Everyone wants the best, right? The best house, the best computer, or the best car. No one knows this better than automakers, so for years, they’ve offered halo cars to get people into showrooms so they can see “the best” up close. And if “the best” is too expensive, then maybe some of that good stuff made it into a cheaper model. That’s why that row of awesome C7 Corvettes usually isn’t that far from the row of Chevy Sparks at your local dealership. But it isn’t just Chevy. Everybody does it.
When I was young, I remember hearing about Ben & Jerry’s having an income gap cap, meaning that their CEO couldn’t make more than a certain multiple of the average worker’s salary. When Ben Cohen (Ben from the company name) was replaced as CEO in 1994, the cap was dropped.
Similarly, many auto manufacturers have expanded their scope as the world has evolved. Today, it’s not unusual for a manufacturer to sell a car that’s more than 10 times more expensive than its least expensive model. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s look at the most extreme manufacturers out there.
We’re including Pagani on this list for the sheer craziness of the fact that its lowest-price model, the Huayra, starts at $1.3 million and the highest-priced model, the Zonda Revolucion, is 2.2 times more expensive at a price of $2.8 million. Pagani clearly has a well-defined market, and it seems to work for the automaker.
Surprisingly, Cadillac gets the a low billing on this list. The lowest-priced model from the American luxury car is the ATS Sedan with an MSRP of $33,195. That compares to the fully-loaded CTS-V Sedan and its price of $102,640, 3.1 times more expensive than the ATS Sedan.
The all-new entry-level model, the XE, starts at $34,900, which is actually one of the more expensive low-end models on this list. The high-priced model, the $128,095 F-Type R, is 3.7 times more expensive than the XE. Compared to some of the others on this list, that’s a pretty tight price spread.
BMW isn’t just the “Ultimate Driving Machine;” it sells some reasonably priced cars as well. The 2-series starts at $32,850 with none of the options checked. Riding the trend of high-performance hybrids, the i8 has surpassed the 7-series flagship sedan as the priciest model. Fully-loaded, it’ll set you back $154,295, 4.7 times more expensive than the economy model.
The Japanese can show the Germans a few things about how to appeal to all incomes. The Yaris starts at $14,850, which makes for a very affordable base option. The Land Cruiser, on the other hand, isn’t quite as cheap. It has an MSRP of $84,820, 5.7 times more expensive than the Yaris. However, the Land Cruiser is unique in that it has almost no selectable options. Other than floor mats and a few cargo options, what you see is what you get.
Audi is generally known for being a sensible German brand. In fact, Top Gear even made fun of this when it was reviewing the R8. The automaker is certainly sensible in its pricing of the A3 sedan, which starts at $30,900. But on the other hand, the R8 is quite a bit less sensible in its pricing. It tops out at $206,200, 6.7 times the price of the A3.
The prancing horse surprisingly finds itself in the middle of the pack on this list. One of its less well-known models is at the low end of its pricing, the California T, a classically-styled GT car with an MSRP of $198,973. The high-end is the first of our hypercars, the LaFerrari. With a cost of $1.416 million when new, it was 7.1 times more expensive than the California.
Despite the fact that Mercedes is known for pricey, high-quality vehicles, they get one of the low spots on this list. The least expensive MB model, the CLA, starts at $32,050 if you get it barebones. On the other end of the spectrum, a fully-loaded S65 AMG, the most outrageous version of the S-Class Sedans, comes in at $254,985, 8.0 times more expensive than the CLA.
For McLaren, we’re going to, once again, take a bit of artistic liberty. McLaren has introduced a new model aimed at the masses, the 540C. It has an MSRP of $165,00o. The reason for the liberty needed is that it’s not going to be sold in the U.S. At McLaren’s other end is the second hypercar on this list, the P1. It started with a price of $1.35 million, but so many were customized by their buyers that the average price of sale was increased to $1.6 million, 9.7 times more than the price of the 540C.
The Chevrolet Spark is the second-least expensive model on sale in the U.S. with an MSRP starting at $12,660. But Chevy isn’t afraid to stretch their budgets with the Corvette C7-R, which sets buyers back $120,515 if you decide you want everything that the “Bowtie Brand” has to offer. This price makes it 9.5 times more expensive than the Spark.
Lexus takes a special spot on this list because both the lowest-priced vehicle and the highest are hybrids. The CT Hybrid starts at $31,250 and the LS 600h L comes in at $135,445, 4.3 times more expensive than the CT. That might not seem like much of a spread, but again, we’re going to take a bit of artistic liberty with this one. Lexus used to make the LFA, which had an MSRP of $375,000, more with options. This would give Lexus a price spread of more than 12 times.
Nissan currently produces the least-expensive car sold in America today: The Versa starts at $11,990. This is cheap by any standard, but it’s even more impressive when it’s compared to the high-end model in the Nissan stable, the GT-R, specifically the NISMO version. To get everything on it, including the $13,000 titanium exhaust, the price tag is $166,560, 13.9 times more expensive than the Versa.
You might not expect a manufacturer with prices as high as Lamborghini to make it onto this list. After all, its lowest priced model, the Huracan, starts at $237,250. Still, a brand as wild as Lamborghini will always appeal to the less-than 1%. The current high end of its stable of bulls is the Aventador LP750-4 Superveloce Roadster. Lamborghini isn’t quite as forthcoming with its pricing, but the highest price we could find for one was roughly $475,000, 2.0 times the Huracan’s price. That would put it quite a bit lower on the list, but we’ll have to consider Lamborghini’s most outrageous model of late — the Veneno Roadster — for the sake of this discussion, which sold for a whopping $4.5 million dollars to a handful of lucky owners. That price is 19 times higher than the Huracan.
2. Aston Martin
Seeing Aston Martin on this list might be a surprise to some. After all, aren’t all of its cars expensive? Well, they are, but some are far more expensive than others. The Aston stable at this point includes four models (and a surprising number of variants), with the V8 Vantage coming in at the bargain end with an MSRP of $125,290. The high end of the spectrum was represented by the Aston Martin One-77, which was a limited edition car produced with a much higher price tag of $2.4 million, 19.2 times the price of the V8 Vantage. Recent reports indicate that the value of a used One-77 has dropped to $1.4 million, so if you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, here’s your chance!
In the battle for the top spots, it comes down to the hypercars. These limited production run vehicles set a new benchmark for vehicle cost due to their exotic materials and extensive R&D, and Porsche locks down the top spot. The low end is represented by the Cayman S with an MSRP of only $52,900. This seems like a great deal when compared with the top-spec 918 with the Weissach Package, which will set buyers back $1,056,400, or 20 times the cost of a Cayman S.
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