Top 10 Cars with the Greatest Price Differentials
When it comes to cars, what's in a name? In today's diverse automotive universe, a car's nameplate can totally change meaning depending on the prefixes or suffixes attached to it. Take acronyms like SRT, EV, and AMG, for instance: these simple letter combinations can turn workaday economy cars or mainstream SUVs and transform them into something wildly different.
To show the full scope of this diversity, we're highlighting the 10 cars that offer the largest price differentials within a given model range. We took the most expensive model available in any given lineup and divided it by the least expensive model to find a price differential factor. Here they are, listed in descending order:
1. Chevrolet Camaro: 3.03
V-6 1LS: $24,700
A $75,000 Chevrolet Camaro seems pretty crazy, and the hardcore Z/28 track special surely is. It's hardly the same car as its plebian Camaro V-6 sibling, what with its stripped-out interior, completely reworked suspension and brakes, and massive 7.0-liter V-8 engine putting out 505 hp. And while the 323-hp Camaro V-6 is no slouch, with more horsepower than its six-cylinder Challenger and Mustang competitors, the Z/28 plays in a completely different league with its Nürburgring lap time that beats supercars like the Lexus LFA and the Lamborghini Murcielago.
2. Porsche Panamera: 2.54
Turbo S Executive: $201,495
The Porsche Panamera is best known as a V-8-powered supersedan, but did you know that you can actually get a Panamera with a V-6 engine and rear-wheel drive? Good luck finding a Panamera that costs anywhere close to this $78,095 base price, though, as Porsche's crazy option pricing means that most Panamera sedans, regardless of engine choice, will fall much closer to the range-topping, 570-hp, all-wheel-drive Panamera Turbo S Executive in terms of price once you add equipment like a full leather interior, heated seats, and a backup camera.
3. Mercedes-Benz SL: 2.53
SL65 AMG: $215,425
The addition of the new SL400 "entry-level" model to the Mercedes-Benz SL lineup brings this wide-ranging roadster near the top of this list. Topping the lineup is the more powerful of two AMG-tuned models, the SL65 AMG, which gets its ridiculous 621 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbo V-12 engine. All versions of the car feature a retractable hardtop design and classic styling cues that are meant to evoke Mercedes SL roadsters of yore.
4. Porsche 911: 2.29
911 Carrera: $85,295
911 Turbo S Cabriolet: $195,595
It's no surprise that yet another Porsche sits near the top of this list, as the legendary Porsche 911 sports car lineup has ballooned into 16 separate models ranging from sporty to unbelievably powerful. The base version quoted here comes standard with a 350-hp, naturally aspirated boxer six, while the most expensive Turbo S Cabriolet is a forced-induction, all-wheel drive, 560-hp monster that can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than 3.0 seconds.
5. Dodge Challenger: 2.22
The new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat has taken the musclecar to new heights with its insane 707-hp, 6.2-liter supercharged V-8 engine. In fact, the ratio between the horsepower rating of the Hellcat and the Challenger V-6 is even more extreme than the price differential between these two models, as the huge Hemi V-8 puts out 2.3 times more power than the 305-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 that comes standard in the base Challenger SXT.
6. Chevrolet Spark: 2.19
Creating an electric vehicle is an expensive undertaking, and the Chevrolet Spark EV illustrates this trend with its huge price premium over the base Spark hatchback. For all the extra cost, you do get quite a different driving experience, though, as the Chevrolet Spark EV's 140 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque propel this tiny subcompact around with much more authority than the base, 84-hp four-cylinder gas engine. Unfortunately, the Chevrolet Spark EV is sold only in California and Oregon for now.
7. Kia Soul EV: 2.16
Kia recently announced pricing for its first-ever electric vehicle, the 2015 Kia Soul EV, and it starts at more than double the cost of the base Kia Soul with its 1.6-liter gas engine and six-speed manual transmission. The electric version, which looks similar to the standard car but with different wheels, a closed-off grille, and its own funky two-tone color schemes, has a driving range of 93 miles thanks to its lithium-polymer battery pack mounted under the seats. Since it's only sold in California, though, don't expect this EV to sell nearly as well as the standard Kia Soul, which has been a big hit for Kia since it first came to the U.S. in 2010. Maybe the memorable hamster ad campaign deserves some of the credit…
8. Jeep Grand Cherokee: 2.14
Laredo 4x2 V-6: $30,490
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has always aspired to compete with more premium brands, and the Hemi V-8-powered Grand Cherokee SRT is a performance-oriented SUV in a similar vein as big German bruisers like the BMW X5M and Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG. But just because the base version costs less than half as much doesn't mean that it's a bargain-bin special, because all versions of this Jeep SUV are capable and comfortable, with many premium features.
9. Smart ForTwo: 2.05
Pure Coupe: $14,020
Electric Drive Cabrio: $28,750
While the plucky smart fortwo city car never really took off in the U.S. market, Smart still offers multiple versions of this tiny two-seater. While the base coupe is a stripped-out economy car lacking basic equipment like power windows and cruise control, the Smart EV has an advanced all-electric drivetrain and is even available as a convertible model for a little extra flair.
10. Ford Focus: 2.04
The Ford Focus is another example of how an electrified model can push the price boundaries of a compact car. The Ford Focus Electric's high starting price has been blamed for that model's slow sales, although Ford did cut the price by a whopping $4000 for 2014. Even still, the EV version of Ford's compact still costs more than twice as much as a base model Focus S sedan with a manual transmission.