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Old 03-23-2015, 10:04 PM   #1
robg
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Rented an Audi A4 from Silvercar

Read about Silvercar on either Jalopnik or Truth About Cars (can't remember which). They're a rental car startup that only rent silver Audi A4s. Anyway, I was out in LA for a wedding and had booked a car with Enterprise. Arrived to get a very crappy VW Passat (how does VW get away with selling these things?!). Remembered reading about Silvercar, downloaded the app and gave it a shot. In typical startup fashion, you have to do everything through an app. A little annoying, but tolerable.

Surprisingly (or not), it was a little cheaper than Enterprise (or the other majors) wanted for their usual selection of craptacular midsize sedans at the airport. Signed up, made a reservation and picked up the car. I really hated the Passat (really awful car - please don't buy one. A Toyota Corolla would've been a dream car in comparison), so I returend it after 1 day and picked up a car from the Audi from Silvercar. Was kind of strange to arrive and see a fleet of identical silver Audi A4s. I meant to ask them how they picked the a4. I'd imagine that Mercedes or BMW would give better fleet discounts given their desire to be #1 in sales. But I've always been a bit enamored by this generation A4, so I was intrigued. I'd probably be driving one now instead of my 528 if the leases hadn't been so expensive.

Looking at the car from the outside, I'd never guess it was a rental car. In addition to just being an Audi, it had the s-line package?, 18" wheels and what appeared to be a hgih gloss black grille. Not a barebones base model A4 from what I could tell. Inside, it had the nav system and the 3G data connection to make Google maps, traffic, etc work. Sitting in the car definitely gave me that "nice car" vibe that Germans do so well (and the current 3 series lacks a bit). Figured it would be a FWD model (being LA), but it was actually quattro.

First impressions sitting in the car:
-Seats felt stiffer, and less comfortable than the seats in the 5. Probably similar to the base seats in the 3 though. Of course the Audi comes with leather instead of leatherette and lumbar support.
-Doors felt more solid and closed with a better thunk than either the 3 or 5
-Loved the adjustable center armrest.
-The gauge cluster was much more attracive and easier to read
-The steering wheel controls were a bit odd in a few ways but I appreciated the scroll wheel for volume
-Knobs and buttons felt great. Better than the 3 or 5 series. Love that knurled metal finish
-The MMI wasn't as easy/fast/intuive as idrive IMO. Yeah, I got used to it, but in many ways it just felt differnt to be different instead of better.
-MMI screen was noticebly smaller; missed having the split screen funtionality
-The aluminum trim looked similar to the aluminum hex on my 5; but better done with a nicer texture.
-Exteior and interior door handles felt much more solid
-Base 4 spoke steering wheel looked a little ugly but felt higher quality than my Msport wheel
-The key fob feels heavier and much higher quality

