By on August 8, 2012


I remember those advertisements of the 1990’s when a loaded car meant….


All this and MUCH MUCH MORE! was yours for the low, low lease price of $199 a month or $14,995 before a healthy smattering of taxes and bogus fees.

These days a loaded car means something else entirely.

Engine: Yes it’s got one. More than likely the ‘loaded’ model that is aggressively marketed isn’t a V6 though.

Transmission:  Automatic or Automatic with paddle shifters. Your choice!

Stereo: The stereo upgrade is still there. However today’s loaded car will more than likely be some infotainment display that can easily get you into all sorts of trouble on the open road.

What else?

Is there some special seating, features aplenty or gizmo infested electrical doo-dad that needs mentioning? Will the loaded car with cigarette lighters on all four doors of 25 years ago be forever replaced with today’s electronic hook-ups and wireless subscription-based upsells?

What says you? What is offered with the loaded model of 2012?


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65 Comments on “Question Of The Day: What Is A ‘Loaded’ Car… Today?...”

  • avatar

    Heated seats.
    Dual-zone AC.
    Rearview camera.
    Heated seats.
    Premium audio.
    Various sport and trim packages.
    Seat made out of cloth that doesn’t suck (looking at you, pre-refresh Yaris and the mandatory-S-package for seats that don’t look like they’re made out of my socks)
    Heated seats.
    Turbo motor.
    Some premium color that isn’t available this year unless you buy this mega special collector’s loaded edition but will be a no-charge option on every car in the whole damn lineup starting next year.
    Heated seats.

  • avatar

    Power windows/locks, AC and an AUX jack. I’m set.

    • 0 avatar

      Me too. The question I would like answered is: What Is A ‘Base’ Car… Today?

      My car, with no options, came standard with ABS, traction control, side and front airbags, power windows, power locks, AC and an AUX jack. The first three are mandated. What cars on the market today can actually be had without the last four? I cannot imagine more than five b-segment cars.

      • 0 avatar

        You can still buy a very cheaply equipped cars out there, the lowest denominator economy cars comes to mind. Stripper model at a bargain basement price (not talking entry level Bimmer here) for a simple wheeled vehicle and most likely a rental fleet vehicle are:

        – Power windows in the front only, rear passengers get to roll ’em down themselves if they’re hot
        – Keyed entry
        – Stereo with at least four speakers of varying quality and CD player
        – Plastic wheel covers on the smallest wheels
        – Smallest engine choice possible
        – Genuine Mousefur or I-shot-the-curtains-for-fabric seats
        – Your choice of paint: Black, White, Gold or Red
        – Transmission is divided between 4 spd auto or 5 spd manual
        – A delightful ‘LS’, ‘DX’, ‘SE’ or similar badging on the back to let everyone know you’re a tightass
        – A cup holder

      • 0 avatar

        The Silverado W-trim could be had without power windows or power locks last I checked. The 2011 version at least had no AUX jack standard. I don’t know if the A/C was standard — it was hard to find a W-trim on a dealer lot; getting the dealer to stock something without an A/C is madness outside of Dodge country.

        Addition: I would have guessed the Ram Tradesman as a base model, since they had intentionally gone out to make a base, cheap work truck. It seems that, although the A/C is supposed to be an option on the base Dart, you cannot configure a Ram Tradesman without it. If the website continues to be trusted, you also cannot configure it without a stereo with some sort of fancy MP3-playing stereo with AUX jack. Manual windows and locks are still there, standard, on the Tradesman — which was also what convinced me that the pre-rework Hyundai Accent they gave me at the rental counter was a base model bottom feeder, too.

        Addition: There it is – the working man’s vehicle – the Ford E350 Van. Available in a base model with a radio delete and A/C delete option, having manual door locks and manual window cranks.

  • avatar

    This is a bit of a loaded question …

    Because loaded today means pretty much the same thing, basically at this point its leather, alloys, some but not all tech bits (an advertised loaded car may not have nav), sunroof, and decent radio.

  • avatar

    “Loaded” today means a Nav system with integrated infotainment, backup camera, adaptive cruise control, HID headlights, bluetooth connectivity, panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, Homelink in the rear view mirror, and perhaps a sport suspension with larger wheels. The stuff that indicated “loaded” in the 1960s and 70s — power steering, power brakes, power windows, air conditioning, and maybe auto dimming mirror — are standard equipment in 95% of the cars sold today. I am continually irked when long lists of standard features are listed in dealer and private sales ads for used cars that you have to wade through to find basic information like, does the car have the Premium or Luxury Package? Does it have a sunroof? Is there an upgraded audio system? I know it has six way adjustable seats — all cars do. Tell me if the seats have memory settings without having to wade through dozens of lines of superfluous information.

