Swiveling seats and a red carpet of light projected onto the ground next to the vehicle add a sense of drama every time you get in or out of the car.

Although there are four individual seats, the two rear thrones are where it shines. The backrests can be tilted 60 degrees and they also include extending leg rests. A large OLED display drops down from the ceiling and is positioned between the two rows of seats. Since it takes up the width of the interior, those in the back can watch movies, make conference calls, and do different tasks thanks to its split-screen feature. The displays in the urbansphere don’t pop up unless you activate them. When they’re not in use, you’ll get panels made of wood, wool, and synthetic fabrics.

Controlling the urbansphere’s MMI infotainment is unique because it utilizes eye-tracking and gesture control to enable passengers to make selections when their seat is reclined. In the upright position, there’s a set of rings and buttons you can use. The system will also learn the habits of the individual user, specifically their preferences and frequently used functions.

The interior design continues with the horizontal theme first seen in the grandsphere concept to provide an impression of openness. Its steering wheel and pedal can also be hidden in autonomous driving mode to enhance that feeling of spaciousness. There’s also a center console that swivels upward and houses a water dispenser and glasses.

Thanks to input from Chinese customers, Audi also added a stress detection system that offers personalized suggestions depending on how the passenger is feeling. There’s even a meditation app and a private sound zone in the headrests to help you relax.

Sustainability is a key principle in the urbansphere concept. Audi sourced renewable materials for the interior. The seat padding, for instance, is made of ECONYL, a recycled polyamide that can be further reused afterward without any loss of quality. Bamboo viscose fabric is utilized in the armrests and the rear of the vehicle.

One of the unique features of the Audi urbansphere Concept is the exterior because it manages to retain the brand’s distinct look while adding new elements. Take the enclosed grille and part of the rear hatch, which now lights up in multiple colors in various patterns thanks to Audi’s Light Canvas feature. It’s also rocking 24-inch wheels inspired by the company’s Bauhaus design tradition. The fact that it looks like multiple vehicle types enable the urbansphere to defy classification, meaning it’s best to look at it as a utility vehicle instead of labeling it a crossover or minivan.

Like the skysphere and grandsphere, the urbansphere is underpinned by the PPE or Premium Platform Electric architecture. This platform was designed specifically for battery-electric vehicles and features a battery pack mounted flat under the passenger compartment. Like the grandsphere, the urbansphere uses a 120-kWh unit powering two electric motors, one mounted on each axle. The combined output is 395 hp and 508 lb-ft of torque. In typical Audi fashion, AWD is standard but the front electric motor can be deactivated to reduce friction and energy consumption when coasting.

Thanks to an 800-volt charging architecture, the urbansphere Concept can DC charge at peak rates of up to 270 kW. This allows it to regain 186 miles in 10 minutes or charge from 5 to 80% in under 25 minutes. In the more optimistic WLTP cycle, Audi says the urbansphere can travel up to 466 miles per charge.

Although the Audi urbansphere Concept won’t make it to production, expect it to influence production vehicles built on the PPE platform. The Q6 e-tron could feature similar design cues to this show car when it arrives.

Written by Stefan Ogbac
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