If I asked you what manufacturer would build lifted sedan with a GMC Envoy XUV-style sliding liftback, you probably wouldn’t guess Audi. Yet here’s the Audi Activesphere concept, and it’s wild. This all-electric all-terrain all-out machine is fairly far from a production model, yet it offers an interesting glimpse into the mind of Audi.
Let’s start with the big party piece, the cargo area. Press a button on the Activesphere and the glass on the liftgate slides forward to reveal a hard-lined truck-like bed. There’s even a mid-gate for larger cargo and a drop-down tailgate for loading. It’s as cool as it is difficult to execute, and it gives credence to the car’s off-road motif.
Speaking of the off-road motif, check out those tires. Measuring around 34 inches in diameter, these 285/55R22 meats mean business, while extensive plastic cladding should ward off minor stone chips when this thing’s really blasting along the gravel.
Moving to the interior, the Activesphere is chock-full of augmented reality a la Tony Stark’s laboratory. While it’s meant to let drivers do their thing as the car drives autonomously, common sense says it’s a complete flight of fancy, so I’m not particularly enthused by it.
Fundamentally, the Activesphere is the very near-term future of Audi and Porsche. It rides on the new PPE platform, so it gets an 800-volt architecture with charging speeds of up to 270 kW and dual motors. In this application, those motors kick out 436 horsepower and 531 lb.-ft. of torque and are fed by a massive 100 kWh battery pack.
On paper, the idea of a high-performance sedan-truck sounds awesome, but the Audi ActiveSphere just doesn’t quite do the trick for me. To explain why, we’ll have to look at some Audis that I love.
[Ed Note: I think it looks badass. It’s like a modern Vehicross. Find the joy in it Thomas! You’re young. Don’t live in the past. Live in the glorious future. – MH]
Here’s a second-generation A8. These things are now heavily-depreciated heaps with mortgage-sized repair bills that generate generational poverty, but they’re also some of the nicest sitting rooms on or off four wheels. Keep in mind that the image below is of a car that entered production in August 2002, which means that the interior was likely worked out before Limp Bizkit won an MTV VMA on Sept. 6, 2001 for their Rollin’ music video, which was partially shot atop the World Trade Center.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? From the motorized screen to the acres of leather and wood, the cabin of the second-generation A8 felt light-years ahead of what Mercedes-Benz had to offer in the S-Class, and even cut the tech-heavy Bangle-butt BMW 7-Series down a notch. If it weren’t for the running costs, I would already own one of these cars.
Right, let’s go a little bit older and a little bit cheaper. This is a first-generation Audi A4 and right away, this looks so much fresher than any other compact luxury sedan from 1994. As much as I love the E36 BMW 3-Series, it looks very ‘90s with its unpainted rub strips, contrasting trim, and relative lack of curves. Meanwhile, you could tell someone that the Mk1 A4 came out in 2002 and they’d probably believe you.
Jumping into the 2010s, here’s the original A7. It’s as cold and modern as a zinc bartop, and it’s hard to believe that this shape is almost 13 years old. More importantly, the A7 was a pioneer of sorts. Large liftback sedans weren’t a huge thing in 2010, and now Mercedes-AMG, Tesla, and even Kia have taken a crack at it. I feel like none of them have been quite as successful styling-wise as Audi.
While the Activesphere concept is fine, it lacks a certain X-factor. It doesn’t have the astonishingly plush yet forward-looking interior of the Mk2 A8, or the simplicity of the original A4, or the perfect lines of the original A7. Maybe it’s the cladding that makes the whole car look like a FILA dino-stomper. Maybe it’s the way the fake grille wraps around the nose. Maybe the very rotund roofline is at odds with the sharp hood surfacing and prominent haunches. The package as a whole isn’t offensive and the whole e-tron GT meets Envoy XUV idea is gloriously absurd, but the execution gets a light shrug from me.
(Photo credits: Audi)
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Eh, it used to be with these cars that we’d get a production model 5 years later, but the only things they would keep are the name and the radio knobs. Now we don’t even have radio knobs, so I suspect they’ll find something else inconsequential to keep along with the name.
Twelve year old me loves it.
Forty year old me thinks it looks problematic in too many ways.
What’s with the zipper cladding?
12 yo: It makes it look burly and mean!
40 yo: You mean cheap and hard to clean.
That cargo space eh.
12 yo: It’s like a Lego Space Police dune buggy that I can fit my bike in!
40 yo: My golf clubs won’t fit unless I keep the tailgate down.
12 yo: What the heck is augmented reality? It looks awesome! Ooh ooh, I can solve future crimes with it.
