Audi’s activesphere concept is an EV coupe that can be converted into a pickup truck

Lionel Kong
Audi activesphere concept 2023

Fourth Audi design study in its sphere series explores sporty offroad utility 


Audi’s ‘sphere’ series of design concepts has just gained a fourth one to the series. The first three that were shown to the public over the last two years were the luxurious and sporty grandsphere and skysphere, along with the urbansphere MPV concept. Now the activesphere has been released as a concept study.

Audi is quick to add that while these designs are still in the concept stage, thay are also serious studies of what will, and won’t, work with the public and the brand’s fans. They are essentially design testbeds for the next generation of Audi EVs.

Audi activesphere concept 2023

The activesphere is a crossover coupe with a high ground clearance, 22-inch wheels, and electric quattro all-wheel drive. The big design feature that Audi is playing up is how the sportback rear, which is Audi-speak for the hatchback, can be turned into an open cargo bed at the touch of a button. Then it becomes the ‘active back’ because it’s Audi-speak once again. 

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Think it’s a revolutionary idea? Not at all. Nissan had a car with a similar idea in series production between 1986 and 1990. The Nissan Exa N13, or Nissan Pulsar NX as it was known in America, was made during the height of popularity of Japanese two-door sports coupes. However, to our loss, this model was never officially available in Singapore.

Nissan Exa 1990 open mode
The Nissan Exa from 1986, goes from coupe to targa-topped pickup too

It could convert from a coupe to a pickup and even a wagon, if you have the required rear hatch parts, a place to store them, and a bunch of friends to help you fit them on and off. It was a cool idea with the car selling very well in Australia and America, while doing moderate business in Japan.

Nissan Exa 1990 coupe
The Nissan Exa N13 in coupe form

But the Audi activesphere is a car for the EV generation, conceived and designed at the Audi Design Studio in Malibu. Studio manager Gael Buzyn and his team were the creative minds behind the activesphere. He described the idea as being, “a new type of crossover that cleverly combines the elegance of an Audi Sportback, the practicality of a SUV and true offroad capabilities.”

Measuring 4.98 metres long, it has been designed to use a fully electric drivetrain and quick-charging technology from Audi’s PPE modular system. It is capable of covering more than 600 km on a single charge and uses 800-volt charging technology.

Electric motors on the front and rear axles deliver a total output of 325 kW, or 435 horsepower, and a system torque of 720Nm. 

Audi activesphere concept 2023

A wheelbase of 2.97 metres provides lots of legroom for passengers. The front and rear overhangs are correspondingly short for a much more compact impression and better offroading capability. The concept study is designed to use 285/55 tyres that are voluminous enough for all types of terrain, and the wheels feature movable segments: when used off-road, they open for ventilation, and they close on-road for optimum aerodynamics. 

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Glass surfaces make up a significant part of the vehicle’s body. It’s apparent from Audi’s current E-Tron cars that the carmaker is really into using glass everywhere, but you have to remember that glass is heavy and expensive to replace after an accident. 

Audi activesphere concept interior 2023

Still, this is a concept study and Audi can do anything it wants, which is why there are glass surfaces on the side in the lower door area of the activesphere. The wide, curved tailgate features extensive glazing and even the roof itself is transparent, letting plenty of daylight into the interior.

Audi activesphere’s ground clearance is variable. It can be increased by 40mm from the basic height of 208mm, or lowered by the same amount when driving on-road. 

Audi activesphere concept interior 2023

As with the Audi grandsphere concept, the doors of the Audi activesphere are attached to the A- and C-pillars at the front and rear, and open in opposite directions; there is no B-pillar here either. This means the entire interior space opens up to passengers as soon as they get into the car. Once again it’s not an entirely new idea. In recent years the use of such door arrangements has been a Mazda hallmark, with the Mazda MX-30 launched in 2019 and the older Mazda RX-8 coupe featuring similar door designs. 

Audi activesphere concept interior 2023

Audi claims that the activesphere concept is a master of metamorphosis. Unlike the Nissan Exa of old, the Audi Activesphere converts with electric motors. The transparent rear window slides almost flush with the roof of the Audi activesphere and the lower, vertical segment of the rear folds horizontally. This opens up a cargo bed called the active back with brackets for e-bikes and the like. 

Audi activesphere concept 2023

The lateral surfaces of the rear, the C-pillars, remain in position to maintain the activesphere’s dynamic silhouette, whilst a motorised bulkhead deploys from behind the rear seats in order to isolate the cabin from the elements.

Like Audi’s other ‘sphere’ concepts, the activesphere is unlikely to see production in its current form, but is almost certainly a design language study for its future crossover SUV EVs. 



About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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