Audi Activesphere EV concept offers glimpse of versatile, go-anywhere motoring

AUDI has just unveiled its latest concept vehicle: the Activesphere is an impressive looking four-door sportback-styled EV with off-road capabilities, a range of over 372 miles and the ability to transform into a pick-up at the touch of a button.

The fourth of Audi's 'sphere' concept vehicles following its Skysphere roadster, Grandsphere saloon and Urbansphere 'city lounge' vehicle, the sleek yet rugged new Activesphere The fourth of Audi's 'sphere' concept vehicles following its Skysphere open top roadster, Grandsphere saloon and Urbansphere 'city lounge' vehicle, the sleek yet rugged new Activesphere is effectively a next-gen version of their current Allroad models.

It showcases Audi's all-new Activeback rear load area design, which features retractable rear window glass and folding rear side panels that allow the cargo bed to be exposed when needed to carry bulky equipment like bikes and winter trekking gear.

There's even a ski rack integrated into the roofline: it sits flush when not in use, then extends when required so that skis can be safely attached and transported.

Created at Audi's Design studio in Malibu, the all-wheel-drive Activesphere features electric motors on the front and rear axles which deliver a total output of 436hp, 531lb ft of torque and allow it to shift from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds.

The car is powered by a 100kWh capacity battery featuring 800volt charging technology, which means drivers can add up to 186 miles of range in just 10-minutes at 270kW fast-charging points.

While the vehicle boasts a curvaceous 4.8m-long coupe-esque bodyshell, the Activesphere is no 'soft roader': its 22-inch alloy wheels are clad in rugged, chunky 285/50 rubber featuring a contoured tread to help facilitate off-road adventures.

The alloys themselves feature movable segments which open for optimum ventilation while off-roading, then close again for optimum aerodynamics on the tarmac. The Activesphere's standard ground clearance of 208mm can also be raised by an extra 40mm in order to tackle particularly tricky terrain.

Activesphere passengers will enjoy plenty of natural light thanks to the car's extensive glazing, including a panoramic sunroof, glass panels in the lower door areas and even a transparent version of the signature Audi 'singleframe' grille so that occupants can see exactly what kind of terrain they are riding over.

Indeed, when the Activesphere is driving in autonomous mode, its dashboard, steering wheel and even the pedals will retract to provide and even less restricted view of the outside world.

It's a futuristic looking machine on the outside, and there's plenty of hi-tech innovation incorporated into the interior as well. For example, donning special Augmented Reality headsets which look like standard sunglasses will allow the Activesphere's driver and passengers to access the 'Audi Dimension'.

This combination of real world and virtual information provides a panoramic view of the car's surroundings along with the current drive status and currently plotted route. In off-road mode, HD 3D topography can be projected onto the real landscape, and the headsets can also display other 3D-content and interactive elements.

Passengers will be able to access virtual control panels activated by gesture for adjusting in-car comfort and entertainment. These will appear over the relevant parts of the dash and interior - for example, climate controls will virtually 'hover' over the air vents, while radio controls will appear above the car's speakers.

One really cool feature is that passengers can also wear their AR headsets outside the car, to help navigate a bike trail or find the ideal descent when skiing downhill. Information about the car itself such as remaining battery range and nearby charging stations can also be accessed both inside and outside the vehicle.

The Activesphere is based on Audi's new electric drive system called Premium Platform Electric (or, rather unfortunately, PPE for short) which can accommodate both traditional cars and SUVs with high ground clearance.

While we're undoubtedly still some years away from seeing a next-gen Audi Allroad vehicle like the Activesphere going on sale, the Germans say that their first production vehicles based on PPE will be announced before the end of this year.