After 4 days with the car:
-Never got tired of looking at the car. The 5 is a nice looking sedan as well, but I think I prefer the A4's size and "well tailored" looks. Silver shows off the lines nicely as well. Just looked very high quality. Better paint and panel gaps as well.
-The one "chink in the armor" was the silver plastic trim around the guages and nav screen. Just looked and felt cheap. I think the S4 gets real aluminum instead IIRC.
-Weird that there's not a dedicated button the wheel to hang up the phone as in most cars.
-Loved seeing the spare tire in the trunk after owning 2 BMWs with runflats!
-Biggest surprise was the power delivery. Despite having the same ZF 8 speed, lighter weight, and similar power, it felt like I had to really floor it to pass on the highway. I'm guessing this is mostly down to transmission calibration. On a positive note, the transmssion didn't have the annoying habit of downshifting to 1st coming to a stop -- just coasted smoothly in 2nd as it should. I vaguely recall that this generation of 2.0T may be using a single scroll turbo vs the twin scoll in the BMW motor so that might account for some of it too. With a manual, I"m sure this is all a moot point.
-I preferred Audi's traditional automatc shifter to BMW's beer tap
-But not sure why they get the manual shifting completely backwards. You tip it away from you (instead of toward you) to shift to manual mode and then push it forward to upshift and back to downshift.
-The engine felt rougher at idle and while revving. They both are 4 cyls with balance shafts so not sure why.
-Liked how the Nav always shows you the next 3 turns. There is no setting with BMW's nav to do that unless you switch to the "route list" screen. Voice recognition was very similar and worked about the same. The google maps overlays look cool, but otherwise didn't do much for me.
-Bummed that a USB connector still isn't standard. Silvercar provided a cigarette lighter usb charger, but for music the only choice was BT audio. Very strange that VW/Audi persists with their proprietary connector.
-Was surprised that a trip computer function is not standard with the nav. Looked this up and apaprently you have to spec the "premium plus" to get it. Seems a bit odd in 2015.
-Handling was fine. I'm sure the optional sport package is much better. Better on-center feel on the highway than my car. Maybe a little less steering "feel" (less load up in corners, etc)
-Never really warmed up to the MMI interface. I think BMW really has gottne this piece right after so many years.
-Car got noticed and complimented by my friends (and valets) out there. Helped sell a bunch more silvercar customers i think.
-My wife preferred the interior overall to the 5. To me there are roughly equal pros/cons to each. When compared to a 3, I think it blows it out of the water interior wise.
-Noticeably more wind noise on the highway, but I've been spoiled by the 5 in this area. I'm guessing the A4 is just as quiet (and possibly quieter) than either the e90 or the F30. My old e92 was pretty loud.
-

Overall very impressive especially when you consider this car was beaten on by other rental car customers and this is the final year of the current A4. The next gen will quite interesting to see.

I preferred the A4 to my car in "around town" situations due to the smaller size, better ride over potholes (non runflats), better on-center steering, and less aggressive transmission calibration. On the highway, I missed the F10 a bit. In corners, it's a bit of an unfair comparison since my car has a sport suspension and this car did not. For my current situation, the F10 works a bit better. If a manual was on the table, and I were choosing between this and the 3 series, it would be tough. I'd probably get the Audi.
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Old 03-23-2015, 11:07 PM   #2
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I rented one about 18 months back in SF. Was a decent experience. A little pricey compared to what I could do the 'generic' rental econobox for (but not too bad....).

I always look for Silvercar for when I have to rent... They just aren't available in too many locations yet that work for me.
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Old 03-24-2015, 08:50 AM   #3
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Sounds interesting.
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Old 03-24-2015, 09:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clyde View Post
Sounds interesting.
Downloaded the app--they have limited destinations currently (AUS, Dallas, Denver, LA, Miami, Phoenix, SFO), but the next time I head to SFO or Austin I will give it a try.*







*If I have to go to any of those other places I will just put a bullet in my brain instead.
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Old 03-24-2015, 05:58 PM   #5
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The timing of this post is strangely perfect ... the R8 is at the dealer getting some things done to it and they gave me a 2015 Audi 4 allroad ...

After 2 days (and counting) I was wondering if anyone here from the board drove this generation A4 and I sign in and here is Rob posting about it

Is this the slowest car ever ... it is so strange, I floor the car and you can't feel any shifts, I have had enough time with it that the gas ran low so I put premium gas in and it still feels like the slowest car I ever drove and the automatic shifts so insanely smooth that you can't feel it and the car just feels WWWWAAAYYY too smooth. Is it a CVT with some software to make it feel like it shifts but doesn't ... pretty sure the answer is no, isn't that reserved for the FWD audi's

Rob did you feel this to ?

Otherwise the car is amazing ... it just feels good but way too slow ...
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Old 03-24-2015, 08:32 PM   #6
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pretty sure FWD = CVT on the A4's
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Old 03-24-2015, 08:42 PM   #7
robg
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AF View Post
The timing of this post is strangely perfect ... the R8 is at the dealer getting some things done to it and they gave me a 2015 Audi 4 allroad ...

