Hooniverse Asks: What car has the largest gap in MSRP between base and top trim levels?

Yesterday, Dodge unveiled the track-only 2021 Challenger Mopar Drag Pak. Dodge claims this iteration will annihilate the quarter-mile in a face-bending 7.5 seconds. To get your hands on one of the just 50 examples set to make production, be prepared to cough up over $143,000.

$143,000. For a Challenger. A Challenger also sold in V6 rental guise for 28 grand. This means the Drag Pak is more than five times the price of a base model. This is a massive gap, but is it the largest in automotive history?

No, and not by quite some margin. For example, let’s look at the 997 generation of the Porsche 911. In 2012, you could buy a base 911 Carrera for $79,000. Or you could step up to one of the range-topping versions: a 911 Turbo S Cabriolet, with a starting price of $172,100 — a little under twice that of the Carrera.

The 997 range didn’t stop at the Turbo S Cabriolet, though. There was another edition of that trim level, called the 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder, and it started at $196,400 for the cabriolet. The Edition 918 Spyder, though, wasn’t just some cheap homage to the marvelous 918 — it was one of the 918’s options.

Like snacking on bread and olive oil while the chef prepares your main course, 918 Spyder customers could order this 911 to tide them over while awaiting their actual car. Of course, the car’s standalone MSRP was only about twice that of a base 911, but in order to buy one, you had to also spend at least the 918 Spyder’s original base price of about $850,000. This means there was a version of the 911 that cost less than eighty grand, and also a version that required over a million dollars to own. The Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder cost over thirteen times the base Carrera, which dwarf’s the Challenger’s ratio of a meager five.

Of course, whether the 918 Spyder version of the 911 actually answers this question is debatable, since most of its price comes from another vehicle entirely. The 911 GT1, meanwhile, could be purchased on its own and sold for a whopping $900,000 back in 1998. Regardless, Porsche is not the winner. That victory goes to another German marque: Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz has the advantage here of charging significantly less for some of its models than Porsche does for a 911. Back in 1998, for example, you could buy a brand-new CLK 320 for just below $40,000. Interestingly, this is about the starting price of a new, six-cylinder E-Class coupe today, when adjusted for inflation. However, the E-Class range stops at the AMG E63S, which is ultimately a fairly rational vehicle.

In 1998, however, the CLK lineup did not stop at the contemporary equivalent of an E63. In fact, it didn’t stop at the contemporary equivalent of anything. That’s because 1998 was also the year Mercedes sold the CLK GTR. The CLK GTR was like the CLK 320, except the wheel arches were higher than the body lines. And there was a roof scoop on top large enough to serve as a parking garage. The engine was in the middle and had twelve cylinders. And the MSRP was a cool $1.4 million.

What’s more, the CLK GTR was, ultimately, a trim level of the CLK. The two were sold during the same model year, featured similar design cues, and are road-legal. And the CLK GTR cost more than the CLK 320. By a multiple of thirty-seven.

Is this truly the largest gap in the MSRP of two different trim levels? Perhaps not. The CLK 320 was the base CLK here in the United States, but not in other markets — perhaps the discrepancy elsewhere is even larger.


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14 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What car has the largest gap in MSRP between base and top trim levels?”

  1. crank_case Avatar

    Not a current model, but the peasantmobile spec version of the Peugeot 205 with a sub 1 litre pushrod engine could be had for less than the equivalent of $6000 while a 205 T16 could be had for the equivalent of $30K, the next rung down, a 205 GTI cost around $8000 new – but I guess still a bargain compared to the CLK – but Germans know how to charge for stuff..


    1. outback_ute Avatar

      Probably more due to having to build (& sell) 200 copies before homologation would be given instead of just 1 wasn’t it for GT1.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        25, they ended up making 20 coupes and 6 roadsters. Most the 205 “road” cars ended up as privateer competition cars I believe.

      2. crank_case Avatar

        25, they ended up making 20 coupes and 6 roadsters. Most the 205 “road” cars ended up as privateer competition cars I believe.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          Weren’t there quite a few GT1 cars with only 1 road car built? Or was it Mercedes was one of the few to actually fulfill the 25 requirement after the fact?

          Understood on the Group B front, I think that was common across the board.

  2. crank_case Avatar

    ..also the CLK GTR was such a crazy money speculator car, drivers were even flipping them at Le Mans…

  3. 0A5599 Avatar

    A continuation XKSS, made by Jaguar, was $1.4 million. I don’t know how much the MSRP was in 1957, but probably high 4-figures or low 5 figures. So a range where the most expensive one is a multiple of around 100 times the “economy” one, and the dollar gap is about $1.39 million.

  4. neight428 Avatar

    There are many ways to do this, I suspected that the technically correct answer would be one with a really crazy halo trim version and/or be a Porsche with $27,000 monogrammed hounds tooth seat belt covers. But I’ll give it a go with the Ford F-series.

    Base F150, no options – MSRP $27,940
    Highest optioned F450 I could manage – $103,904 (with the portable mini-fridge and canoe carrier, of course)

    If you say, “hey, that’s cheating”, I can get an F150 up to $85,280 with a first-aid kit and a two person tent rolled into the note.

    Just trim levels and accessories, no homologation, limited edition or anything.

    1. neight428 Avatar

      An replying to add a real cheater – if you include dealer add on accessories, things get obscene. $110k F250’s aplenty. I’m thinking they rise and fall with the starting salary of oilfield workers.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      Ford dealers will work with upfitters to have extra features added before you buy, so that everything rolls up into one note from Ford Credit. The MSRP in the configurator isn’t necessarily the upper limit.


  5. outback_ute Avatar

    The Holden Commodore could be a <aud$40k base model or a $169k HSV GTSR W1 at the end of Australian production.

    Edit: no idea what is going on with extra characters appearing here!

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker


  6. Kernel Panik Avatar
    Kernel Panik

    As long as the 911 Turbo S 918 Edition Spyder is being considered, can the Cygnet (available as an option on Aston Martin products) be compared to its lower-trimmed twin? If I recall, a DB9 with the Cygnet option checked would cost around 10 times the sticker on a base Toyota iQ.

  7. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    kinda startling to see that the 98 CLK and the modern E coupe are the same price. the six-cylinder ’95 E-Class cost something like $70k, adjusted for inflation. that quick a drop in price really represents a stark change in philosophy. the recovery in MBZ build quality without a corresponding increase in price also is a great demonstration of how much manufacturing technology has improved over the last 25 years. every car is just so much better now.

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