Long-time TTAC readers will recall that we tested a Hertz Penske GT around MSR Houston earlier this year and were thoroughly charmed by the factory-modded Mustang. There’s no doubt that the Penske is significantly superior to a standard Mustang GT, but if resale values for them once they leave the Hertz fleet follow those demonstrated by the 2006 Shelby GT-H, you’ll never get a bargain on one.
However, the black-and-yellow bomber wasn’t the only special-edition Mustang that Ford built for Hertz this year, so if you’re willing to be a little flexible on specification, you can buy a pre-abused Coyote-engined GT Premium for twenty-five grand or less…
In 2012, Hertz ordered a run of blue-with-white-stripe Mustangs for its “Adrenaline Collection” program. The cars were popular enough, both as rentals and as resale units through the Hertz secondary-sale showrooms, that the company decided to do it again for 2013. This time, the color was Ingot Silver, with unique-to-Hertz stripes, a larger rear spoiler, and louvred covers for the rear windows. A 2013 Mustang GT Premium equipped to the same standard, minus the external gingerbread, would retail for $37,380.
Compare that to the “no-haggle” but almost certainly negotiable price of $25,995 for a used one, and you can see why Hertz rarely has any trouble shucking-off their old ponies. On the other hand, for similar money you can get a manual-transmission model with a single owner and lower miles, so the ex-rentals can’t truly be said to be aggressively priced. Of course, many of the people who buy cars from the rental-to-retail places do so because those outlets are very good at getting people financed.
Some percentage of these Mustangs have yet to leave the rental fleets, and that is how I ended up behind the wheel of one in Los Angeles last week. The rate was laughably steep — $196 for twenty-four hours, including a couple gallons of gas — because I did it on short notice and I was interested enough in the non-Penske Hertz GTs to make a model-specific reservation.
My first impressions weren’t good; the car was dirty and the door had a slight sag in it. It’s worth remembering, when you’re shopping ex-rental cars, to remember that the major companies self-insure for damage. They have their own bodyshop contracts and CarFax won’t clue you in on any damage suffered during the rental tenure. As fate would have it, I never drove the car during the day, so I didn’t have a chance to look at how well the paint matched.
The general rule about modern Mustang interiors is that the plastic wears like iron and the leather wears like butter. This was certainly true on my 26,400-mile rental example, which had plenty of visible and tactile wear to the seats, steering wheel, and shifter. The seats were deeply creased but the door panels and dashboard looked effectively brand-new. I can still remember renting a 1996 Sable many years ago that had similar mileage but which already showed fading in the plastics after a year in the California sun. This modern Ford suffers from no such issue.
The rode-hard-and-put-away-wet aspects of this particular pony were also present in the running gear. The transmission was reluctant to shift at full throttle and didn’t exude confidence in low-speed operation, hesitating on the 1-2 and 2-3 even when there wasn’t a lot of torque being applied. The brake pedal was long enough that I canceled my plans to wind the GT out on the 405, lest I find myself unable to stop in reasonable time.
The five-liter V-8, however, remained as strong as I’ve come to expect, and with the exception of the hesitant gearchanges this ragged-out GT Premium would be easily capable of keeping pace with a Penske or any other auto-tranny 2013. I continue to prefer this outstanding modern engine to the General Motors LS series in pretty much all its incarnations, including the direct-injection variant in the new C7. Twenty years from now, LeMons races are going to have the raw pace of Grand-Am GS thanks to a surfeit of thundering thirty-two-valve Mustangs. I can’t wait.
As a Premium, these cars all have the mid-power (but non-SYNC) Shaker sound system, reconfigurable interior lighting, and uprated center-instrument display. They also have nineteen-inch wheels, which on the Los Angeles freeways seemed perfectly fine but probably would be a bit of a hassle anywhere winter heaves the roads. Be aware that it won’t be cheap to replace the tires, either — and if my rental was any indicator, they’ll all need a set, or at least a pair for the rear.
The rest of the Hertz Premium GT is standard Mustang fare, both good and bad. Twelve-second quarter miles, indifferent ride, long hood, limited visibility, surprisingly decent mileage, sequential turn signals, twin-bar running lights, a constant rumbling drone from the tires and the transmission and the exhaust. The aesthetic package has its merits — the center stripe is quite nice — and its difficulties — have those rear-window covers ever added anything to looks of any S197? It’s not the Mustang I’d buy for this kind of money; that would have to be a six-speed manual, and I’d cheerfully trade the Premium trimmings for the Track Pack. But this is a good solid American car of the kind that simply isn’t made very often. It has panache, power, a well-proven platform, and it ticks most of the boxes for a weekend cruiser. You’ll see plenty of these at Quaker Steaks and Sonic drive-ins during the years to come.
Good car, but before you pull the trigger, consider what these rental Mustangs suffer. They all have stories, and not all will be good ones. This one would be worth passing over.