By Mark Chesnut
More upscale hotels are tapping into the public’s fascination with shiny new luxury cars by offering free loaner programs. It’s a first-come, first-serve type of amenity that is certainly more interesting than free coffee or Wi-Fi.
Some of the loaner programs are for a limited time. The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, is offering guests the chance to drive the latest BMW models — including a sedan, several convertibles, an SUV and an eco-friendly BMW — for free between Sept. 18 and Oct. 24, as part of the Ritz-Carlton BMW Driving Tour.
Among the hotels with a permanent program is the Elysian Hotel Chicago, which has a partnership with Lexus to provide a fleet of vehicles, including the LS 460L, LS 600h and LX 570, and the Montage Beverly Hills, where guests who reserve a suite get free use of a Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG convertible, S-Class sedan or other model, depending on availability.
Other hotels offer programs that are geared more toward leisure travelers. Mercedes-Benz and Four Seasons offer a variety of free mountain and desert excursions at hotels including the Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole, near Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park, Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, and Four Seasons Resort Vail, in Vail Valley, Colorado. Guests are provided with a prepared tour itinerary for sightseeing and refreshments to enjoy on board.
Travelers who want to sample the latest luxury cars without having to drive themselves might want to consider The James Hotel Chicago, which gives guests get free use of a chauffeured Audi Q7 TDI, or The James New York, which offers the same service aboard a Lexus RX 350H. Whatever the property, given the car-to-guest ratio, it’s definitely a good idea to reserve as early as possible.
Mark Chesnut is a freelance travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on business and leisure travel to Latin America.