Grand designs

Three new Audi design concepts open up a world of possibilities for the future.

With new technology comes a new freedom for Audi’s designer team and three new design studies on the horizon point the way to the brand’s future look.

12 July, 2021


In just a matter of weeks, the covers will officially come off the first of three striking new design studies from Audi that will point the spotlight squarely on the future ‘look’ of the brand. Although very different in their intended function and target market, each of the new design studies – designated Spheres – have Audi’s core values at their centre. Luxurious, technologically advanced and representing a progressive step forward.

Each is a result of the increasing freedom for designers that comes with the rapid advancement of technology. With e-mobility comes the freedom of designing vehicles without a traditional internal combustion engine (ICE). With the motor units smaller and affixed directly to the axles, the whole front end design can be changed significantly, while the absence of a transmission tunnel and the placement of the large battery unit in the floorpan, not only lowers the vehicle’s centre of gravity but makes for greatly expanded, usable interior space – as seen with the Audi e-tron and e-tron GT models.

Then there is the emerging autonomous technology which will change the face of mobility completely, changing the vehicle as we know it into a place for relaxation and even work while the vehicle itself takes care of the driving duties. This technology will completely change the way interiors are imagined, with tremendous flexibility in terms of sitting – and even sleeping – space, as well as a greater emphasis on recreational and entertainment functions.

Each is a result of the increasing freedom for designers that comes with the rapid advancement of technology

The first glimpse of the evolving design will come in the form of the Grand Sphere, which will be unveiled in a matter of weeks

The first glimpse of the evolving design will come in the form of the Grand Sphere, which will be unveiled in a matter of weeks in Munich – a full-sized luxury limousine designed for the very top end of the market. With dimensions similar to the current Audi A8L and likewise equipped with the very best of comfort and technology, the Grand Sphere is a look at the future of automotive luxury.

The teaser images show a vehicle which hints to the Audi Aicon in some respects with its large interior opening and space and even flashes of ‘Shootingbrake’, though in a much larger package. Interior comfort and technology are obviously of tremendous importance here, with multiple seating and reclining options in a sleek, minimalist cabin. 

Of course we will have to wait until later in the month to see the concept in all its luxurious detail, but this design will form the basis of a series production model that could be seen as early as 2025.

The grand Sphere will be followed by the Sky Sphere – a design aimed more at the performance market that will make its debut at Monterey Car Week in August. The last in the new trilogy of design studies will be the Urban Sphere which will premiere early next year – a design and technological showcase aimed at primarily at life and mobility in large cities.

This exciting new direction continues to be driven in the design department by Marc Lichte, the brand’s design chief since 2014, the man credited with the Audi Prologue, Audi R8 and of course the Audi e-tron GT amongst so many others. 

Under him are Philipp Römers and Norbert Weber who assume responsibility for exterior and interior design respectively and bring their own tremendous experience to a team that continues to shape the automotive landscape of the future.

The celebrated Audi design team is comprised of as many as 450 designers working primarily from the Audi Design Centre in Ingolstadt, as well as full-time Audi design facilities in both Malibu in the United States and in Beijing, China. Each of the design centres are in constant contact and individuals often spend time at the different centres to get a feel and perspective for the different ways things are viewed and done.

Even the way the modern vehicles themselves are being designed is changing rapidly thanks to technology, with each of the three centres for design linked virtually and able to share their work in real time through virtual reality. Indeed, even the traditional tools of design and development like the clay model have been largely replaced with large-scale LED walls and 3D models, making the process faster than ever before. Although the good old pencil and paper continues to spawn many a fledgling idea.

“As a designer, there has never been a time as exciting as today,” says Lichte of the quantum leap in automotive technology and the flow-on effect it is having on design.

“Right now is the best time to rethink and reconfigure automotive design – to lead car design into the future,” he says.

The possibilities are seemingly endless, as new technology races ahead and opens up avenues of design that were inconceivable before. But even while this revolution goes on to shape the way cars look, feel and function, for Audi at least, the cornerstones of craftsmanship and performance remain at the heart. That emotive quality that attracts you to a vehicle remains as important as ever despite advancing technologies and will always be the essential ingredient in every Audi.

"Right now is the best time to rethink and reconfigure automotive design – to lead car design into the future"

Marc Lichte

(From left) Norbert Weber, Marc Lichte and Philipp Römers.