    • 0 avatar

      You can thank the VIN decoding feature found on many automotive websites dealers and private sellers use, such as and .ca, as well as a plethora of other car listing sites. When listing a car for sale I am asked for the VIN number of the vehicle I am listing, and it will generate the huuuuuuge list of pointless features and “options” the car came with from the factory. I hate the long list and know that most web-surfer’s attention spans are measured in seconds, so I refuse to use the VIN decoder feature when I can avoid it. Just a few quick lines to discribe the vehicle and a number of nice pics work well for us. Most people searching for their next car online will know just by the pics which model they are looking at, and if they’re still unsure, they can easily pick up the phone and contact us to find out more.

  • avatar

    That’s sort of a loaded (no pun intended) question as so many things that are standard features in cars because they’re mandated by law, but are sold as a feature. ABS, traction control, air bags etc.

    I guess I see niceties like pop out navigation screens and cooled/heated cup holders as features you’d see in a truly loaded car.

    There are things that I used to hate, like power windows and locks that I don’t think I could live without now.

  • avatar

    The problem is most cars comes loaded and you do not have much of a choice, with the 2012 VW TDI wagon you have like two options in package, and in one you want the sunroof which I did you must buy 1200 for NAV which I do not want my 200 garmin works fine and i can move it from car to car. No thanks one of the reasons I bought a 2011 instead of the 2012.

  • avatar

    Loaded as defined by various manufacturers looks at each part/ aspect of the car and gives options to check them inflating the price.

    1) Body
    sport kit – lower valence – side skirts – spoilers – diffusers

    2) lights
    Full LED headlights – full led tail lights

    3) Wheels
    19″ sport wheels or 20″ premium wheels

    4) Seats
    Napa Leather
    whale penis leather
    Leather with seude

    – Recaro seats / sports seats

    -Dynamic seats with adjustable bolsters
    Dynamic seats with auto adjustable /inflatable boldters


    7)Climate control
    2 zone climate control
    4 zone climate control

    8) Navigation

    9) bluetooth audio
    10) bluetooth telephone

    11) Dash material

    12) Steering material

    13) Doors
    Power doors – soft close – self closing

    14) Keyless go
    15) Keyless Start

    And I have listed only half the options.

  • avatar

    I believe that most car dealers have stepped up to the term “hard loaded”, to accompany the “ice cold A/C” and “ultra clean” in ads. Always a sign of a classy dealership.

  • avatar

    Loaded: (Camry/Accord level loaded)

    – Power mirrors
    – Power-adjusted, heated front seats that are comfortable for an hour + of driving
    – Sunroof
    – 4 speaker or more stereo with some way to connect external sources (i.e. USB, iPod or bluetooth stream)

    Loaded Sport: (Infiniti, BMW loaded)
    – all Loaded plus
    – further seat upgrade,
    – distinct aero kit
    – engine upgrade (in terms of usable power)
    – manual or auto-manual paddle transmission

    Loaded Luxury: (Lexus, Mercedes Loaded)
    – all sport plus
    – proximity key
    – remote start
    – heated auto-dimming mirrors
    – rain-sensing wipers
    – LED running lights
    – memory seat
    – infotainment screen with navi
    – 7 speaker or more high fidelity stereo with speed sensitive volume
    – onboard music storage

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think there is a car on the US market that lacks power mirrors or a 4 speaker stereo with aux jack. Basic bluetooth connectivity is becomming fairly standard also.

      A sunroof continues to be a big upsell even in many luxury brands, and is often tied to an annoying package.

      • 0 avatar

        I recently rented a VW Tiguan that lack an AUX jack.

      • 0 avatar

        No way. What year? I would believe you if you told me it did not work, since it is a VW, but I do not believe that it did not have one. Did you check the armrest, center console and glove box? A US market Tiguan?

      • 0 avatar

        I rented it in April in LA, and it had low miles. I checked the armrest and console, but maybe not the glovebox. I was shocked, too. Sound quality was bottom-rung, too. Rental special, perhaps?

      • 0 avatar

        Woha hold your horses there for a second. My 04 Mazda 3 – Cloth seats, no power windows, no power locks, no power seats, no spolier, it orginally came with some steelies but the orginal owner paid for the upgraded wheels and auto trans. No sunroof. Mine is pretty striped. They can get further but you can, in 04, buy a mazda3 with:
        No ABS
        No power windows, locks, seats
        5spd manual
        No A/C
        No sunroof
        No CD player or aux jack. You got a radio (not XM ready) with 4 speakers.
        Obviously the smaller 2.0L engine

        EDIT: Also no cruise control either. I don’t have it and it was an option.

