Audi is taking on Enterprise and Hertz with a rental service that delivers luxury cars to your door - here's what it's like
Melia RobinsonOct 14, 2017, 09.21 PM
Melia Robinson/Business Insider
Audi wants to put you in its vehicles - without the commitment of buying a new luxury car.
The luxury automaker launched a rent-a-car-service called Audi On Demand in San Francisco in 2015. The service lets you rent an Audi vehicle for a day (or for as long as a month) from your smartphone. Car enthusiasts will find a huge range of models to choose from, from the A4 sports sedan to the rabble-rouser R8 supercar. The service ranges from $120 to $1,145 a day.
Audi On Demand recently announced plans to expand into 15 new markets worldwide by 2020. The service currently operates in just three locations: San Francisco, Munich, and Beijing.
I tried Audi On Demand for a weekend in October, reserving an Audi Q5. Here's how it went.
But I would use Audi On Demand again for a weekend getaway.
I'm not in the market for a new car.
The next day, Charley returned (again, early) to pick up the car. The concierge service was my favorite part of Audi On Demand. Typically when I rent a car, I pay for Uber rides to and from the Enterprise office at the San Francisco airport. It costs upwards of $20 each way.
After a pleasurable day of driving down California's Highway 1, I returned delighted by my experience in the Q5. The car was comfortable, quiet, and handsomely styled.
Despite some early struggles making the reservation, Audi On Demand offered superior service and simplicity.
After a comprehensive review of the car's features, Charley left me with the Q5.
Heated seats? Yes, please.
My eyes darted from the display to the road with ease, but the interface gave more information than I needed. Icons for nearby destinations cluttered the screen.
When I'm following directions on Google Maps in my own car, I have to split my attention between the road and my phone in its cradle. In the Q5, the map appeared behind the steering wheel.
It was easier to write out my destination address than to use the standard knob to scroll through the alphabet and select characters one at a time, like in some Audi vehicles.
One of my favorite features was a touch pad in the center console.
The rental also included an Apple lightning cable.
The Q5 came equipped with CarPlay from Apple. It places the most popular iPhone functions on a big screen right in the center of a car's dashboard.
Charley pulled the Q5 right up to my door. As part of the concierge service, an Audi representative spends about 15 minutes showing customers around the car.
I've run into issues with rental car companies in the past when my vehicle hadn't been returned in time for my reservation. But my concierge, Charley, arrived 15 minutes early.
On a whim, I decided to check Audi On Demand's website. Oddly, the Q5 was not available through the app but it was through the website. I booked it before the option disappeared.
In this case, no cars were available. It happened to be Fleet Week in San Francisco, which might have limited inventory with tourists coming in and locals escaping the chaos.
Audi promises to deliver the vehicle to your door within two hours. But I quickly discovered that waiting until the last minute to book means that there are fewer cars available.
Most rental car companies let you choose a "vehicle class," like compact or full-size, but you might not know which car you're driving away with until you get to the pickup site.
I downloaded the Audi On Demand app on my iPhone (if you have a Samsung you'll need to book through the website). And I was impressed by the variety of models to choose from.
I was excited to try Audi On Demand. I always thirsted to take my mom's Audi Q5 for a spin, and she never let me. It was "her other baby." But Audi was happy to lend me a car.