Before you get angry because you need to add another subscription service, hear us out.
Audi is joining Tesla, Mercedes and others in offering feature subscription packages with new (and used) vehicles. The 2021 Audi Q5, A4 and A5, as well as the electric e-tron crossover will be available with Function on Demand, which includes things like navigation, higher-speed Wi-Fi, and other features. We can hear you scoffing, but think about this: how often do you actually need a navigation system? Five times a year? Less? Imagine only paying for it when you need it. That's what we think these companies are trying to get across.
"The primary driver behind Function on Demand is delivering on customer expectations, including ensuring customers are able to get features they may not have wanted when they purchased the car but discover they may want later," said an Audi spokesperson.
The main thing Audi is offering right now is adding MMI Navigation bundled with the Audi connect Plus subscription for $85 per month (connect Plus is a package with some extra features on top of its Prime and Care extras). If you get a 12-month subscription it goes down to about $71 per month. That includes navigation, but also Amazon Music, internet radio, natural speech voice controls, full-speed Wi-Fi (it changes the speed from 1.5 Mbps to 1 Gbps), Google Earth, Twitter access, geofencing, and more. The Audi Cares safety features include a stolen vehicle locator, remote lock and unlock, map updates, emergency calls, and a few other things.
"Streaming Audio, emails, internet searching all work well at this basic (1.5 Mbps) speed. Video streaming is supported but the customer's experience depends on the video format. Standard definition video work fine. The user experience may start to degrade as the quality of the video (higher bit rate and larger files) increases," said Audi.
"Audi connect Plus includes the unlimited speed Wi-Fi plan. The vehicle is equipped with an LTE Advanced Pro modem rated for up to 1 Gbps download speed. Of course, network performance is not guaranteed and dependent on many factors."
Owners of the e-tron and e-tron Sportback Premium models can now order the Light Function Package, which adds turning light, dynamic cornering light and maneuvering light functions. Turning light is triggered when the turn signal goes on and illuminates the side of the vehicle. Dynamic cornering follows the steering wheel movement, and the maneuvering light turns on both side lights when reversing. That feature is a one-time cost of $259.99 for the lifetime of the vehicle. We'll note lifetime because some automakers (ahem, Tesla) don't let owners transfer features.
All of this works through over-the-air updates.
"As part of the purchase process a signal is sent to the vehicle to activate the function. Messages will be displayed on the MMI to show that the feature is being installed and when the installation is completed," said Audi. "Messages will also be displayed on the MMI when the subscription term is near the end and after the subscription has ended. Also, note, the navigation is updated once monthly, including both new addresses and a really cool POI function."
Besides the "only paying when you need it" benefit, there's also the scenario where a person who's found the pre-owned Audi of their dreams, but without the functions they want. They can just be added in later. This only works when the hardware is there of course - it would be hard to add heated seats - but at some point, manufacturers will save money doing this through less complication in the production process.
And this is just the beginning. Think about electric vehicles, and what software updates could do to unlock more power (possibly at the cost of longevity). One could conceivably download a different steering or brake feel.
With electronically damped suspensions you could download a special tune, made just for Laguna Seca, or Road Atlanta, or Le Mans, though Audi wouldn't comment on whether it has discussed this. Once everything is controlled by software, the sky is the limit.
"Additional Function on Demand features will be announced as they become available. The features available will vary by model year, model, and trim level. Also, each market determines which features are available as Function on Demand for their customers," said Audi.
If you have a new Audi, check your myAudi app now, you may already be able to download some stuff.