Didi has launched its newest tier of premier service. More premier than Didi Premier is Didi Luxe; luxury sedan, private chauffeur, complimentary Evian. We kick the bespoke tires, rub the executive leather seats, and see if the chauffeur stands up to our crippling, neurotic obsession with politeness.
If you thought having a private car available at the click of a button wasn't premier enough for you, Didi Luxe was designed for you. This additional tier of premier-ity is now available with a minimum spend of about 100rmb (though I got a 30rmb discount for... some reason). Didi Luxe has a couple of features best suited to people who only travel in leather seats. For one, the cars are exceedingly nice. Three options are currently available; the Audi A6L ("Elegant Avant-Garde"), BMW 5 Series ("Business Athlete") or the Mercedes-Benz E Class ("Masterpiece of Intelligence").
Like with Premier, there's a separate tab for organizing an airport drop-off / pick-up (just put in the fight [sic] number and there willll be a car waiting for you), but there's also a tab that lets you book a car for another passenger; essentially it works as normal but you can put in the passenger's contact information. That's probably a feature intended for executive personal assistants. Could make for a pretty sweet way to lure someone to a surprise birthday party. Or a kidnapping.
The Luxperience - Skip Straight Down For Impressions
Bookings have to be made at least fifteen minutes in advance. Being both elegant and avant-garde, I booked an Audi 6L. Tarliest slot available was about 30 minutes later. Fine, you're not booking these on a whim to take you home from a night out unless you're a particular kind of person. The map showed the car about 5 minutes away. A minute later, I got a phone-call from the driver-- sorry, chauffeur.
He informed me that he was nearby, and that he'd be happy to wait for me, or he could pick-up me up right then. He was exceedingly polite, very articulate, very accommodating, and not even slightly Anglophone.
The chauffeur was wearing white gloves, but he furtively took them off when I got in. I think he didn't want me to feel bad for dressing like a hitchhiker. That was thoughtful. The chauffeur apologized for being early. I apologized for making him hurry.
A few minutes later, he got a phone call, which he cut off with a curt "can't talk now, I have a customer" before I even heard the ringtone. He apologized for interrupting the smooth, silky silence. I apologized for putting him in this situation.
There are complimentary wet wipes, S. Pellegrino and Evian water bottles. You can control the heating in your executive seats with a wheel dial that has just the right amount of resistance to it.
Chrome and leather everything. Did you know Audi A6Ls come with shades on the windows? They do!
There's an ashtray. I asked if I could smoke. The chauffeur apologized and said that it's not allowed, the ashtray just comes with the car. I apologized for asking.
Whoaw, the arm-rest has snacks! Look, they even tie down the Mentos so they don't rattle about like in other, inferior cars. By now, the car had reached its destination and the chauffeur glanced back to see why I was poking and prodding everything and taking pictures. Our eyes met.
I said "can I take a Mentos," and apologized for asking.
The chauffeur apologized for my apology and said, "of course you can."
So Is It Worth It?
Absolutely, if you're okay with paying 100rmb for a fifteen minute ride with tons of leg space, chrome, leather, Evian bottles and Mentos. A ride to the airport from the center of town will cost you 500rmb. The English-language version of the app is still super janky, and while the chauffeur I got was the politest, most professional chauffeur I've had anywhere in the world, he didn't speak English. Thankfully, the interface should make it so you don't need to speak to your chauffeur at all, but I wonder how that first phone call could've gone differently for some C-level executive who just flew in from LA. If you do get a chauffeur that speaks English, you have the option to reserve individual chauffeurs after your third ride with the service.
There's been talk of being able to customize the treats on offer in the car. I didn't see any options in the process, but I have a feeling that if I'd asked the chauffeur to pick me up a can of Cherry Coke on the way to the pick-up, he'd have done it and apologized for the lack of an ice-box in the armrest.