      • 0 avatar

        In 2012 a Mazda 2 (not 3) comes standard with:

        Air conditioning with pollen filter
        Power windows with driver’s one-touch-down/up feature
        Power door locks with 2-stage unlocking
        Power exterior mirrors
        Remote keyless entry system
        AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible stereo with 4 speakers
        Auxiliary-audio input jack
        Carpet floor mats

        Advanced front air bags with seat belt-use, passenger-weight and driver’s seat-position sensors
        Front side-impact air bags and side-impact air curtains
        Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) w/ Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) & Brake Assist
        Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)** and Traction Control System (TCS)

        It has steelies, which are fine for most cars, you cannot get a sunroof and it still has a 5 speed manual/4 speed automatic (the latter is particularly outdated)

      • 0 avatar

        My 2008 Versa Hatchback didn’t have an aux jack. The power door locks and mirrors were an option package.

      • 0 avatar

        I rented both a Focus and a Cruze that lacked the Aux Jack. I upgraded to the Fusion to grt that and Cruise next time.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the AUX jack on the Tiguan might be in the armrest, or under the armrest lid, a la VW Rabbit. I’d be surprised if a Tiguan doesn’t have that as standard.

  • avatar

    A loaded car in 2012 contains:

    heated leather seats
    sunroof (ideally panoramic)
    proximity entry*
    push button start*

    And, because the only vehicles that truely matter have a hatch, a power liftgate.

    *these two are important.

    Everything else that’s modern – bluetooth connectivity, aux and USB connections, alloy rims, power doors, locks, cruise, etc are all just-about standard on MOST cars these days, so I don’t consider any of them to be “loaded” or “premium.”


    Forgot the back-up camera.

  • avatar

    Cars pretty much come loaded these days as far as I’m concerned. Power windows/locks, a/c, stereo, cruise, remote… That’s what I remember as being loaded growing up, and it’s what I’m satisfied with having now. I wouldn’t pay more for all of the additional features in cars today. Springing for alloys, leather and a sunroof is still what I consider seperating the standard loaded car with a ‘fully’ loaded car.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no one has yet to mention the range of rapidly proliferating safety doodads: blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, collision pre-braking, etc. Adaptive cruise control and automatic parallel parking, too, if you stretch the definition a bit.

    Personally, I think at least blind spot monitoring is required to be considered loaded.

  • avatar

    The person who defaced that Continental needs to be drug out into the street and repeatedly beat with a chromed waterfall grille from the ’41 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s not a Connie. Hell, it’s not even a Ford! I think it’s either an 88 or 98. Betcha the a/c works well! (as long as the gas holds out)

      • 0 avatar

        Actually it is, its a Fox body Conti from the mid-80s. I also agree a punishment for the defacer is in order, but perhaps should be death [of driving soul] by Camry for eternity.

  • avatar

    Remember the 90’s? I can still remember 70’s and early 80’s cars where floor mats and anything over base primer paint was an add on. This was when a 14 Watt, single speaker AM radio cost as much as your monthly payment.
    Most cars today seem to come with the same stuff. The “loaded” part seems to be just better versions of it.

  • avatar

    BTW, love the tags for this article. Long bed pickup + trampoline. I could work with that.

  • avatar

    “Loaded” is supposed to mean that the car has every option available on that particular car. It’s been overused to be a euphimism for “well equipped”

    LOL- I remember in the 90’s, shopping for a car, you’d see ALL the options listed, like heated rear glass, power windows, AM/FM, tach, power steering, power brakes, vanity mirrors, etc. I remember seeing car ads in National Geographics from the 70’s where they’d list features like “clock” and “cigarette lighter”

    I was shopping for a used 335i a few years ago, and some dumb used car lot, instead of mentioning “premium package”, “sport package”, etc. was listing EVERY feature on the car, including “features” that are pretty much standard on even the cheapest cars these days and CERTAINLY are standard on any BMW (such as power steering). Ad was impossible to read.

    Typical cars are still charging (often absurdly) for features like blutooth, power mirros, etc. A non-stripped mid level car will have power everything, decent stereo with perhaps blutooth and Sirrius. A step up would include heated seats, auto-dim mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, climate-control and xenon lights.

    Features that still stand out and are somewhat impressive today are a high-tech infotainment system, backup cameras/sensors, adaptive cruise, blindspot monitoring, 8-spd transmissions, LED lights, keyless entry/start, cooled/ventilated seats, hybrid drivetrains, automatic parking, high-performance dual-clutch transmission and at least 300+ hp. Interesting that most of those features are electronic.

