Audi’s Skysphere electric concept car can change size and has a retractable steering wheel

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German automaker Audi unveiled its sleek new concept car, Skysphere, which can shift size depending on the driving mode and has a retractable steering column.

In a release, the Volkswagen-owned car manufacturer boasted Skysphere was ‘two vehicles in one’: A 623-horsepower sports car that can go from zero to 60 mph in 4 seconds and a ‘grand touring’ (GT) auto that expands the cabin about 10 inches for a roomier ride.   

In GT mode, the Skysphere is designed to be a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, according to Audi, ‘meaning in certain defined road and traffic situations, the driver can delegate complete responsibility to the car and no longer has to intervene.’

The luxury auto’s rear-mounted electric motor has a range of about 310 miles before it needs a charge.

‘This is not rather a car, it’s an experience device,’ Audi CEO Henrik Wenders, said at the unveiling Tuesday at 2021 Monterey Car Week on Tuesday.

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Audi's new Skysphere concept car can transform into two different modes: A sports car with a low clearance and a grand touring model with autonomous driving

Audi’s new Skysphere concept car can transform into two different modes: A sports car with a low clearance and a grand touring model with autonomous driving 

In the autonomous GT mode, the Skysphere is a 17-foot coach offering more legroom and touch monitor surfaces that can display the Internet, video conferences, or streamed movies. 

‘The steering wheel and pedals move into an invisible area,’ according to the release, ‘the feeling of space in the concept car opens up completely new realms of possibility for such a sporty convertible.’

With the touch of a button, though, the car shifts into driver-operated ‘Sports’ mode, and pedals and a steering column emerge from under the dashboard.

The exterior length shrinks by about 10 inches, creating a 16.5-foot roadster with a reduced wheelbase and rear-wheel steering. 

At the push of a button, the Skysphere changes into GT mode, with the steering wheel and pedals folding away

At the push of a button, the Skysphere changes into GT mode, with the steering wheel and pedals folding away

The two-door electric concept car, which has retractable cloth roof, can go about 310 miles before it needs charging

The two-door electric concept car, which has retractable cloth roof, can go about 310 miles before it needs charging

The vehicle’s ground clearance is also lowered by nearly a half-inch to reduce aerodynamic drag. 

The ‘sphere’ name is figurative, not literal—intended to symbolize how the ‘the car was designed around the interior,’ said ​​Gael Buzyn, head of Audi’s design studio, at the unveiling.   

CNBC described the Skysphere as ‘sinister-looking’ and combining ‘Batmobile-like technologies and aggressive design characteristics with luxury amenities.’  

However, Buzyn called it a 21st-century update to the Horch 853, a two-door cabriolet designed by Voll & Ruhrbeck in 1937. 

Audi says Skysphere is a 21st-century update to the Horch 853 (pictured), a two-door cabriolet designed by Voll & Ruhrbeck in 1937

Audi says Skysphere is a 21st-century update to the Horch 853 (pictured), a two-door cabriolet designed by Voll & Ruhrbeck in 1937

In its 'Sports' configuration, the Skysphere has 623 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 in about 4 seconds

In its ‘Sports’ configuration, the Skysphere has 623 horsepower and can go from zero to 60 in about 4 seconds

Beneath its rear-hinged doors, LED-lit grille and retractable cloth roof, there are Art Deco touches inside. 

‘Crystal flourishes and backlit control panels accent the interior, with a small analog clock neatly positioned in the center console,’ reported CNET’s Road Show, ‘a small bit of old-school in this incredibly forward-thinking car.’

Skysphere isn’t the car for a big shopping trip but its boat tail rear houses a set of custom luggage under glass, while the long hood has space for a pair of custom golf bags. 

Eucalyptus wood and vegan leather in the interior prove the design also has an eye toward sustainability.

The car's boat tail rear houses a set of custom luggage under glass

Storage is limited in the two-seat luxury car

Storage is limited in the two-seat luxury car but its boat tail rear houses a set of custom luggage under glass

The Skysphere is the first of a new line of Audi concept vehicles: The next, the Grandsphere, is slated to be unveiled on September 1, 2021, with the Urbansphere rolling out in the first half of 2022.

‘These concept cars feature a new design that ultimately reimagines the interior, the passenger compartment, as the center of the vehicle and no longer subordinates the passenger experience to the requirements of the technology,’ the company said in the release.

While concept cars are often never put into production, Buyzn said ‘a lot of elements’ of Skysphere will make it into real-world vehicles.

Audi has announced plans to roll out its final internal-combustion engine auto in 2026 and only produce electric vehicles starting in 2033.

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