Adren­a­line Rush

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Michael An­dré Adams

Need a lit­tle kick from your rental ride? For just a bit more, the op­tions are out there

There’s a cer­tain thrill that comes from the sight and sound of a su­per-car, or an“it”car, if you will. Th­ese ma­chines tend to arouse even the most mun­dane of us with their show stop­ping body de­signs that range from aero­dy­namic sub­lime to mighty mus­cu­lar. The paints used are far more ex­cit­ing than the car you drove in col­lege. And the wheels are al­ways quite daz­zling – whether spin­ning or stand­ing still.

A good ex­am­ple of the su­per in a car is the re­cently in­tro­duced, sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, $200,500 Bent­ley Fly­ing Spur for 2014.

Hav­ing de­buted in 2005 as the Con­ti­nen­tal Fly­ing Spur, it was built shar­ing the same plat­form as the Volk­swa­gen Phaeton, with power and per­for­mance sim­i­lar to Audi’s A8 and S8 from its 610 horse­power engine de­liv­er­ing 0-60 in just about 4.5 sec­onds. Right­fully, it has held its place against the com­pe­ti­tion as the fastest sedan in the world.

Fer­rari’s $330,000, 731 horse­power V-12 engine (with 509 lb. ft. or torque) F12 Berlinetta is an­other thriller. The twodoor su­per-car achieves 0-60 in just three scream­ing sec­onds.

Whether it’s a Fer­rari, Lam­borgh­ini, Maserati, As­ton Martin or Jaguar coupe to con­vert­ible, each com­mands jowl­drop­ping at­ten­tion while in mo­tion or just sit­ting at the curb. And whether you

care to spend that much on own­er­ship or not, you can have a be­hind the wheel ex­pe­ri­ence at a frac­tion of the cost, and less the main­te­nance.

Take to the Track

In the north­east US, Cir­cuit One is happy to place you be­hind the wheel of a dream car for an au­tocross ex­pe­ri­ence. There an au­tocross ex­pe­ri­ence is de­fined as a form of motorsport that em­pha­sizes safe com­pe­ti­tion and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion. It’s a timed com­pe­ti­tion in which driv­ers nav­i­gate one at a time through a de­fined course on ei­ther a sealed or an un­sealed sur­face. It dif­fers from road rac­ing and oval rac­ing in that gen­er­ally there is only one car on the track, rac­ing against the clock rather than other cars.

Car choices at Cir­cuit One in­clude a Lam­borgh­ini Gal­larado, a Maserati Gran Turismo or Fer­rari Cal­i­for­nia on ei­ther Camp­bell’s Field in New Jersey, Nas­sau Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Coliseum on Long Is­land, Thomp­son Speed­way in Con­necti­cut or Gil­lette Sta­dium in Mas­sachusetts. Con­di­tion­ally sched­uled through­out the year at the cost of $300, it can be a great ad­di­tion to a bucket list, as well as the ul­ti­mate testos­terone con­ver­sa­tion.

From time to time great deals on track ex­pe­ri­ences can be lucked-up on through Groupon. For ex­am­ple, Florida-based Gotham Dream Cars re­cently of­fered a $99 spe­cial on a reg­u­larly $249 au­tocross ex­pe­ri­ence in the At­lanta, GA, area, called the Dream Car Sprint. Held at a theme park just out­side of the city, it’s a chance to climb into your choice of a Fer­rari or Lam­borgh­ini for laps of ex­cite­ment. Best of all, the of­fer trans­fers to any lo­ca­tion on Dream Car’s web­site, where Dream Car Sprint events are held through the cal­en­dar year, and in­clude lo­ca­tions in Arizona, Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, Florida, Ge­or­gia, Illi­nois, In­di­ana, Mary­land, Mas­sachusetts, Mis­souri, New Jersey, New York, Penn­syl­va­nia and Utah.

Life is a High­way

But let’s say your de­sire is to high style it on the open road for a day or so upon the suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion of an in­tense pre­sen­ta­tion or se­ries of meet­ings.You may opt to stop for the night and check in at a win­ery or beach­front ho­tel af­ter a day of driv­ing along Cal­i­for­nia’s Pa­cific Coast High­way. Or you may elect to take a back­roads ram­ble through the Po­conos, or skip like a stone across the Gulf of Mex­ico down High­way 1 to Key West, FL. Which­ever di­rec­tion you’re head­ing, you want to ex­pe­ri­ence an ex­u­ber­ant drive that be­fits your per­sonal out­look on life.

There was a time lux­ury car rentals were rel­e­gated to smaller bou­tique busi­nesses, while the mass mar­ket fo­cused on prac­ti­cal­ity for ev­ery­day rent­ing. But with to­day’s tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tive busi­ness mod­els, the big three in the US – En­ter­prise, Hertz and Avis – have jumped into the fray and now über-lux­ury car rentals are a grow­ing slice of the $33 bil­lion a year US rental car pie.