  • avatar

    #1 Navigation system with big touchscreen
    #2 heated/cooled/ massage seats.
    #3 dual zone HVAC with auto temperature adjustment.
    #4 panoramic roof
    #5 disk brakes, tire pressure monitoring, full sized spare, alloy OEM wheels
    #6 4 cylinder or V6 engine WITH forced induction. The Infiniti M37’s V6 is the best naturally aspirated V6 I’ve used thus far.
    #7 rainsense wipers/ automatic headlamps
    #8 auto radar cruise control.
    #9 most importantly – front/rear backup sensors with camera for nav screen.

  • avatar

    My/our new 2012 Impala LTZ.

    Everything but a back-up camera, a touch-screen/nav and a USB.

    The ONE THING it does have that I have ALWAYS wanted in a car???

    Are you ready???

    …A compass…

    That makes my day. I’m easy to please…

    This car is loaded. Pretty much…

    One thing it DOESN’T (seem) to have: The fuel economy of my old 2004 Impala…but I’ll live with it.

  • avatar

    I’ll tell you one thing I do wish came in a fully loaded car… the ability to deactivate an AWD system in favor of FWD and vice-versa. Audi 5000s and 5 cyl 100s had this ability but I have not seen it since. Does anyone make a model where this is possible?

  • avatar


  • avatar

    When I went looking for my last car (used small hatch), I assumed the phrase “loaded” would mean a car with all or almost all of the available options.

    What most Craigslist sellers (pro or amateur) meant by “loaded” was power windows.

    “Loaded” will always depend on the car: a fully optioned Aveo LTZ (saw one of those in my search, fascinating) is a loaded car, but will not impress the driver of a loaded luxury vehicle.

    In short, “loaded” is as useless as “mint” in terms of information conveyed. In practice, you look up the available options of the target car, figure out your need-to-have and nice-to-have features, and go shopping.

    Better are manufacturer option package designations, like Ford’s S/SE/Titanium or Nissan’s base/S/SL. If you figure out what the option packages include, I found that the equipment list is almost always exactly what you’d expect (in looking at Nissan Versas, I don’t think that I ever saw a Versa S that had been up-optioned with alloy wheels, for example).

    My personal really-want-to-have option list is remote unlocking, power windows, a radio, and AC. My would-like-to-have list is cruise control, an efficient transmission, and a radio with an auxiliary input, so you can plug your generic iPod-like music source in. My would-think-was-nice option list is stuff like keyless entry/ignition, backup cameras and such, sunroof, upgraded interior, and whatever semi-autonomous driving gimmicks are out there now.

    Of more interest to me are anti-options, or features that you might actively avoid. A friend just bought a 2012 328 wagon, and because of the one-package way BMW sold that car in Canada, the full iDrive monty (or whatever elaborate infotainment system you get with a 3-series) was standard on all wagons.

    He actually paid extra* for a special-order car that had the system deleted.

    My personal anti-option list isn’t long, but that option on Minis where the car gets a voice of its own sounds like one; There’s definitely trim upgrades that look worse than the base trim, and there are cars where I’d choose the fixed-top version over the convertible.

    I don’t think I’ve seen any factory GPS options that can justify their sky-high costs compared to using a stick-on unit or a smartphone.

    *I didn’t inquire, but I assume the dealer sorted this out as a special order through BMW Individual or some such.

  • avatar

    My car is strange. I bought it used, low mileage at auction knowing the options it came with, knowing they were what I wanted. Anything extra was a bonus. It had all the standard equipment (exterior styling pack, sports suspension, leather seats, interior styling stuff etc) but a small box on the order sheet was ticked ‘A/C Delete’. Even my foolproof system of working out the default options was thwarted…..

    It’s been terrific otherwise though, and the cool air is seriously effective.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    I just bought a 2012 Ford F-150 FX2 SuperCrew. It’s not “loaded” but who needs loaded when you have this feature list.

    10 way power driver and passenger Leather heated and AIR CONDITIONED seats (awesome for Texas summers)with memory

    back up camera
    back up warning sensors
    power adjustable pedals with memory
    power folding mirrors (surprisingly useful)
    garage door opener
    power sliding rear window
    remote start
    Ford Sync (which actually works about half the time)
    one touch up and down windows
    illuminated entry
    running boards

    I skipped getting NAV. Kinda pointless when I can just use my iPhone or iPad. Not to mention Sync does turn by turn directions. NAV is way over priced anyways.

