Audi has given a strong hint at the company’s future direction in a world demanding eco-friendly cars and great designs. These concepts will all sit under the Audi ‘Sphere’ banner, with the Grand Sphere likely to be revealed at the 2121 Munich Motor Show from September 6th 2021.
We can hope to see the Audi Project Artemis from as early as 2024 all being well; an electric car that will very likely take its style cues from the Grand Sphere concept. The high-tech flagship Audi EV will be created entirely in-house, whereas previously Artemis was more of a stand-alone setup under the Audi banner led by project leader Alex Hitzinger. For Project Artemis, Oliver Hoffmann has taken over the reins, as the project will now sit under the wing of the Audi technical department. Audi design boss Marc Lichte has described the Grand Sphere concept as a visual teaser for the forthcoming Artemis.
Over the next year or so, Audi plans to produce in total three Sphere electric concept vehicles staged at Level 4 autonomous driving. Level 4 is classed as ‘high automation’ meaning that the intelligent system can control all aspects of the basic driving procedure, while still being overlooked by the vehicle’s driver.
The Sphere vehicles are a hint of what will replace the Audi A8 range as the company’s high-end luxury offerings. Lichte says that the focus will be on maximising interior space and to try to avoid the trappings of simply creating an Audi A8 successor, and instead create something entirely new. Having the underpinnings of an EV will allow the designers to move away from the relatively tight spaces of a standard car towards a more spacious interior with shorter overhangs, giving owners an ‘extra living space’ (Audi’s words), and even featuring a refreshment area placed in the centre console; ideal for a vehicle that is capable of autonomous driving – during which, rather disconcertingly, the steering wheel will retract into the dashboard giving even more space. Interestingly, Audi say that they plan to do away with all the usual dash buttons and screens too, saying that the dash as we have come to know it will be gone.
The job of Artemis will be to create new software and vehicle platforms ready for the new range of Audi electric vehicles, with Level 4 autonomy being a factor in the design of a long-range electric touring vehicle. Comparing the Sphere concept with 2017’s Aicon concept, Head of Exterior Design Philipp Römers has said that while both luxury concepts fit into the D-Segment, the Aicon was more geared towards fully automated driving – one stage up to Level 5. Level 4 is arguably far more situated in the now rather than what might be planned for the future of our roads.
So what will the actual production car be called? Project Artemis has been working under the codename of Landjet. While this might sound a bit James Bond and some might ask, why not call it the A9, Audi has said that it wants to make a clean break from its existing nomenclature as they move away from the traditional car.
Lichte says that the concept began three years ago with the leading idea of ‘long-distance travel’. From here, Audi worked towards the position we are now in with the Landjet and Grand Sphere from that simple notion. With the Sphere touring vehicle’s ideal usage in mind, battery-wise the concept will utilise VW unified-cell tech, giving a projected range of up to 373 miles in ideal conditions.
Let me know your thoughts on the Sphere Concept in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this, you may also like: 2021 Audi RS 3: Now The Quickest In Its Class
For more articles like this, receive our weekly e-newsletter, including partner deals and all things motoring, register your email below.