A winner, a loser and a draw: The truth about three popular rental cars
Nobody usually enjoys driving a rental car. For the most part, these rides are the bland, inoffensive compromise vehicles that seem to exist solely to make you miss your regular set of wheels even more. Whether your normal car is in the shop or you’re on vacation and you picked up a sedan at the airport, there usually aren’t sweet rides on these lots.
Since you only have your rental car for a short period of time, there’s rarely any reason to be picky about what clunker you’re stuck with while your normal ride sits idly by. However, there have been some cars that are better than others from rental companies, including at least one successful rental that may have made you wish you didn’t have to return it.
Winner: 1966 Shelby Cobra GT350 Hertz. This is the one rental car to rule them all, as Shelby specially crafted this monster specifically for Hertz. This car was thusly dubbed the “Rent-A-Racer” as it was designed to encourage business from weekend warriors who wanted to trade in their station wagons and polite sedans for a pony car on Saturday afternoons. These beasts came with the signature 289ci (4.7 L) modified to produce 306 hp and featured a special black paint job with gold striping. The only thing that held these classics back was the automatic transmission, which Hertz requested so that even inexperienced drivers would get their need for speed and rent one of these Cobras. Hertz commissioned 800 GT350s in 1966 and returned them to Ford for resale to the public. This may be the only rental-only car to be considered a collectible.
Loser: 2006 Dodge Charger (with the 2.7 liter V6). This car was sold to dealers at the height of Dodge’s recent renaissance with a fancy paint-job. Dodge must have realized that when consumers heard the name Charger they’d rush out to test drive a rental assuming that there would be a worthy HEMI under the hood. What most drivers instead got was a chunky sedan that looked fat and couldn’t run fast. The dinky V6 under this car delivered little joy to speed-demons who thought they had found salvation when they were surprised to find a Charger at their rental lot. Instead, they got a timid, bare-bones boat that barely crawled.
Draw: Chevrolet Impala. For a while, it seemed like the only reason Chevy kept making the Impala was to sell it as a fleet car. Nowadays, the Impala has apparently taken the Crown Victoria’s mantle as the go-to car for taxi-cabs and police cars, not to mention one of the most popular cars on rental lots. Enterprise Rent-A-Car swears by Chevrolet for its rentals, and the Impala is the most popular options. However, that popularity isn’t for nothing. The past two generations of Impala have been solid enough, if a little dated, sedans that may not offer speed but come with plenty of basic comforts without a bunch of bells and whistles.
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