Be­ing the first of the big guys to ease in the door, En­ter­prise seized upon an open­ing in the star-stud­ded Los An­ge­les mar­ket. There on the west side of town, one of­fice be­gan serv­ing all of south­ern Cal­i­for­nia in 2006. Be­tween the film, tele­vi­sion and mu­sic in­dus­tries, it was a safe bet that paid off well, de­spite the typ­i­cally slower pace of ex­otic rentals over the mass mar­ket rental.

“The Ex­otic Car Col­lec­tion by En­ter­prise has of­fered a range of pre­mium, high­end rental ve­hi­cles for sev­eral years, and we’ve con­tin­ued to strate­gi­cally ex­pand in those lo­ca­tions where cus­tomers de­mand lux­ury,”ex­plains En­ter­prise Rent-A-Car spokesper­son, Greg Phillips, in At­lanta.

“We see busi­ness from a di­verse cus­tomer base – ev­ery­thing from in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and deal­er­ships when cus­tomers have their ve­hi­cles in the body or re­pair shop and want to main­tain the lux­ury of a high-end ve­hi­cle while their car is be­ing ser­viced, to lo­cal cus­tomers look­ing for some­thing spe­cial for a big event. We also have out-oftown cus­tomers who want to en­joy their va­ca­tion in style, busi­ness trav­el­ers en­ter­tain­ing im­por­tant clients and movie stu­dios for spe­cial­ized use dur­ing film pro­duc­tions,”ex­plains Phillips.

Now with 13 of­fices across six states, in­clud­ing eight in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia alone (its largest mar­ket), En­ter­prise has a ded­i­cated web­site at ex­otic­cars. en­ter­ to ser­vice the niche side of its busi­ness. There, cus­tomers can check avail­abil­ity at each lo­ca­tion and se­lect from over 40 makes, view pho­tos of the in­te­rior and ex­te­rior of the cars and be­gin the reser­va­tion process.

“We of­fer more than 40 dif­fer­ent makes and mod­els through our Ex­otic Car Col­lec­tion by En­ter­prise, in­clud­ing As­ton Martin, Porsche, Land Rover, Maserati, Mercedes, BMW and more,”says Phillips. Also on the list is Bent­ley, at se­lect lo­ca­tions such as Cal­i­for­nia.

“When cus­tomers pro­vide con­tact in­for­ma­tion and the dates, lo­ca­tion and type of ve­hi­cle they are in­ter­ested in rent­ing, En­ter­prise rep­re­sen­ta­tives will call or e-mail cus­tomers with a cus­tom­ized quote,”which Phillips ex­plains is typ­i­cally ruled by sup­ply and de­mand. For ex­am­ple, on the day we in­quired, the go­ing rate for a Maserati GT Coupe or a Porsche Panam­era was in the range of $600 per day.

And while many are will­ing to pay the price, pro­vide ver­i­fied cov­er­age of trans­fer­able in­sur­ance or in­sur­ance through a credit card, plus a $10,000 credit card hold, there are no bonuses given or earned through any re­wards pro­grams. For an aver­age of $700 – $800 a day, one could even go full throt­tle in a Bent­ley Con­ti­nen­tal GT Con­vert­ible, and get a

com­pli­men­tary 100 miles be­fore start­ing to rack up ad­di­tional sur­charges of $1 per mile for any over­age.

From Maser­atis to Mus­tangs

Need to take it down a few notches?You’ll be glad to know there are still plenty of op­tions for those times when com­pany or per­sonal bud­gets re­quire a lit­tle tight­en­ing.

Paul Riviera, the pub­lic af­fairs man­ager at Hertz Cor­po­ra­tion be­lieves“there is solid de­mand and strong in­ter­est among our cus­tomers for high-per­for­mance mus­cle cars. By cre­at­ing a col­lec­tion of make and model reserv­able cars tar­geted to­ward such car en­thu­si­asts, we’re pro­vid­ing a unique prod­uct of­fer­ing for those look­ing to en­hance their over­all rental ex­pe­ri­ence through the Pres­tige and the Adren­a­line Col­lec­tions.”

Makes and mod­els in the Hertz Pres­tige Car Col­lec­tion in­clude In­finiti’s G35, G37, FX, JX and QX56; Cadil­lac’s ATS, SRX and Es­calade; from Mercedes, the GLK350, E350, C Class, SLK250, GL450; Lin­coln’s Nav­i­ga­tor and Volvo’s C70 con­vert­ible. Each rental in­cludes Nev­erlost GPS nav­i­ga­tion, Sir­iusXM Satel­lite Ra­dio, free mem­ber­ship in Hertz Gold Plus Re­wards, a ded­i­cated toll-free num­ber and weath­er­pro­tected park­ing on their lot.

The Adren­a­line Col­lec­tion fleet in­cludes Chevro­let’s Ca­maro SS, Ca­maro SS Con­vert­ible and Corvette Con­vert­ible; Dodge’s Chal­lenger R/T and Ford’s Mus­tang GT. Adren­a­line mod­els have her­itage-in­spired styling wrapped around the lat­est per­for­mance hard­ware, and ev­ery Adren­a­line Col­lec­tion rental comes with Sir­iusXM Satel­lite Ra­dio.

