Audi just built a pickup truck. Sort of, at least. The Skysphere concept is something completely new for the brand, and it packages electric power with an enclosed box that it calls “pickup on demand.”
The Skysphere concept is the fourth (and last) in Audi’s series of Sphere concepts. They’re meant to be a look at potential future car tech as well as Audi’s next-generation styling language, but it’s the possibility of adventure that has our attention.
Glass Hatch Hides Pickup Body
A pane of glass makes sure that the Activesphere looks like any other Audi Sportback design when there’s no cargo in the back. But that glass does some magic that opens up a whole new world.
With the glass in place, the cargo area and the passenger cabin are one big space — like they would be in any crossover, but there’s a lot more hard plastic than normal in the trunk part of it.
When it’s time to haul bigger gear like your bikes or dirty stuff like, well, again your bikes, Activesphere transforms. The rear hatch glass slides up toward the roof. At the same time, a motorized panel comes up out of the floor and creates a bulkhead to seal off the rear seats from the cargo bay.
The lower half of the hatch folds down like a tailgate and the transformation is complete. What was an SUV is now a pickup with a mini bed.
Is it like GMC’s short-lived Envoy XUV? Maybe. Is it some kind of Audi El Camino? Absolutely.
Audi Activesphere: Built-In Cargo Capability
Audi does its best to make the Activesphere outdoor-ready. When you’ve got the active Sportback open, there are bike holders built in and ready to use. Even without the bike racks in play, there is a ski rack built into the glass roof. It is flush and nearly invisible until you’re ready to use it. Then the rack pops up to attach your skis.
There is a healthy dose of Audi Allroad in the design of the Activesphere. That’s Audi’s name for its slightly ruggedized wagons like the A4 and A6 Allroad variants. Just like in the cars, that means some extra plastic cladding and black accents.
Higher Ground Clearance, More Cladding
It also gets extra ground clearance, like the Allroad wagons. The Activesphere starts with 8.2 inches of ground clearance. With the included air suspension, the height can be raised another inch and a half, at which point it towers above its 22-inch wheels and all-terrain tires.
Like the other four-door electric Sphere concepts, the Activesphere has rear-opening back doors. The doors give you amazing access to the cabin, and show off a new view of the cladding on the lower body.
Of course, the extra-long rear-open doors will also help trap you inside in a parking lot, but we got over that with quad-cab pickups a decade ago, so we’re sure Audi will figure something out.
Hyper-Futuristic AR Tech
The whole design is a concept, so we can’t forget the tech inside that Audi really wants to highlight: Augmented Virtual Reality.
Using a set of VR glasses, the driver and passenger would be able to control vehicle functions like AC and audio through gesture control. There wouldn’t be a temperature knob, instead, you reach out and a dial appears in your view. “Twist” the virtual knob virtually and the temperature would change. The concept also anticipates autonomous driving and hides the steering wheel and pedals in the dash when you’re not driving.
Audi says the tech would also let the driver see their route on the AR glasses. It could also let you see where your wheels were by looking “through” the bodywork. The tech could even be used outside of the car to show you hiking or cycling routes as you go on your adventures.
Will Audi build this? Not likely. But the ideas that Audi is showing off, like the exterior styling and that active Sportback trunk-bed? Those could easily see production because the Activesphere concept is designed around the brand’s PPE electric platform. The same bones are ready to go into production anytime underneath the Audi A6 e-tron electric sedan.