Vroom service: Inside Dallas’ chicest hotel sedans
Longhorns on the hood? Signs on the roof? Pass. For transport to and from the best hotels, it will always be about the chic, sleek sedan — no Uber app required
by HOLLY HABER
photographs by MEI-CHUN JAU
THE RITZ-CARLTON, DALLAS
Pampering is embedded in Ritz-Carlton culture, so perhaps guests ought not be surprised when the house car pulls up. But often, their eyes open wider: The ride at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas is a bespoke Bentley Flying Spur, black on black. The posh motorcar was commissioned by the Ritz-Carlton specifically for chauffeur service. While the ultraluxury car, a 2012 model, has ferried many high-profile visitors, the lift is available to any guest on a first-come, first-served basis, according to hotel spokeswoman Alexandra Baker. Its radius is about 3 miles from the Uptown hotel, though exceptions are occasionally made for a bride or perhaps an expedition to NorthPark Center. Return trips are summoned by calling the driver directly. Appropriately tagged RITZ1, the Flying Spur is on the move almost constantly. Richard Dow, the primary driver and loving caretaker, is a former lobby concierge who is quite knowledgeable about the city and familiar with loyal guests. He also takes pride in the car’s cleanliness and maintenance: He is reportedly rather tight with the folks at Bentley Dallas.
The convention-center hotel squires visitors via Mercedes Benzes, a sleek S550 sedan and a muscular GL450 SUV, both easily identifiable by their OMNI D and OMNI 2 license plates. The 2011 black-on-tan vehicles venture up to 2 miles, sometimes farther, from the pulsating LED lights that cover the Omni’s unmistakable exterior. The Omni designs its properties to reflect its locales, and Omni Dallas marketing director Dana Thompson says that extends to the house car. “The Mercedes sedan is very modern but also very luxurious, so we felt it had a distinct Dallas feel to it,” she says. Douglas Fullmer, one of the three staff drivers, loves regaling passengers with tales of local history and architecture. As Thompson sees it: “It becomes more than just a ride to where you are going.”
The Joule’s automotive calling card is the 2014 Audi A8 — in triplicate (two silver, with black interiors, and one white, furnished in chocolate leather). General manager Justin Fields selected the hotel’s five full-time chauffeurs for their knowledge of downtown as well as that ineffable quality: charm. Some have regular clients who don’t even need to utter their destinations. “We have a fantastic group of guys,” Fields says. “You would not believe how many comments we get from guests that it was a turning point to have the luxury car and on top of that, the guys we have.” Stocked with multiple phone chargers and periodicals, JOULE1, JOULE2 and JOULE3 also serve customers of the hotel’s Espa and tenant retailers Traffic L.A. and Tenoversix. The cars’ radius is 5 miles, though exceptions may be made depending on availability and demand. Fields inaugurated the service last year, choosing the A8 as the house car because it aligned with the Joule’s branding as both luxurious and a bit unconventional. When it came time to renew in 2014, staff drivers lobbied hard to continue with the Audi, Fields says. High-end sedans “have the common basics like plenty of trunk space and a luxury ride, but the real difference-maker was the drivers just gushed about these cars,” he says. “They’ve told me on several occasions that they’ve probably sold 10 of those Audis just by driving people around.”
ROSEWOOD MANSION ON TURTLE CREEK
Lexus LX460 photograph by Mei-Chun JauGuests at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek can avail themselves of the chauffeured house car, a Lexus LX460 sedan, black on black, vintage 2013, for visiting restaurants, Highland Park Village and other spots up to 5 miles away. (There is a black Lexus LX570 SUV on hand, too.) Passengers simply call the Mansion concierge when they need a ride back. The iconic hotel also partners with Lexus in an unusual program that allows guests to check out a brilliant red IS350 convertible or a chocolate GS450 hybrid sedan and drive themselves around town. “Dallas is a driving city, so when you come you really need a car,” says Rosewood spokeswoman Stephanie Faulk. “We offer it to all guests and let them know at check-in. It’s an amenity, and Lexus gets to expose their vehicles to a great level of clientele.” The loan is typically limited to about four hours. Among the drivers provided by the Mansion’s transport company, AJL International Limousine and Sedan, is a former bodyguard whose favorite part of the job is chatting with guests. They seem to like him, too. Oklahoma City visitors Jeff and Joy Stehney, who bought a show horse in Dallas, found the driver so charming they dubbed the steed Francisco in his honor.