One of the best parts of road trips is driving on the open road. As longtime Seattle residents, we did the most Pacific Northwest thing possible by purchasing a Subaru Impreza as our sole household vehicle. It's fantastic for running errands around the city and spending the weekend in the great outdoors. But every once and awhile, it's a welcome excuse to trade in our loyal Subaru for a more comfortable ride. Enter Silvercar!
Can't see the video above? Click here to see it on YouTube.
What is Silvercar?
Silvercar is a modernized way of renting cars, specifically Audi cars. By signing up for the platform and downloading an app, you can reserve a rental and pick it up at one of their 20 locations around the USA. Here in Seattle, the Silvercar office is located in SeaTac, just a short ride away from SeaTac Airport. In addition to the ease of reserving your rental car via an app, there are several more advantages to renting with Silvercar as opposed to other car rental companies:
- When you reserve a car, you can pick between an Audi A4 and Audi Q5 (as of April 2018). Whichever car you reserve you will get that exact model. There's no more last-minute surprise of getting handed a substitute vehicle when you check in.
- You can supply your own rental car insurance or opt for Silvercar's policy.
- A Silvercar concierge is in touch with you via text the day before your rental pickup. He or she will instruct you on how to reach the facility. In our case, we caught the Light Rail from downtown Seattle to the Angle Lake Station. Here, our Silvercar concierge picked us up in an Audi Q5 and drove us to the Silvercar rental office.
- Upon arrival, your concierge will do a quick QR code scan of your rental vehicle and you're off and away!
The Silvercar Rental Process
In screenshots below, this is how you would rent a Silvercar on the app. I appreciate the straightforward interface and the clean breakdown of costs. Currently, the Audi A4 will run you about $69 per day, and the Audi Q5 is $109 per day. That is incredibly reasonable for a luxury car. Also included in the costs are vehicle extras such as Navigation and Sirius XM (more on this later!).
The Audi Experience
If you've never driven an Audi before, you'll be in for a pleasant surprise! There's a reason why these cars cost so much money, and it's evident even before you power the engine on. Before I go any further, I'll preface this with the fact that my regular driving experience is with Nissan and Subaru. Heck, I was even driving a 1984 Westfalia Vanagon a few weeks ago. This is to say that my knowledge of luxury car technology is limited, so all of these features feel brand new to me even though I'm sure they have been present in vehicles for a while.
Features We Loved
1. The latest generation of Audi vehicles is key-less. All you need to enter the car and power it on as a fob, and you don't even need to insert it! The car engine senses when the fob is nearby and you simply apply pressure to the brakes and hit a button to start the engine up.
2. Audi seats can be adjusted height and length-wise, and you can program these settings in! Since we are a couple of extremely different heights, this feature was invaluable for quickly changing seat settings when we swapped drivers. Speaking of customization, each seat has dedicated temperature control. This was also a godsend for couples with different temperature preferences.
3. Like most modern vehicles, Audi cars have a Nav Screen, but theirs isn't touchscreen. In fact, it's a trademarked MMI (multimedia interface) that you interact with via a touchpad near the transmission stick. It's actually a much more ergonomic way to use the MMI and it keeps fingerprints off of the screen.
The MMI itself is packed full of features that would have taken hours to get fully acquainted with. For our weekend trip, we stuck mainly to two features: the navigation system and Sirius XM. The navigation system worked as expected, similarly to Google Maps, but it appeared to be Audi's own system as it came with a pleasant female voice that was incredibly polite, prefacing all directions with "please." But the very best part of the navigation system was the fact that it could be overlaid onto your car dashboard. This was so much better than craning your neck to the right to see the directions. When the navigation wasn't at play, the map also made it very easy to explore a new area while being able to see nearby streets and landmarks. The map was probably our favorite feature of all.
4. In addition to some of the obvious perks of driving an Audi, there were also lots of small automated touches that we slowly discovered along the way. There's a button on the trunk that closes it automatically (very important for the height-challenged like myself). And there's even an auto mode for your windshield wipers, which will automatically turn on and off when rain is detected! These were just a few small surprises that popped up like presents over the weekend.
5. Finally, despite all of this added technology, the car itself is very intuitive to operate. Once the engine is on, you can figure out how to adjust basic settings and be up and running in no time. The only caveat is that these cars are so wicked fast and the insulation is so good that you won't always realize how fast you're going until you glance at your speedometer. With that said, it's important to constantly watch your speed or take advantage of cruise control.
Our Weekend Itinerary
Click here for an interactive version of the map below.
Off the bat, we'll admit that this weekend road trip packed in a LOT over a short period of time. You can fit the same amount of activities in over a weekend, but if you have the extra time, certainly do yourself a favor and spend a few more days out here. Deception Pass and Diablo Lake alone deserve at least a few days of exploration each.