40 yo: Do I need to wear special gloves to operate the climate controls? Are said gloves subscription based? Can I solve future crimes with the infotainment systems? I don’t want any of that.
It looks awesome, but it also looks awful.
If the concept of their design is compromised comfort and utility, they nailed it.
I kinda like lifted sedans. I would LOVE to own an AMC Eagle. Alas, every Eagle in my area is mostly oxidized by now.
If more crossovers were sleek like this instead of frumpy blobs, I’d probably hate them less.
Ford has a sleekish crossover called the Evos that they could easily use as a new Edge, but no, it’s China only while we get yet another denial minivan with a pseudo-wagon back. I thought the idea behind the Edge was that is it was a “sportier” alternative to the Escape? VW has no plans to bring the ID.5 to the US; just more sizes of the Touareg.
Come on guys…give us sport utility vehicles that are actually sporty instead of more of these throwbacks to pre-1950s automotive design with none of the style!
This looks like the equivalent of a 50 year old accountant in a black leather jacket. Not necessarily bad, but not fooling anyone either.
Not a big rendering “concept” fan but imo you’re spot on. Audi sets (or at least recognizes and nails down) so many trends. AWD, the a7, the r8 DRLs that are now on what feels like almost every single new car, VERY early dct, every SUV is slowly turning into a worse 1st gen q7. The original e-tron was pretty early to the game as far as non-teslas go for useful BEVs. Oh, and pretty much at any point since that a4 their 15 year old cars have looked like they could be selling new.
They leaned hard into the turbo 4s really early too.
not to mention Nardo Grey from the MK1 TT, which is now the champagne gold of the 2020s. Digital Cockpit, singleframe grille, LED Headlights (the actual unit, not just DRL) laser light, hell, even the allroadification of every car. Audi is generally the first to do things, or do them in a way that creates mass appeal, and then it gets recycled ad-nauseum and nothing is special anymore.
But, I miss thale bauhaus styling. A lot of their recent concepts are turning into jelly molds and Audi is kinda doing to itself what other manufacturers have done by taking anything that made them stand out. They’re becoming more like the mainstream, not the trend leader they have been for so long (at least in terms of design). Also, it’s all so overstyled now. Audis used to have good design with minimal styling, it’s flipping to be the opposite.
I go mountain biking with my Z4 Coupe. Even my full suspension bike fits in the back with the wheels off. No rack, no bits sticking out, no doors half open.
If I need to take two bikes I have to borrow a tiny Suzuki Swift and lob them in the back of that.
This Audi bullshit of having to take a wheel off and they still won’t fit inside is not a demonstration of utility.
TBF if they took both wheels off like for your Z4, I bet they would fit. Bike frames are always shockingly tiny. I guess that doesn’t make it much better than a sports coupe though lol
I want the damn thing to be real. It probably won’t be, but the cargo trick is pretty great.
And my limited understanding of the AR is not something to do while it drives itself. It’s supposed to enable all the things normally relegated to infotainment screens without a cluttered dashboard. Still a gimmick that pretty much can’t work as they show, but some of the images show things like climate and volume controls floating in the air. Seems even worse than the infotainment screen, since the location doesn’t look fixed and it will presumably be unable to provide ANY tactile feedback, being a suspended image. Please, Audi, do not reinvent the knob without the tactile feedback and consistent location that works well for driving.
Why the stupid stance ?
Adrian’s AI Nightmare.
“MadMax Audi with Bicycle”
I think it looks good, not great. The “cargo area” is an ok idea, but needs to be able to swallow the bike better than that.
Audi Design Team Head: “Guys, we need to keep up with BMW and make Audis just as ugly.”
Is that the new Mustang?
Screwwww Audi for teasing us with Quattro design language concepts for more than a decade and not delivering a single vehicle with a similar vision
I like it. Would look/be better if you drop the wheels down to 20″ and add back some meaty rubber.
I don’t know what Lamborghini will call the follow up to the Urus, but this could be it.
The chances of the next Urus riding on this chassis are pretty high at least.
I’m dating myself here, but does anyone remember the TV show Viper? Remember how it looked in 4×4 mode?
The one thing I was bummed about not seeing was any pictures of the back seats down dramatically increasing that trunk (truck?) space. It seems like a missed opportunity.
The Audi Rally Fighter-er
Those wheels are 22s? This thing must be gargantuan, yet it still can’t fit a mountain bike in the back of it.
Go home Audi, you’re drunk.
I like it!
I have no intention of going off road, but that cargo space would allow me to do a killer Costco run, and I would fear no pothole on the drive home!