Audi just revealed the last concept in its series of “sphere” design studies and while at first it may look like just another raised vehicle with a fastback style rear end, it actually has one important party piece. It can actually turn itself into a pickup truck complete with an actual flatbed in the back - see it in action in this video.
This can be achieved thanks to a specially designed tailgate that can fold itself down to become part of the load surface. There’s even a midgate that pops up when the vehicle is in pickup mode, although it doesn’t completely enclose the passenger compartment – you would theoretically be able to carry very long items that were partly inside the vehicle, as well as in the bed.
But the Audi Activesphere is practical even when its roof is up. It comes with points where a roof rack for skis could easily be mounted. This vehicle is clearly aimed at outdoor and possibly even extreme sports enthusiasts, who would be able to carry their gear with them across difficult terrain all while cocooned in luxury and technology.
In fact, as per Audi’s vision for this concept, which is seen as a Level 4 self-driving-capable vehicle, you would probably not even have to drive it yourself most of the way to your destination. The steering wheel and other driving controls retract into the dash when not needed and you would presumably take control yourself when going off main roads and onto more difficult unpaved roads, or to areas with no roads at all.
Other notable features of the Audi Activesphere concept include an augmented reality interior (which you need special glasses for, but which by all accounts is really cool), active 22-inch wheels with segments that move for better rolling resistance or for more grip off-road, as well as a 100 kWh battery pack that’s good for 372 miles (600 kilometers).
With this concept and the other three in the series (Skysphere, Grandsphere and Urbansphere), Audi is showing where it wants to take its future models. None of these concepts actually preview a production car, but they do show how Audi wants to change its approach to car creation in order to ensure its continued existence over coming decades.