There’s no more freeing feeling than driving down the California coast on the undulating, cliffside Highway 1, something I experienced for the first time this past May. Having just moved to the West Coast, it was my first quick getaway from San Francisco—a city with many options for escaping for the weekend. With the top down and feeling the power of the sporty car, I felt like the star of my own personal road trip movie.
One problem: I’m not a driver. Well, I technically have a license. But after living in New York City for seven years and having no car in San Francisco, I’m not exactly my most confident behind the wheel. I’d much rather be the passenger, taking in every inch of the landscape whether I’m driving through northern Jersey or the California coast.
A couple months ago, I was asked to be one of the first drivers to test Audi’s new Audi on Demand service. Of course, I had my doubts: Why should I, somebody who knows almost nothing about cars and would be perfectly content driving anything that’s safe and mobile, test this deluxe car-sharing service? But with a fleet of brand-new Audis available at my fingertips with Audi on Demand—and the bragging rights of trying a new techy service in the tech-obsessed Bay Area—I couldn’t resist.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Audi on Demand is not cheap. Only available in San Francisco at the moment—with plans to expand to cities around the country—cars range from $155 (for an A4) to $1,285 (R8 Spyder) per day. Nor is it your typical car rental or car share experience. Here’s how it works: An Audi concierge will drop off the vehicle of your choice at the location of your choice within two hours of ordering the car on the app. Then, he or she will walk you through the car’s features, from explaining how to pop the trunk to helping you sync your phone with the car’s entertainment system and connect to the complimentary wifi (yes, wifi). Your concierge won’t leave you the keys, though—there aren’t any. You unlock, lock, and turn on the car all through Audi on Demand’s app (and, OK, you get a key card just in case). After your trip, no worries about returning your car running on fumes: Audi doesn’t charge extra to refill the car, only for the price of the gas.
For my car, I chose a white S5 convertible—living out my dream to cruise down the dreamy California coastline with the top down—and set out for a weekend in Monterey. After my concierge finished explaining the S5’s features, I got behind the wheel, adjusted the seat and mirrors, and backed out into the street. Driving a car, I learned, is similar to riding a bike: you never forget how to do it. The drive down the windy Highway 1 was smooth, and I may have found myself exceeding the speed limit a couple of times. With the punch of a sports car at my disposal for the first time, it was difficult not to. Finally, after a decade of driving, I understood why people love it, and why others obsess over it.
Is Audi on Demand for everyone? No, and definitely not for people on a journalist’s salary (much to my chagrin, since that ride made me a sport-car lover). It is, however, the luxury car brand’s answer to the up-and-coming car-sharing economy, and with all the convenient, unique features, it’s doing it right.
Want to learn more and live in San Francisco?
Download the Audi on Demand app and join the list to become a beta tester yourself!
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