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. enterprise.com 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.
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, CarRentals.com 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