Seattle to Mount Vernon
While Skagit Valley is the general farming region you'll want to visit and photograph, Mount Vernon is a nearby town that you should consider as a home base. There are stores, restaurants, cafes, and accommodations in Mount Vernon. We chose The Grand Willow Inn as our sleeping post and were pleasantly surprised by how spacious and gorgeous the venue is. It's no surprise that many weddings are held here. The drive from Seattle to Mount Vernon takes about 90 minutes without traffic. Best of all, once you pass Everett, the speed limit climbs to 70 mph, so there's some nice freeway driving.
Where to Eat in Mount Vernon / Skagit Valley
The street that runs through downtown Mount Vernon is chock full of eateries. You'll find Italian, Thai, Japanese, Mexican and American choices. We favored the Trumpeter Public House and Skagit River Brewery for lunch and dinner. For our morning coffee and breakfast bagels, we ended up at Ristretto Coffee Lounge.
What to Do in Skagit Valley
Daffodil and Tulip Fields (seasonal)
The region is most famous for the vibrant fields of daffodil and tulip flowers that bloom in the spring, with the RoozenGaarde being the most popular place to visit. However, you'll have to come out in March for daffodils, or April for tulips. If you arrive outside of that timeframe, it's still worth visiting the area, but you might want to spend more time in the other areas listed below.
RoozenGaarde - 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon, WA - Click to see on Google Maps.
Northwest of Mount Vernon is the region of Bow-Edison. It's just off of the scenic Chuckanut Drive and it a little haven for foodies. Check out Tweets Cafe for a hearty breakfast or brunch. Then swing by Slough Food and Breadfarm to pick up picnic supplies. More about Bow-Edison on a blog we wrote earlier.
Skagit Wildlife Area
We've visited Skagit Valley more times than we can remember, yet this was the first we had ever heard of or visited the Skagit Wildlife Area. We discovered it when seeking a place to photograph sunrise as a stunning view of Mount Baker can be seen from a clear day. After sunrise, we wandered through part of the wildlife area itself and were enthralled by the myriad of birds here. We were even lucky enough to spot a giant bald eagle guarding her nearby nest.
21961 Wylie Road, Mount Vernon, WA - Click to see on Google Maps.
Also known as the Washington State Scenic Byway, this 21-mile stretch is a must-do, especially if you have a fun driving car like an Audi. This winding two-lane road weaves through evergreen forests and past rocky shorelines. Be sure to stop for oysters at the famous Taylor Shellfish Oyster Farm.
West of Mount Vernon is one of Western Washington's most scenic state parks: Deception Pass. There are lots of activities to do at this park, but at the very least it's worth driving or walking across the 180-feet tall bridges. Also quick and easy to do is a drive to the bottom of the bridges for dramatic seascape shots.
Click to see on Google Maps.
Hoehn Bend Farm
We'd be remiss to write about Skagit Valley and not include our favorite secret spot: Hoehn Bend Farm. Located in Sedro-Wooley on Hoehn Road, this working farm also serves as a farm stay for families and visitors. Guests can spend the night in a farmhouse and spend the day shadowing owners Terry and Jean as they go about their farm chores. This is a fun and highly educational experience that we highly recommend! Just be sure to make reservations ahead of time. Learn more about the Hoehn Bend Farm Stay experience in our blog post.
If you prefer a day in the mountains, head east of Mount Vernon into the North Cascades. There are plenty of scenic destinations within the mountain range, but Diablo Lake is a safe bet for a beautiful view. While it's technically a reservoir, Diablo Lake is known for having an intensely turquoise coloring to its water. There are many viewpoints for catching impressive photos of the lake, as well as hiking trails and even kayaking and canoeing options.
In the End
After spending just two days with our Audi Q5, it was incredibly hard to let go. But when the time came, the return process was wicked fast and simple. The MMI (nav system) has your local Silvercar office plugged in as "home," so you can prompt it to navigate you back. Whether you fill up the gas tank or not is up to you -- it's just the market price for gas plus a $5 convenience fee if you return it empty. When you pull into the Silvercar lot, a concierge greets you, scans the QR code of your vehicle, and you're good to go! They also offer you a shuttle ride to the nearest Light Rail station if you need it.
Overall, we had a great time renting with Silvercar. Driving a world-class vehicle like an Audi Q5 is an experience in and of itself, perfect for elevating your road trips, and the Silvercar team made it all the more memorable with their excellent customer service. Highly, highly recommend!
Have you rented with Silvercar before? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
If you liked this post, please share with friends, or pin it for later!