In Los Angeles last summer, we walked past the Hertz Porsche 911s on the way to pick up a hair-shirt Toyota crap-can and thought there must be a better rental car option out there. Now there is: Silvercar. From Austin Ventures comes a new way to rent cars. The CEO of Silvercar is the former CTO of Zipcar and they’ve greatly improved the entire rental experience.
For about the same you would expect to pay for a Nissan Altima or Ford Focus ($59/day), Silvercar only has one type of car for rent: The Audi A4 Quatro. The cars are nicely appointed with leather seats, 3G wifi, and Nav. Download the Silvercar app for iPhone or Android, create your account, choose your destination and go. Cars are currently available in Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Francisco and Los Angeles. GeogeCo rented in Los Angeles. When you arrive at LAX, head outside to the LAX parking shuttles and board the bus for Lot C. When you get on the bus, use the Silvercar App to text the concierge that you’re on your way and someone will meet you when you step off the bus. On the way back to the office they will explain the features of the car, help you scan the QR code to start your rental and away you go. (Be sure to ask how the #$% electronic e-brake works.) The return location is already loaded in the Nav system. You don’t have to remember to gas the car when you return — for a five dollar service charge, you pay regular pump prices for gas. The concierge then drives you to the airport and drops you off at your airline.
The A4 was very comfortable on my 200 mile trip up the coast, even on California’s click-clack expansion joint freeways. The A4 accelerates well and is very sure footed even on slippery roads thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive. Steering is somewhat heavy, but not burdensome. It feels like a front-wheel drive car thanks to the engine which is well in front of the front axle. The front doors are quite narrow, however, and might prove challenging to some.
Visibility from the driver’s seat is good. Audi interior materials and surfaces are excellent. The controls are logically laid out (mostly). The eight-speed transmission was very smooth and combined gas mileage was good at 28 MPG. The Audi MMI Navigation Plus Package is one of the better infotainment systems on the market. Pairing of Bluetooth devices was easily accomplished. We liked both the large Nav screen in the center as well as the turn by turn display between the gauges in the main cluster. I really have only three nit-picks with Audi about this car: the electronic e-brake is just a dumb idea; the seats were a bit hard and lacking decent side-bolsters; and in the normal operating mode, the eight-speed transmission would not hold a gear on a seven-percent grade. The last one is minor; just switch over to sport mode, select the gear you want, and never worry about touching the brakes on your descent. The seats were not the optional sport-seats and probably make sense in a rental car as you have to account for the large backsides of most Americans. The electronic e-brake is just engineering hubris.
Overall, the Audi A4 and the Silvercar experience both get a big thumbs up. When we get to choose which car to rent, we will be going back to Silvercar. (Like Silvercar on Facebook and get $50 off of your first rental as well as discount offers.)