QOTD: Base! How Low Can You Go?

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
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qotd base how low can you go

About a quarter century ago, my father’s wife declared that she was tired of her 7-Series Bimmer and that she just wanted “a nice, basic car, like a Saturn.”

“Okay,” I replied, “sounds like a good idea. What options do you need?”

“Nothing special… just the standard things, the basic things.”

“Okay, what are those?”

“Power locks… power windows… A/C where you just pick the temperature number… tilt wheel… leather upholstery… a nice stereo… I want the mirror that gets dark where there are headlights behind you… the remote entry button thing… I don’t want hubcaps… cruise control… it should have some kind of theft alarm…”

“Let me stop you right there,” I said, “I don’t think you’re Saturn material.” Sure enough, her next car was a loaded Audi 100. The funny thing is that most of the things that she considered to be “standard equipment” back in ’92 actually are standard equipment in 2017. But the question remains: When it comes to equipment, how low can you go?

When I was younger, I was totally fine with rolling up my own windows and using the “Back to Black” stuff on my base-model unpainted bumpers and even installing my own stereo. Nowadays, I’m thinking that the level of equipment in the Lincoln Continental Black Label is just about right. If I want to “rough it,” I’ll ride a motorcycle.

But this causes issues when I go to look at new cars, because it’s always tempting to get the next bigger or better car without all of that stuff. Loaded Accord or base TLX? V8 Phaeton with all the trimmings or a W12 with a plain back bench? CL55 AMG or CL65?

I’d like to hear your philosophy for speccing out a vehicle. And what do you consider to be “base” equipment in 2017? Are you closer in spirit to the people who pick the equipment on AutoZone delivery trucks, or do you favor my wicked stepmother’s approach?

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • DirtRoads DirtRoads on Jan 23, 2017

    I have a 1990 Chevy work truck, 1/2 ton. No air, no auto, no V8 (4.3 6) and no electric windows or locks. When I want to change the temp and it's cold outside, I slide the lever to the right. When I want to cool off and it's hot, I slide the lever to the left, pull the floor vents open, and roll down a window to suit. It aint that hard, Mrs B :) That said, one gets used to the automatic CC as in my Passat. Set and forget. *shrug*

  • RobbieAZ RobbieAZ on Jan 23, 2017

    Most powerful engine available, AC, cruise, good audio system, power everything, auto climate control, blind spot detection, backup camera. Nav is nice to have but I could probably live without it since we take the wife's car when we travel. I do not care about a sunroof, heated or cooled seats, heated steering wheel, or the newest driver\parking assist gadgets.

  • FreedMike I suppose that in some crowded city like Rome or Tokyo, there's a market for a luxurious pint-size car. I don't think they'll be able to give them away here in the U.S.
  • TMA1 How much did exchange rates affect this decision? The Renegade is imported from Italy. I'm wondering if that's what caused the price to reach within a few hundred of the much bigger Compass. Kind of a no-brainer to pick the larger, more modern vehicle.
  • CEastwood Everytime I see one of these I think there's a dummie who could have bought a real car , but has to say look at me driving this cool thing I can't drive in the rain like an actual motorcycle that I should have bought in the first place ! It's not Batman I see driving these - it's middle age Fatman .
  • SilverCoupe I should be the potential audience for this (current A5 owner, considering an S5 in the future), but I can't say it excites me. I have never liked the vertical bars in the grilles of sporting Mercedes models, for one thing. The interior doesn't speak to me either.I would be more likely to consider a BMW 4 Series, though not the current version with the double Edsel grille. Still, I suppose it would be worth a look when the time comes to replace my current vehicle.
  • Verbal Can we expect this model to help M-B improve on finishing 29th out of 30 brands in CR's recent reliability survey?