Australia Finance

May 28 2017

Top-Down Rental Car Comparison – Chevy Camaro vs. Chrysler 200 vs. Ford Mustang vs. Volkswagen

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RM4 RNT GR8 VU! Chevrolet Camaro vs. Chrysler 200 vs. Ford Mustang vs. Volkswagen Eos

RM4 RNT GR8 VU! Chevrolet Camaro vs. Chrysler 200 vs. Ford Mustang vs. Volkswagen Eos

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You ve heard the old saying, Nothing handles like a rental car, right? Well, trust us when we tell you that nothing handles a summer vacation through spectacular scenery like a rented convertible. Viewing the Rocky Mountains, the red rocks of Sedona, the Chicago skyline, or the Blue Ridge Parkway through the windows of a standard compact or midsize offering is like watching Transformers 3 on your iPhone sober. Our apocalyptic economy has torpedoed convertible sales, slashing market share from more than 2 percent to just around 1.2 percent through the first half of 2011, but once you ve made the rational decision to forego the monthly payment on a full-time convertible, it s a cinch to rationalize a weekly rental. But which one is best?

The drop-top offerings on rental lots have never been better. The perennial fleet favorites Ford Mustang and Chrysler Sebring (now 200) have been thoroughly updated; Avis and Hertz now offer Chevy s newly minted Camaro convertible (even in V-8 SS trim at some locations); and some fleets are replacing their VW Beetle cabrios with the origami hard-top Eos (also restyled for 2012).

Sad to say, rental agencies almost never guarantee a specific model at booking, so we arranged press cars for our ersatz vacation, though for logistical reasons we rented a Hertz Mustang for instrumented testing.

We ordered rental-spec cars with base engines and automatics, but our domestic contestants came dolled up with some unlikely extras like bigger wheels and tires (Chevrolet and Ford) and the Limited trim level with optional hard top (Chrysler). Our decked-out Eos happens to be the cheapest one money can buy. Let s buckle in, drop the tops, and start driving like we won t be around for these cars 100,000-mile birthdays.

We re selfish driving enthusiasts at heart, and this impressive reskin of an aging and graceless Mitsubishi-born platform offers little to stir our souls. Yes, the new 3.6-liter V-6 and six-speed automatic improve performance dramatically, hustling to 60 mph in just 7.2 seconds 2 seconds ahead of our last 2.7-liter Sebring but past that mark the gear spacing widens considerably for fuel economy, making the car feel lethargic at highway speeds. Our 200 was plagued by torque steer and it suffered the worst Rocky Mountain high, with its temp-gauge needle kissing the red while struggling up the switchbacks.

Nevertheless, This would be my pick were I shuttling the family on vacation, says associate editor Allyson Harwood, giving props to the 200 s biggest, most comfortable back seat, which offers armrests, cupholders, and 3.5 inches more leg and shoulder room than the second-most-spacious Mustang. Farther from the windshield, it s slightly windier with the top down, but top-up visibility is superb. Top-up trunk space (13.1 cubic feet) bests the class, though there s little room with the top down. Also, raising the decklid qualifies as strength training.

Nice try Chrome flourishes, VW-esque interior details, and a lustier 3.6-liter breathe new life into a car whose best attribute is its roomy rear seat.

Of course, it isn t easy reinforcing a big, open cabin, and the 200 s floorpan and seats are set a-quiver on uneven pavement, flexing enough to dislodge the wind-blocker from its mounts in some maneuvers (like frame-twisting driveways and the all-important rental-car handbrake-turn test). That tight-fitting, quiet hard top takes 30 seconds to raise and lower. I could get mugged three times waiting for the top to go up in a bad neighborhood, opined associate editor Mike Febbo.

But it s the car s driving dynamics that really let it down, as senior editor Jonny Lieberman notes. It has the worst ride and the worst handling, and the steering is a mess. It s initially too slow, and then once past a certain point it speeds up too much and the car feels like it s falling over on itself. Buyers can do a lot better, but renters looking to slow down and enjoy the view with four adults onboard may be best served by this big softie.

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