Currently reading: New 2024 Audi A8 will be "very close" to Grandsphere concept
Self-driving 'private jet for the road' will receive only subtle design tweaks for production

The next-generation Audi A8 will go up against the Mercedes-Benz EQS with a high-performance EV powertrain and a radical new look heavily based on 2021's show-stopping Grandsphere concept. 

The new A8 will serve as the flagship for a wave of boldly designed bespoke EVs atop Audi's new PPE electric car platform, co-developed with Porsche. The first will be the Audi Q6 E-tron, due to be revealed later this year, and electric versions of the Audi A4 and Audi A6 will follow close behind.

The A8 E-tron, as the rakish new saloon is expected to be called, will be revealed next year, and it has now emerged that Audi will make only light changes to the radical Grandsphere concept for production.

Speaking to Autocar on the sidelines of the recent Audi Activesphere concept's debut, the firm's design chief, Marc Lichte, said: "The Grandsphere is a very concrete teaser. It's not far away from what will become production. It's not 1:1 but very close."

The Grandsphere is described as a "private jet for the road" and, like the Activesphere, Skysphere and Urbansphere, it is designed primarily around its capacity for level four autonomous driving. 

The concept is said by Audi to be the closest of the four Sphere concepts to a future production model.

Audi grandsphere 501

In keeping with its self-driving billing, the Grandsphere has been designed "from the inside out" to provide a lounge-style environment when no human input is needed to drive it. The steering wheel and pedals retract into the bulkhead, for example. The rear doors open backwards and there is no B-pillar to maximise cabin space and airiness. Passengers are welcomed aboard with "individually staged displays and ambient light" and the climate control and seats are automatically adjusted to their occupant's preferences as soon as they sit down.

The Grandsphere's infotainment system is programmed to resume content that was playing on occupants' portable devices prior to entering the vehicle. The driver's-side screen will display any unfinished news articles on entry, for example, and the passenger's screen will resume any unfinished videos. 


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"First class has now shifted to the front row," Audi said, as control of the car is now no longer expressly the preserve of the 'driver'. The front seats are, thus, designed for maximum comfort, with the ability to fold back by up to 60deg, although the expansive interior allows for a near-equally lavish set-up in the rear, where occupants sit on a sofa-style bench with a central armrest. This being a luxury-oriented concept, the air is filtered, temperature controlled and even scented, if required, and each passenger gets a set of speakers that are "inaudible to other passengers". Between the front seats is a cooler with two glasses and a specially designed drinks bottle. 

Audi grandsphere 509

Notably, and unusually, there are no visible screens, dials or physical controls upon entry into the Grandsphere's cabin, where designers have striven to achieve a "digital detox". On start-up, projections throughout the interior show relevant data and displays to each passenger, while a sensor bar underneath the main front display allows for instant switching between tabs and a rotary-style MMI touch button can be used by the driver to cycle through menus. Eye movements and gestures can be used for the same functions in fully autonomous mode, and because the Grandsphere learns its users' preferences, it can eventually "give personal proposals" to each user.

At 5350mm long, 2000mm wide and with a wheelbase of 3190mm, the Grandsphere is a good deal larger than even the long-wheelbase version of today's A8, but Audi emphasises that it is more a four-door GT car than a traditional saloon, with a sleek silhouette that comes "straight from the wind tunnel". As such, it features a long bonnet despite its electric underpinnings and the rear is heavily streamlined for optimal aerodynamic efficiency. It's unclear how closely related the eventual production car will be, but it will almost certainly lose the outlandish 23in wheels.

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The concept uses the PPE platform, developed in partnership with Porsche, who will use it for the new Macan EV coming next year. It has a 120kWh battery capable of charging at speeds of up to 270kW and offering a range of more than 466 miles, and a twin-motor four-wheel-drive powertrain producing 711bhp and 708lb ft. Theoretically, it will do 0-62mph in just over 4.0sec but has a governed top speed to preserve energy.    

Audi grandsphere 517

Audi admits that "the drive system and the handling are no longer at the top of the design specifications in this new generation of cars", but when Autocar asked if autonomous-capable cars will hold appeal for keen drivers, strategy boss Philipp Gündert said: "We are very focused on giving our passengers and drivers the freedom to choose. This car is focused on autonomous driving but of course we still want to keep that feeling and that close connection."

He highlighted the "monocoque feeling" provided by the steering wheel and seat layout and said an occupant can decide if they want to “enjoy being driven” or still drive themselves. The Grandsphere has rear-axle steering, adaptive dampers and camera-controlled active air suspension, all in the name of conserving some dynamic agility, despite its size. 

Although the Grandsphere majors on premium technology and providing a luxurious experience, its technology will trickle down to smaller cars in the new-era product line-up, potentially with an eye on ride-hailing services and shared mobility solutions.

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"That's definitely what we're trying to do," Gündert told Autocar. "We'll figure out what's possible, what we and our customers want and how we envisage the future, and then of course bring it to smaller cars, for sure, but also for future solutions that go beyond possessing a car. We can also see that our target customers' understanding of progressive luxury doesn't necessarily mean to own a car any more." 

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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Just Saying 30 January 2023
Well, well, well.
Scroll down to Peter's comments on the "7th" Sep 21.
Enough said.
CleoIyla 30 January 2023

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Peter Cavellini 30 January 2023

 Overkill?, you get in a the Car? Sit down, say a few commands to the Car and off you go, there is such a thing as too much, and, could you sit in a Car not in control letting it make the decisions?, wouldn't your human inbuilt sense of self preservation make you just a bit twitchy?, I do hope this tech becomes the exception rather than the norm.