Audi chief designer Marc Lichte take a look into 2025 A8

Audi chief designer Marc Lichte take a look into 2025 A8

DRIVES TODAY meets Audi chief designer Marc Lichte and is allowed to take a look into the future. Also on the brand's new flagship.

Audi plant in Ingolstadt, Gate 9, shortly before eight o'clock in the morning. I drive into the visitor parking lot — and get out of the old world. Specifically: from our long-term test — BMW, 3 Series Touring, Diesel, front left a classic workplace. Here I did my duty on the 700 kilometers from Hamburg to Upper Bavaria.

It is a few steps past the plant security to the building with the large glass facade. The new world is waiting for me here. Or rather, the one who — at least at Audi — is largely responsible for it: Marc Lichte.

The Sauerland native has been responsible for Audi design since 2014, and has been the host of the new design center since 2017; a good 37,000 square meters, which are packaged much more stylishly than the other standard architecture on the factory premises. You quickly notice that he is proud of the workplace he has helped to create when Lichte explains the concept. But: We don't want to dwell on architecture, we don't want to talk about exposed concrete, open, light-flooded rooms. We want in. Where guests are rarely allowed to go. Into the heart of Audi design.

Marc has shoveled the morning free, gives the guide, Norbert Weber, who is responsible for the interior design, and Philipp Römers, his exterior counterpart, go on tour. We pass numerous heavy doors, all of which only open with the all-access chip card. And suddenly we are in a 110 meter long hall, surrounded by numerous cars.

More precisely clay models. What they all have in common: They hide under a cloth. Because this is exactly where it is created, the new world, the future. Of course we are not allowed to look yet. But Marc is full of enthusiasm, hurries from car to car, tells, explains — and every now and then lifts a cloth a little. Just a look through the keyhole, so to speak, but a promising one. Anyone who says today that the new cars all look the same can look forward to tomorrow. Or the day after tomorrow. Because this is also the cradle of the new IAA study Grandsphere, which gives a foretaste of the A8 successor expected for 2025. Marc Lichte recently announced three concept cars, one of which will celebrate its premiere in August in Pebble Beach, and one not until next year. At the Munich IAA, perhaps the most important model of the Ingolstadt-based company is likely to make its debut with the reinterpretation of the flagship.

The term new edition has seldom been so apt. “We completely rethought the car,” explains Marc Lichte, “from the inside out.” That means: First Norbert Weber designed the interior, then Philipp Römers tailored the body around it. Usually cars are built the other way around. The study — which we are not allowed to fully reveal today — impressively proves that it works that way. From the outside: a slim figure, a flowing rear. What is it? An elegant station wagon? A sporty van? A cool crossover? Or in the end a GT after all? In any case: a brilliant car, gorgeous from every angle. Especially from the back on the right, then it looks like the hood is two meters long.

But if it is not, it is not necessary. There is no combustion engine in the front, the Grandsphere is electric. When it goes into series production in 2025, gasoline and diesel engines will have long been a thing of the past at Audi.

Raved enough, now we want to know what the Grandsphere looks like inside. Weber's team made impressive use of the new freedoms — especially the extra space because the large-volume engine, transmission and exhaust system were omitted. And they switched places. You remember: front left work place. Those who wanted to travel relaxed in the luxury class used to sit in the back right. But now the front is the new back.

There is no end to space here, the dashboard is reduced to a large display from A-pillar to A-pillar, and that slides really far forward. You no longer have to reach switches, buttons or touchscreens; all you have to do is look at the desired control panels and the Audi will understand what you want from it. Keyword: eye tracking. If you still want to turn and push, you can do so in the armrests in the doors; Weber has housed a controller there.

Otherwise: lounge atmosphere, large windows, bar in the center console, green plants, no leather — and lounge chairs that can be folded back 60 degrees. Because: Nobody has to steer themselves in the series Grandsphere — if they don't want to. The steering wheel folds away when it is not needed, the A8 successor drives autonomously to level 4 (the «driver» has to be on board but do nothing).

It is now noon, shortly before one. My journey into the new world ends where it began, at gate 9. I get back into the BMW. Another 700 kilometers lie ahead of me. And I want reclining seats.

The series version of the Grandsphere is to inherit the A8. Our illustration shows what Audi's new flagship could look like

Marc Lichte explains the Grandsphere to DRIVES TODAY editorial manager Michael Gebhardt. We are not allowed to show more than that, the premiere is at the IAA. Officially, Audi has so far only shown a few Grandsphere sketches, especially of the interior.

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