By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

Rental cars can be an inexpensive, convenient way to get from place to place for a business traveler, vacationer or participant in a big event.

Yet leasing the cheapest car on the lot isn’t always what the customer desires. The driver may be accustomed to a luxury car and wants to stick with one. Or, the renting party may have never sat behind the wheel of a sleek sports car or high-end sedan and figures leasing one for a few days or week would be a one-of-a-kind perk.

Car rental companies are obliging. Some are diversifying their fleet and publicizing the variety of models.

Earlier this month, New Jersey-based Avis Car Rental rolled out its “2013 line-up of vehicles,” noting that it includes premier models from BMW, Cadillac, Infiniti and Volvo as well as niche editions from Chevrolet and Ford.

“From compact vehicles to luxury sedans, SUVs and convertibles — we’ve got you covered,” said Tom Gartland, president of Avis Budget Group in North America.

The company said its new-car lineup is built around “quality” vehicles from Chrysler, Kia, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. A few other specialty models are on hand, too.

“Our 2013 fleet features a wide range of vehicles from a variety of manufacturers to fit every occasion, from business to leisure,” Gartland said.

According to Avis, they include:

• BMW Z4, the carmaker’s first roadster with a retractable hardtop; and the luxury 740i sedan. They join “Avis Cool Cars,” which the company described as a collection of fun-to-drive vehicles. The Z4 shows off a 240-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, while the 740i sedan has a 315-hp 3.0-liter TwinPower turbocharged 6-cylinder engine. They will be coming out in January, joining the carmaker’s 3-Series and 5-Series sedans in the fleet.

• Cadillac Escalade luxury SUV. Billed as “acclaimed,” the vehicle seats up to eight passengers and features a 403-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine that travels from 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds, Avis said. The Escalade shows off a rearview camera, three-zone climate control and a roof-mounted luggage rack. Also on the way this month is the Cadillac XTS, a brand-new sedan that features a 3.6-liter V-6 engine packing 304-hp and an eight-speaker Bose sound system.

• Chevrolet Spark. Already sold overseas, the compact Spark is debuting in the United States and will be part of the Avis 2013 fleet. The five-door, four-seat subcompact is rated 38 mpg on the highway and is ideal for navigating around large cities, Avis noted. Also for rent starting this month is the redesigned Chevy Malibu: The LS model boasts a 5-liter engine, six-speed automatic transmission and an estimated 34 mpg on the highway.

• Ford Fusion and C-Max hybrids, which will be joining the Avis “cool cars” lineup. Each model — the Fusion sedan and the all-new “multi-acivity C-Max —touts 47 mpg city and highway.

• Infiniti JX35 crossover. Available in January, the model showcases three rows of seats for seven passengers. It has two panoramic moonroofs, a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and a power rear liftgate.

• Volvo XC60. On the way next month, the crossover seats five passengers. Rear seat backrests fold down to provide more than 67 cubic feet of cargo space.

For more information, visit www.avis.com.

Avis, which has 5,200 locations in 165 countries worldwide, isn’t the only rental car company that’s promoting specialty drives.

Its competitor Hertz Corp. spotlights three “collections,” Adrenaline, Green Traveler and Prestige, on its website at www.hertz.com.

The Adrenaline collection serves up the Dodge Challenger R/T muscle car sedan, Chevrolet Camaro coupe and Camaro SS convertible, Chevy Corvette convertible and the Ford Mustang GT Premium coupe.

In the Green Traveler group are the Nissan Leaf EV, Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel, Honda Compressed Natural Gas sedan and what’s listed on the Hertz website as a “Hybrid sedan,” with a Toyota emblem, presumably a Prius.

The largest collection is the Prestige, which includes two models — the Cadillac ATS and Escalade — that are also on the Avis list. Others are the Infiniti QX56 sport utility; Volvo C70 convertible; Mercedes-Benz GLK sport utility; Mercedes E-Class sedan; Infiniti FX37 and Cadillac SRX crossovers; Infiniti G37 sedan; Lincoln Navigator four-wheel-drive SUV; and Mercedes E350 convertible, C class sedan and GL450 SUV.

Enterprise on its website at www.enterprise.com doesn’t include collections of specialized brands. But the rent-a-car company does list the Lincoln MKX and Volvo S80 as Premium Elite models for lease, Lincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade for Luxury SUV, Chevy Suburban and Ford Expedition for Premium SUV, Lincoln MKS and Infiniti G37 as Full Size Elite and Ford Mustang for Convertible. In each case, Enterprise adds the qualifier “or similar (model).”

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com.