Summer fantasy rides
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.
It’s summer. The dogwoods are drooping a bit lower than usual, the air feels kinder and the days are long and sweet. It is the driving season. Day or night, doesn’t matter. All you need is a car that can take you there.
We’ve discussed the utilitarian ways of Gainesville motorists, an admirable trait in many respects. The other day I was discussing the merits of the Honda Accord hybrid with a Gainesvillian. It’s a great buy, provided you get it with the leather interior.
Still, once in a while it’s nice to break out. Maybe a weekend of sitting in the driver’s seat of something you would never consider buying.
Sadly, our town has limited options for short-term luxury rentals — this is a buy-it town if you want fancy engineering and exotic looks in your ride.
Still, if you’re planning a getaway near a large city this summer, opportunity knocks: Car rental places in major cities have expanded their rental lines to include luxury cars. A handful of specialty rental shops now have joined some of the more familiar car rental brands.
Hertz advertises its line of upscale rentals on a dedicated website it calls Hertz Dream Cars. Enterprise has its Exotic Car Collection, also on a dedicated site. Avis says its specialty cars collection is coming soon.
These folks can provide the ride. You just have to know what you want.
You’ve seen it in the movies “Gone in Sixty Seconds” and “Get Carter,” on the TV in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Dexter,” and in the video for the Fountains of Wayne song, “Stacy’s Mom.” You may have seen one around town but it would be as rare as a sasquatch sighting. In the summer light, the Mercedes SLK-class is a beacon, a close-to-the-ground slice of freedom.
Despite the fact that it is built in the northern environs of Europe, the SLK is summer with a hood. The German sportster was among the first of the retractable hardtops, that genius piece of technology that forgoes the crinkle and fold of the traditional drop top and instead allows panels to ease seamlessly out of sight.
Like all Mercedes, the SLK offers so many options and tricks that you’ll never learn them all in a 72-hour drive. It’s a good idea to listen to the instructions and actually take a second with a manual. I once test-drove an SLK 55 AMG, the most powerful model available, and it took me 30 minutes to figure out how to gas it up.
Porsche 911 Carrera
The same rental place you can find an SLK, you’ll be able to find the Porsche 911 Carrera. The differences will be less pronounced, although you will be the boss of a Porsche for the weekend. That’s quite a claim for a summer lark.
The 911 is Porsche’s marquee car, an historic monument to quality and designing panache. You’ll want the manual shift for this — nothing shifts like a Porsche, especially with the summer wind blowing through the windows, urging you onto 150 miles per hour. (NOT recommended, even on a remote stretch of highway. With the center console lifted a bit for effortless shifting, it’s easy to get carried away.)
The possibility of even seeing either of these eye candy summer flings around Gainesville is remote. There are 20 MLKs registered in the whole town. Ten 911s can be found. These are folks with a love of driving, the ones you’ll see heading out Highway 441 in a hurry in the summer, digging into the swampy air.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Maybe you’re thinking of something more mainstream. I still recall a drive I took a few years ago in Arizona at the wheel of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and it was truly a delight. So if you happen to fall into a Grand Cherokee for a summer road trip, it would not be tragic in the least. The Grand Cherokee is rugged and yet has a nice feel for the summer, with the sunroof pulled all the way back and the windows open. The merits of a Jeep become happily apparent when you see that side road less taken. Maybe it’s in the sun that follows a midday summer cloudburst, and you just want to barrel down a country road with the music playing and the rain-washed air coming in. The Bluetooth in these things is excellent, so take the music off your iPhone and let it wail.
And unlike the sports cars, an average of 50 people in Gainesville have purchased the Grand Cherokee each year since 2011.
This is driving for the season. Rev up your holiday getaway with a speed burner like the SLK, a Porsche 911, or a rugged dance with the rutted underbrush in a Jeep.
It’s just part of the endless days we never want to end.