The ‘dream garage’ proposition is one that gets thrown around quite often at our offices, and no matter who answers, every response has one thing in common- multiple vehicles. Sure, you could drive an R8 every day, but it lacks the versatility of a sedan or avant, eliminating it from ‘single vehicle’ contention. Even the RS 7, while nailing the practicality requirement, can be a bit antagonistic to be a lone car. But what if you could have the right car whenever you need it? Enter Audi on demand.
More ‘sharing’ service than outright rental, Audi on demand allows users around San Francisco to book the right tool for the job, whatever that may be. Taking a quick weekend trip to Tahoe? Audi on demand can get you an allroad, complete with an Audi Accessories ski rack, installed specifically for the job. Time to pick up a Christmas tree? A Q5 should do the trick. Looking for more seat time in an R8 before purchasing? Go wild, although anything over 200 miles will cost a bit extra.
The process starts easily enough- download the app, select a car. Everything from the $155/day A4, to the R8 V10 Spyder at $1285/day (no A3 or Q7 at time of publishing, and the RS 7 has only just been added) is there for the taking, with booking available as far out as six months, or in as little as two hours. After entering your billing information, drop-off and pick-up preferences, you get an email confirmation. It’s a fairly streamlined process, easily completed from start to finish in about a minute.
Fast forward to your reservation time, and you’ll be contacted by an Audi on demand Concierge, alerting you that the car is ready. Head to the pick-up point, and the exact car displayed on the app’s selection screen will be waiting along with a driver outfitted in Audi-branded apparel, driving home the decidedly upscale feel of the service. From there, the concierge will show you through each feature of the car, thoroughly explaining functionality and helping to pair your phone. Choosing a TT Roadster ourselves (this is California, after all), this once-over also included navigation of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, a system which can admittedly feel a bit intimidating for first-time users. As a going-away present, the concierge reveals he’s pre-programmed the ‘Home’ address as our drop off point. It’s the little things, right?
Unlike the traditional “lived-in” base-spec rental car, each Audi on demand vehicle is a Premium Plus model, outfitted with MMI Navigation plus and many of the most popular options available on each unit. For our Scuba Blue TT, this meant the S sport seat package, Bang and Olufsen sound, and 19” wheels, among others. Both inside and out, there are absolutely zero clues that this is anything other than a well-equipped customer car. In fact, if you didn’t know this was a ‘shared’ car, you’d never guess. In a world filled with sponsored content and oppressive product placement, it’s quite a remarkable thing.
Now alone with the car, I headed to the Marin Headlands, a world away from downtown San Francisco, yet just a few miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. Home to windy roads, tall redwoods and stunning views of the Pacific, it’s the ideal setting for Audi’s nimble roadster. But some are much more ambitious than I, taking Audi on demand vehicles as far as Key West during one two-week booking. Consider it the right vehicle/right situation appeal of Audi on demand, but these cars are more often the stars of someone else’s story, rather than just a way to get there.
And this, my friends, brings us to perhaps the very best part of the Audi on demand service- what happens to the vehicles between bookings. Each member of the fleet is inspected, cleaned and serviced after each excursion by factory-trained technicians. In this, Audi on demand can guarantee a vehicle is on its best behavior each time it is delivered, ensuring a positive experience for clients, encouraging them to use the service again, or simply making their occasion an unforgettable one.
There are some limitations to the program, though. The most noticeable of which, is that Audi on demand will not allow for pick-up or drop-off at San Francisco International Airport. For those flying in, hoping to use the service in place of a tradition rental to spice things up a bit, the experience won’t be quite as complete as they’d hope. For the time being, the best bet would be an Uber ride to San Francisco State University, arranging for pick-up somewhere on campus. At just about $25, the ride is certainly cheap enough, but it does interrupt the experience.
The other limitation, quite understandably, is the amount of miles you can put on some vehicles. The magic number here is 200mi/day, applying to the Audi S7, S8, R8 Coupe, R8 Spyder, as well as all RS models, with overage costs of $1 for R8s, and just $.50/mile for everything else. But even in this, there is a bit of a silver lining. Aside from it being much more generous than other, more traditional exotic rental outfits, the mileage cap resets each day- meaning that each new day brings 200 additional guilt-free miles along with it. If that still just isn’t enough, these overage costs are among the cheapest we’ve found for vehicles in this price and performance bracket.
But in all, the downsides of this service are extremely slim, meaning that it’s quite simply a must-do for any Audi enthusiast visiting or living in the Bay Area. And if the service ever migrates east, we may just become regular customers.
To learn more about Audi on demand, click here, and check out additional images from our trip below.