“On aver­age, rental rates are be­tween $100 - $200 per day, for cars avail­able at the top 50 air­ports through­out the US in the col­lec­tions. And the nice thing about Hertz’s col­lec­tions is that all cars are re­served by ex­act make and model (as op­posed to small, medium or large). So if you’re rent­ing a Mercedes GLK350, that’s the ex­act au­to­mo­bile you’ll get upon ar­rival,”ex­plains Riviera.

In ad­di­tion, there’s Avis, which of­fers its Spe­cialty line of cars. This fleet in­cludes BMW’s Z4, 740i, X5 as well as the 3-Se­ries and 5-Se­ries.

Game Chang­ers?

Go­ing back to the“build it and they will come”phi­los­o­phy, which goes for con­sumers as well as ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions, there are a num­ber of smaller com­pa­nies on the rise. For ex­am­ple Zip­car, a re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of Avis Bud­get now op­er­at­ing as a sep­a­rate sub­sidiary, has a Mini Con­vert­ible that rents for $14/hour or $99/ day (24 hours).

“They could also re­serve a Audi A3 for $12.50/hour or $85/day (24 hours),” ex­plains Zip­car rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Colleen McCormick.“In Wash­ing­ton, DC, a mem­ber could re­serve a Mercedes-Benz C250 for $14.50/hour or $107/day or a BMW 328xi for $14/hour or $102/day. And the nice thing about be­ing a Zip­car mem­ber is that you can pick up our ve­hi­cles on-de­mand from lo­ca­tions all around the city, so there’s no wait­ing in line or pa­per­work to fill out.”

With Zip­car’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary tech­nol­ogy, re­serv­ing, ac­cess­ing and us­ing a Zip­car is com­pa­ra­ble to ac­cess­ing cash from an ATM. In a mat­ter of min­utes or up to a year in ad­vance, mem­bers can re­serve Zip­cars on­line or via phone, 24/7. Ac­cess to Zip­cars is au­to­mated through the use of a Zip­card to un­lock the door, find a key or key fob (for key­less ve­hi­cles) in­side the car and drive away. An iPhone app al­lows mem­bers to honk the horn to lo­cate and un­lock their re­served Zip­car.

“We of­fer mem­bers on-de­mand ac­cess to cars in con­ve­nient lo­ca­tions near where they live and work – and where they travel,”says McCormick.“With gas, in­sur­ance, main­te­nance, re­served park­ing spots and up to 180 miles a day in­cluded in the price, we make it very sim­ple and af­ford­able to be a mem­ber.”

Less fa­mil­iar names to watch in the US mar­ket in­clude long time in­ter­na­tional car rental com­pany Sixt, a rel­a­tive new­comer to th­ese shores. From Sixt, a MercedesBenz E-Class rents for $136.35, or a C-Class for $113.40, each with un­lim­ited mileage. The fleet in­cludes the MercedesBenz S-Class and the BMW 6-Se­ries, each mar­ket priced based on avail­abil­ity.

Fam­ily owned and op­er­ated since its 1912 open­ing in Mu­nich, Ger­many, Sixt boasts the ti­tle of“the old­est and most pres­ti­gious car rental com­pany in all of Europe.”In ad­di­tion to of­fices in 100 coun­tries glob­ally, Sixt has opened lo­ca­tions (al­most al­ways at air­ports) in At­lanta, six in Florida (Mi­ami, two in Fort Laud­erdale, Palm Beach, Or­lando and Tampa), Phoenix and Seat­tle.

Per­haps one of the new­est play­ers to the field is pri­vately held Sil­ver­car. Con­ceived out of the mind of a for­mer tech­nol­ogy guru at Zip­car, the Sil­ver­car con­cept is one car – a sil­ver Audi A4 – and a sim­pli­fied process de­signed, Sil­ver­car mod­estly pro­claims, to rev­o­lu­tion­ize the car rental ex­pe­ri­ence. Hav­ing opened its first of­fice this past Jan­uary at Dal­las Fort Worth Air­port, Sil­ver­car has but two rates $75 week­days and $50 on week­end days. Through a stream­lined process sim­i­lar to tech­nol­ogy at Zip­car, a cus­tomer cre­ates an on­line pro­file to check cars in and out us­ing an iPhone or An­droid ap­pli­ca­tion.

If you’re look­ing for other op­tions to get you be­hind the wheel of some of the more com­monly found lux­ury rentals within a rea­son­able bud­get, there are a plethora of re­gional com­pa­nies on the play­ing field as well. Per­haps one of the best ways to com­par­i­son shop for that per­fect ride is through a web­site such as Car­Rentals. com. Op­er­at­ing un­der the same mar­ket­ing prin­ci­ple as a con­sol­ida­tor like Kayak. com, Car­ al­lows you to choose the lo­ca­tion, dates and car cat­e­gory for an in­dus­try search through all the rep­utable car rental agen­cies. BT

Be­low: 2014 Lam­borgh­ini-Gal­lardo, Above right: 2014 Ford Mus­tang GT

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