After 2 days (and counting) I was wondering if anyone here from the board drove this generation A4 and I sign in and here is Rob posting about it

Is this the slowest car ever ... it is so strange, I floor the car and you can't feel any shifts, I have had enough time with it that the gas ran low so I put premium gas in and it still feels like the slowest car I ever drove and the automatic shifts so insanely smooth that you can't feel it and the car just feels WWWWAAAYYY too smooth. Is it a CVT with some software to make it feel like it shifts but doesn't ... pretty sure the answer is no, isn't that reserved for the FWD audi's

Rob did you feel this to ?

Otherwise the car is amazing ... it just feels good but way too slow ...
The Quattro cars definitley have a ZF 8 speed just like our F10s. Only the FWD cars are CVT. It's funny- I had to double check to make sure the rental car I had was Quattro. At first I was sure it was a FWD with the CVT given how the transmssion felt (just like you). Given that my car is so similar on paper (turbo 4, similar weight, similar power, ZF8 speed), I was really surprised by how much slower it felt. And you are right the shifts are much smoother than on the F10..which I actually liked. I guess Audi's preferred transmission calibration is much less aggressive. You really need to floor it to get it to downshift. My car will drop a few gears if you just breathe on the throttle. Still surprised that the same transmission could feel so different...shows you how important software tuning is these days. We both have the "sport automatic" option on our F10s too. I thought this was pretty much just marketing to get us to pay $500 for some paddles. But maybe they do actually use a different calibration on the tranmssion. Even in regular (comfort) mode my transmission is way more aggressive than in the Audi. It insists on starting out in 1st gear no matter what for example, whereas the Audi was quite content w/ 2nd gear starts. If so, maybe Audi does something similar if you opt for one of their sport packages w/ the paddles.

Maybe its just my car, but the downside for me of the more aggressive tuning is that I feel a jerk sometimes from 1->2 and 2->3. More pronounced in DS mode or when shifting manuallly. Plus I always feel the downshift to 1st when coasting to a stop - makes it hard to stop perfectly smoothly due to that extra bit of engine braking that kicks in at the last second..

There are a few people here that have current gen A4s, but I believe they all have manuals so they would not encounter this.

Otherwise a very nice car.

Last edited by robg; 03-24-2015 at 08:58 PM.
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Old 04-23-2015, 12:48 PM   #8
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Being an Austin startup I keep hearing more and more about them all the time. Here's a pretty decent rundown

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mariahsummer...re#.tbLB0ZbJy3

Quote:
Originally Posted by robg View Post
I meant to ask them how they picked the a4. I'd imagine that Mercedes or BMW would give better fleet discounts given their desire to be #1 in sales.
Quote:
As for its model to acquire and resell its physical vehicle assets, Silvercar uses debt financing to purchase its fleet of A4s through a partnership with Audi. The startup knew it wanted a car brand with a “premium connotation” among consumers, and BMW tested too masculine, while Mercedes felt too rich to focus groups. Audi landed somewhere perfectly in the middle, and Silvercar soon became its biggest fleet customer in North America.
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Old 04-23-2015, 07:52 PM   #9
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A4 makes a good rental car, no doubt, it's like a german camry, upscale, but not too much so. Efficient & safe...

I had a '15 a4 loaner recently and found it quite slow, especially getting up to highway speeds, if in D. Keeping it in DS and adjusting to the engine's laggy turbo character (I owned this engine for four years, so I know how to work with it), it's far from slow. Sure it's no s4, but I can also feel the slightly lighter nose advantage of the a4. Non-sport a4 overall handles worse/softer but it rides a lot better, unless you get dynamic suspension on the s4.
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Old 08-15-2015, 11:48 AM   #10
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I have a Quattro A4 Silvercar rental right now in SF. Great experience getting the car, especially compared to the enormous lines I walked right past in the SFO rental car center.

I despise the transmission in this car, and it's pretty gutless, but a good chassis and decent steering. Way better than any rental I've ever had from anywhere else.

Took a fantastically fun drive on the 9 to the 236 to the 1 from Sunnyvale to the ocean, through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Having that awesome redwood smell fill the car and my nostrils, only to be suddenly displaced by sea air is a really wonderful sensory 1-2 punch. And the ridiculously twisty roads of course.
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