    All that and I got $10K off sticker. That was the best feature…

  • avatar

    Spare tire standard equipment
    An ashtray
    A lock on the glove box
    A lock on the passenger door
    Am I the only one that has notice the disappearance of these items?

    • 0 avatar

      No– and I’d pay more for them were they included.

      2010 Chrysler LX cars still had built-in ashtrays. I absolutely hate a stupid butt-bucket in the car, and refuse to thank the manufacturers for including a third cupholder for the dang ashtray. How many people are smokers? Smokers have money and some say in what these people build. Why did we accept the automobile ashtray’s demise a decade ago?

      How about a lock cylinder on the trunk? I’m thinking the interior lock’s demise was for law enforcement. If it isn’t locked– they’re allowed to peek. Learned that from Jay-Z.

      30s the new 20, nigga. I’m so hot still.

  • avatar

    Leather is a big one. I like Audi better than MB and BMW because they don’t charge for real leather seats.

    One thing I sort of miss on cars is an ashtray, I don’t smoke (I hate smokers) but it is useful for gum wrappers and trash.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    Got to be two things:

    Heated Steering Wheel — my god, that has to be the coolest thing ever and one of my favorite things in my late, great 750il. Now, unfortunately, minivans and buicks have them.

    Air conditioned seats — complete frippery until I actually used it on a 108 degree day in Plano, TX. Yeah, my next car gotta have one of those

    Leave off the GPS — it will be obsolete 36 months after leaving the dealer lot

  • avatar

    Im just so glad Hyundai and Chrysler have offered you so much, they’ve forced other companies to give you more.

  • avatar

    loaded is when all seats are filled with people or stuff and the luggage compartment is filled with stuff till the whole car sags down

  • avatar

    “Loaded” has become “crap you don’t want,” like LCD infotainment touchscreen where you have to navigate 20 submenus to turn down the AC.

    Or the pushbutton start–why exactly is this a premium feature? Lane departure that freaks the hell out if there has been construction and you have to cross the lines. 9 speed automatic transmissions that are jerky and don’t add any added fuel economy–and have idiotic paddle shifters that don’t in any way override HAL’s shift points.

    I’m a huge fan of putting gaudy chrome packages everywhere. Because nothing says you’ve been to Vato Zone and going batsh!t crazy with the stick on Car and Driver approved appliques than chrome covered plastic!

  • avatar

    I will go back to the rental counter if the vehicle I get doesn’t have an AUX and/or USB jack.

  • avatar

    Loaded: Whatever the most current Mercedes S-class offers should cover that as a rule.

    Basic: I rented a 2011 HYundai Accent with the 1.6 liter motor, manual mirrors, door locks, and (yes hand crank) windows. It still had an aux input I believe. About as basic as you can get… I felt like I was 16 again and driving a nicer version of my ’92 Corolla. Actually, it was kind of fun!

  • avatar

    Perhaps the Conti pictured is actually a Jeremy Clarkson inspired “Geoff” style hybrid conversion.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    According to BMW/Audi, loaded means:

    Huge rims, ultra low profile tyres.
    Rock hard suspension.
    Small diameter steering wheel, preferably Alcantara.
    LED tail lights and DRLs.
    “Sport” mode transmission.

    As defined by Jack Baruth in his “rich Corinthian sway bars” article.

  • avatar

    a sunroof is not a feature; one should pay less for a car that has one

  • avatar

    Too many people use the term “loaded” inappropriately in my opinion especially when advertising their car for sale. Loaded should mean that the vehicle comes with every option available.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    My wife just leased a 2012 Accord. Base model came with an adequate sound system with CD, power locks and windows, A/C, automatic, fairly high quality cloth seats.

    Other than a sunroof and the V-6 and leather, what more could you ask for?

    The TRUTH is that manufacturers can make MORE on the options by not making ’em optional. Install them in all cars, and the cost per unit goes down due to economies of scale. Bump the selling price of all cars more than the cost, and viola! Now all cars are loaded.

    When I priced out an Audi on their site, their option groups or packages are so outrageously priced for what you get…ridiculous.

    You used to be able to check individual boxes for individual features. Now they slam everything together in a package, so if you want X, you MUST buy the package which also includes A, B, C, and Z, whether you want them or not. Again, I see the manufacturer’s point….give people fewer options, makes our manufacturing process simpler. Maybe 200 possible vehicle configurations rather than thousands….

  • avatar
    old fart

    would love to see a base model have either have A/C or power windows standard (your choice ). If your riding alone and don’t have A/C manually rolling windows up and down is a pain , maybe out in the country you leave them down but city life they’re up and down all day running chores. Yes I know you can order them that way but most cars I get someone else did the ordering

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