Originally published in the Winter 2014 quattro quarterly
The Silver Lining
“DID I MAKE IT” I ASKED between bouts of hyperventilation from my half-mile sprint to the gate.
“I’m sorry,” she paused, “Good news is we’ve booked you on the next flight. Bad news is it’s back at the gate you just came from.”
On the humbling mile walk back to gate B85A, I pondered my latest travel experience. I had rented a car for the week for my planned road-trip through the Deep South. And then the hellish rental process began.
It was prepaid, yet I had waited about 15 minutes in line (with only one customer ahead) to verify the paperwork, scribble my name, and finally get the car. The kiosk attendant recited banal instructions on how to return the car (full of gas, shiny side up, etc.), and pushed for the perfunctory up-sales enticements (upgrade to full size lux, NAV, pre-paid gas). I settled with the prepaid contract, and made my way through the Deep South before finally returning it to New Orleans’ airport where, despite following all the directions, was slapped with ill-explained surcharges. The flight to Houston was over an hour late prompting the marathon run to my Austin gate.
We all have similar stories. Fortunately, things started to turn around when I finally arrived at Austin to pick up my Silvercar. A quick click in the Silvercar app alerted them I had arrived and after picking up my luggage I walked out of the Austin Bergstrom International Airport to the sleek silver 2013 Audi A4 awaiting me. The driver took me to their holding facility a few minutes away from the terminal to pick up my very own Silvercar.
On the way he explained the MMI system features: Bluetooth setup for my phone and music collection, Google Earth integrated navigation, Wi-Fi Hotspot access as well as the gearbox options (D, S, tiptronic).
Obtaining my ride for the long weekend was easier than any rental experience I had ever had. I walked up to a random A4, again turned to the Silvercar app, navigated to the QR code scanner and scanned the QR code on the driver’s side windshield. After a moment, the car doors unlocked and the trunk wantonly popped open. The Silvercar and I were mated…at least for the weekend. In about 15 minutes time I had gone from the luggage carousel to the driver’s seat of a new A4. After the hassles of my trip, Silvercar made everything feel too easy. Even the key was easy…one key fob with a stylish metallic Silvercar keychain instead of the rental car fistful of keys, fobs, and plastic key chains I’m usually handed.
The staff had been helpful, able to explain any of the car’s features; offer suggestions on where to go...you want BBQ? Center City? Live Music? Sites? Texas Autobahn (85mph speed limit on SH130)? Or just get on your way?
Silvercar is currently in Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco and most recently Los Angeles. Austin’s facility is unique because it is the only facility that valets you to and from Silvercar. The others are kiosk-based within the airports with cars located in garage facilities. Both are easy, but the Austin facility’s uniqueness just goes along with the rest of the city.
No Sauce, No Forks, No Problem
Per Silvercar’s suggestion I made my way to Lockhart to a barbeque joint called Kreuz. (pronounced “krites) via SH130. The 85 mph speed limit toll road boasts highest speed limit in the country. Tolls and rental cars don’t often go well together, many are equipped with RFID toll tags but this convenience is usurped by the convoluted bill and add-on costs from the rental company. Silvercar comes with a toll tag, but use of the tag is included in the rental.
The smell of charred meat welcomes you long before the signs that usher you towards the dirt floor pit area in the back. When urged, you approach the pit and make your request by meat and weight, then pay. I departed with a quarter-pound of brisket, a sausage link, and two ribs delivered on butcher paper and made my way to the dining hall. The room is a homogenized menagerie of wood and lacquer. For those searching for the condiments and flatware Krez house rules are mounted in a few areas: No Barbeque Sauce (Nothing to Hide), No Forks (They Are at the End of Your Arms), No Kidding (See Owner’s Face).
My BBQ needs successfully fulfilled; I boarded the Silvercar, Googled Circuit of the Americas through the MMI and started my route to the only purpose-built Formula 1 track in the country.
I pulled up to the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) gate house a few minutes earlier than my appointment.
While still waiting to celebrate its first birthday, COTA has already hosted three racing series with Audis contesting. The first was the GRAND-AM in March where the APR R8 GRAND-AM #52 car, who finished second in the 24 Hours of Daytona, contested the GT series. Next up was the Pirelli World Challenge, held during the V8 Supercars Austin 400, which hosted a record seven Audi R8s on the grid (LMS Ultras and a GRAND-AM), and most recently the American Le Mans Series and World Endurance Championship series where the Le Man’s winning R18 e-tron quattros took the podium and celebrated their 100th LMP victory.
Today a slightly less race-spec Audi was here to meet the track and take a few photos. I was met by Adam Naasz (fellow ACNA member), who graciously took my Silvercar and me around the facilities to talk about the track and Audis.
After gallivanting around Austin it was time to return the Silvercar to Silvercar. I chose the Silvercar destination in the nav favorites and pressed go. As I drove back to their facility, I couldn’t help but reflect on the ease of the rental process, reliability and genuine enjoyment of driving a rental Audi. From BBQ to a world-class racing facility, live music to college football there’s something for everyone in Austin. Now, you can see all Austin has to offer via Silvercar—why not join us for the 2014 30th Audi Club North America National Event in Austin, Texas? If you can’t afford the time to drive your own Audi to Austin, renting one is easier than ever!