It’s that time of year again: Summer. That, of course, means traveling to spend time with friends and family, gorging on backyard BBQ — and all too often, renting a car. But if the words “rental car” conjure up nightmarish memories of a sad Dodge Caliber your parents got stuck with on a family trip, you need to adjust your frequency: These days, rental car agencies offer plenty of models that are far more pleasurable than the rolling penalty boxes that often spring to mind at the mention of the term.
To make this last minute decision go smoothly, we at Gear Patrol did a little bit of combing through the more prominent rental car companies, and picked out the best cars they have on offer, so you can make the most of your summer road trips and travel.
Ford Mustang Shelby GT-S
Sixt is a relative newcomer to the U.S. rental car space, but you wouldn’t know it from their performance flagship, the Shelby GT-S. Made exclusively for Sixt by Shelby American, these supercharged V8 Mustangs all pack 600-plus horsepower and eye-catching orange-and-black colorways, inside and out.
BMW 7 Series
The BMW 7 Series‘s big grille may be divisive, but that’s about the only thing there is to complain about with this giant luxury sedan. Sporty, smooth and luxurious in equal measure, it’s one of the best road trip cars you can imagine.
Unless, of course, your road trip may involve dallying off the pavement, in which case, it’s hard to beat the Mercedes G-Wagen. The newest version keeps everything you loved about the old one, and throws out all the stuff you didn’t in favor of more luxury, technology and capability.
It may not be the all-new, hyper-impressive mid-engined eighth-generation Corvette, but the C7 is still a great car in its own right. Between the powerful V8, aggressive styling and surprisingly comfortable (if a little tight) interior, it’s exactly the sort of car you’d want on a warm summer’s day. (And if you really like your rental, you can buy one of your own.)
Jaguar’s smallest sedan doesn’t get the sales or the respect that the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series do, and that’s a shame, because it’s actually one of the most playful entry-level luxury cars you can find. You might not want to live with one…but it’s a fine choice to rent for a week.
The Volvo XC90 is one of the finest SUVs you can grab today; indeed, in its higher trims, it feels far more luxurious than its price would lead you to think. Combine that with the roominess of its boxy body, and you’ve got a great car for a vacation away from home.
The smallest BMW crossover may be built on a front-wheel-drive platform like a Mini, but it’s still a delightful little ride. In fact, it’s basically just a hot hatch that rides a little taller…which just makes it easier to load in your bags, right?
The X3, however, is where the BMW SUV lineup really starts to take off. Bigger, more powerful and better-looking than the X1, it’s built off a rear-wheel-drive-based chassis, just like all the Bimmers you’ve idolized over the years. You can’t go wrong with it.
Of course, you really can’t go wrong with a Jeep Wrangler when it comes to rental cars. Four-wheel-drive means you can handle just about any terrain, while that removable roof makes even a pedestrian drive from the hotel to the beach an experience to treasure. And while the rental agreement probably says you have to keep the doors on…we won’t tell.
It may not be the bahn-storming E63 or even the continent-crushing E53, but even the basic E-Class is a delightful car for a long road trip. It’s filled with luxury features and packed with tech, just like the more powerful ones — it just so happens to get better gas mileage.
There’s a reason the Jaguar XE is on here twice. If you have the chance to drive one, you should.
The F-Pace isn’t just one of the more handsome midsize SUVs you can buy; it’s one of the more entertaining ones to drive, too. While you might prefer a larger or more out-and-out luxurious ride for your everyday life, vacation is a great time to live on the wild side and try the Jaguar life.
Tesla Model S
If you’ve always dreamed of driving a Tesla, here’s your chance. The Model S may be the elder child of Elon Musk’s automotive family, but it’s still a spectacular example of everything that makes the brand great: intuitive technology, great range, plenty of power and great design.
Hertz-Hendrick Camaro ZL1
If Ford builds a souped-up muscle car for rental fleets, you know Chevy is gonna do the same. And, as we found during a drive in early 2020, the results are great. The Hertz-Hendrick ZL1 packs 750 horsepower to the Shelby GT-S’s 600-plus, and while we’re not one to play favorites, we dig the black-and-yellow paint job more than the Ford’s orange-and-black.
Do we really need to explain this one?
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