A facelift of the Audi A8, which has been built since 2017, is imminent, but Audi is already offering a preview of the successor. It breaks with many conventions, as the study grandsphere concept shows. This fact alone would be a brave step. But Audi has even more confidence: Marc Lichte, chief designer at Audi, estimates the concept car’s readiness for series production at 75 to 80 percent. So those responsible run the risk of making the current A8 look old a long time in advance. Because the next A8 is not expected before the end of 2024.
Competition for the Mercedes EQS
Should the successor actually come onto the market in a similar form to this study, it would be a boom and liberation for the brand. The current A8 is having a hard time next to the idiosyncratic BMW 7 Series and the fresh Mercedes S-Class (test), Audi has not yet had a direct answer to the Mercedes EQS (test). Such solvent customers who want an Audi can use the e-tron GT.
The grandsphere concept study shows a spectacular design, the dimensions of which are not sufficiently clear in the first pictures. The concept car is 5.35 m long and the wheelbase is 3.19 m. There is not much left of a mighty bonnet that was once a status symbol for huge engines. “The hood is radically short. The shortest I’ve ever designed,” says Marc Lichte. With its flowing forms, the study does not look like a successor to the current A8, but seems to have skipped at least a generation.
Under a glass dome
This applies even more to the interior, which can be reached through doors that open in opposite directions. The extensive glazing makes the interior look even more spacious than it already is. On the other hand, so much glass would make enormous demands on the air conditioning. There is plenty of space in the front and in the back. The curved, narrow dashboard, which is pushed towards the windshield and adorns a continuous display, also contributes to the outstanding sense of space.
With the concept car, the displays are projected onto the wooden applications like a projector. “We’re still working on the implementation,” says Marc Lichte, classifying the technology. In the first step, the Audi A8 will be equipped with conventional monitors. The displays can not only be used for information on speed or the remaining range, but also for video games, films or the TV program.
Level 4 autonomous driving
As things stand at the moment, the steering wheel, which disappears completely at the push of a button in the study, does not correspond to the upcoming production model. It will always be there. Of course, with a concept car that shines so far into the future, the topic of autonomous driving is also made with lavish promises. The next series-production A8 should create level 4. In concrete terms, this means: In a specific application, the car can cope with all situations on its own; monitoring by a driver is no longer necessary – in this defined scenario. If that succeeds, it would be a giant step and possibly a definition of how luxury will look in this class in the future. By relieving the owner of the burden of driving as much as possible if so desired.
Only with electric drive
Luxury sedans and combustion engines – they will no longer work together in the future. Rolling and wind noises are excellently insulated in this segment, but when it comes to drive noises, only a few customers accept a hum that even small electric cars no longer have. That is why the next A8 will usually have two electric motors. In the study, they produce a total of 530 kW, the maximum torque is 930 Nm. The top speed is said to be more than 200 km / h, although it is definitely questionable whether you can still use it with the production model on public roads.
Arming against fear of range
A very brisk pace should also be possible when charging, because Audi relies on a voltage level of 800 volts. This enables high charging capacities with comparatively low currents. It is just as clear, however, that no manufacturer can afford to ignore range concerns from buyers in this price range. So here is a race for the greatest energy content. The study should at best shed some tentative light on what will be built into the production model in four years’ time. In the grandsphere concept it is 120 kWh, and when the next A8 rolls to the customers, they will probably get even more range than the 750 km promised here.
Of course, this is not certain, because by then the realization will prevail that, from a certain charging speed and a correspondingly developed infrastructure, the energy content of the battery is not completely irrelevant, but ultimately is of secondary importance. Until then, at least that can be said quite reliably, but there is still a certain way to go.