Trim level (automobile)

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LX badge on a Honda Civic, indicating the highest trim level

Trim levels are used by manufacturers to identify a vehicle's level of equipment or special features.[1][2][3]


For a given car model, the trim level denotes which equipment and features are included as standard. A car buyer may add to this standard equipment with trim packages or individual options. The trim level with the least equipment/features is referred to as the "base model",[2] and the trim level with the most equipment/features is referred to as "highest specification" or colloquially as "fully loaded". Differences between trim levels often consist of interior equipment (eg leather seats and reversing cameras), and cosmetic changes;[2][3] however sometimes a trim level can include mechanical changes such as different engines, suspension or all-wheel drive systems.[4][5]

Some car brands use a different car model for what could be instead considered a trim level, therefore the distinction between a model and trim level can vary between brands. For example, Volkswagen could choose to define the Golf GTi could be marketed either as a standalone model, or as a trim level within the Golf model.

Naming systems[edit]

Trim levels are often designated by a pair of letters, for example DX, LX, LS, EX, GL, SE or GT.[1] They can also be designated an alphanumeric code (eg Z28, XR5, GT3), or using a word (eg Executive, Ambition or Deluxe).

The alphanumeric coding began to appear on Japanese and European vehicles beginning in the mid 1970s.[citation needed]

In North American, long-running designations for high-performance trim levels include Chevrolet's "SS" for (first introduced on the 1961 Impala)[6] and Ford's "GT" (first used on the 1965 Mustang).[7][8] General Motors also use alphanumeric coding to denote handling packages installed on performance vehicles, such as "Z28" on the Camaro, the Buick GS, or the Oldsmobile 442, and currently uses the designation "Z71" on the Suburban and Tahoe.

During the 1970s and 1980s, some manufacturers used a word to denote the highest trim level for a particular model, such as the word "Brougham" used on the top level Nissan Cedric[9][10] and Nissan Gloria.[11]

Options packages[edit]

Trim packages[edit]

Example of trim packages on the 1980 American Motors Spirit models.

A trim package (sometimes called an appearance package) is an automotive package composed by a set of cosmetic (mostly non-functional) embellishments to a vehicle.

Items commonly included in current trim packages include:

Items that have been included in trim packages in previous decades include:

  • Paint patterns using multiple colors— for example, two-tone
  • Pin striping, usually applied as a dealer add-on using special plastic tape and a removable backing
  • Plastic bumpers painted the same color as the vehicle body, rather than a matte black (now mostly included in the base level vehicle)
  • Plastic rub strips to reduce paint and metalwork damage from adjacent car doors that are carelessly opened
  • Wood-patterned plastic or applied surfaces in the interior or exterior
  • Exterior vinyl roof covers, simulating the appearance of a convertible
  • Padded plastic top additions to simulate a removable top portion—a landau top

Sports packages[edit]

A sports package is a set of cosmetic and functional enhancements that can be added to a vehicle, sold and priced as a unit.

In an SUV or light truck this may include special racks or tiedowns for transport of off-road recreational vehicles and other equipment.

For a sedan or coupe the package combines elements of the following packages:

  • Performance package - a more powerful motor, perhaps including increased displacement, higher compression, or a turbocharger or supercharger and may include special wheels of light weight
  • Handling package - Harder suspension bushings, enhanced shock absorber, and anti-roll bar. Modern versions typically include special wheels and tires.
  • Trim package - often with bold graphics or special paint colors
  • Special aerodynamic bodywork, often with a chin spoiler, side skirts, and a fixed rear foil or powered flap or spoiler to increase downforce at high speed

Safety packages[edit]

A safety package is a set of functional features of a vehicle that are intended to reduce the likelihood of a crash or enhance survivability or injury reduction. Many items once included at extra cost are now standard items, being mandated by legislation or rule.

Some elements that may be included in a modern safety package:

  • Acoustic back-up alarm
  • Heads up instrumentation
  • Heads up infra-red or low light video night vision augmentation
  • Seat belt tensioners (pyrotechnic)
  • Side curtain air bags
  • Swiveling headlights that respond to the steering wheel input.
  • Gas discharge projector headlamps
  • Video imaging to the rear for assisting in vehicle back-up
  • Active headrests, which electrically extend toward the person sitting in the seat when the vehicle deems this useful, therefore more effectively cushioning the head (during sharp braking maneouvers or during a crash, most likely in combination with airbag deployment.)

Safety components once considered enhancements that are now standard:

  • Air bags
  • Backup lights
  • Brake lights
  • Central stop light
  • Padded dashboard (many of these were actually more dangerous due to soft padding masking hard corners)
  • Padded sun visors
  • Seat belts
  • Turn signals
  • Automatic warning of following vehicles when a car detects a danger situation (i.e. abrupt braking or a crash), either by rapid flashing of the braking lights or automatic activation of the emergency flasher.

Performance packages[edit]

A performance package is a set of functional enhancements to the driveline of a vehicle, sold and priced as a unit.

This package may contain one or more of the following enhancements

  • Greater engine torque
  • Greater engine power
  • Lower ratio gears to enhance low end performance, now rare due to requirements for model specific emissions (smog control) and mileage (CAFE) certification
  • A greater number of speeds in the gearbox, manual or automatic
  • Clutchless manual transmission, usually including steering wheel paddle shifter controls
  • Turbocharger or supercharger, perhaps with intercooling
  • Cold air induction
  • Dual exhaust system
  • Special low back pressure mufflers, often with a distinctive (and sometimes quite loud) sound
  • Special cosmetic badging, hood scoop, or grille color, not usually related to performance but making the presence of the package obvious

Handling packages[edit]

A handling package is a set of functional enhancements to the suspension of a vehicle, sold and priced as a unit.

This package may contain one or more of the following enhancements, some of which are detrimental to ride comfort and quietness.

  • Harder suspension bushings
  • Enhanced shock absorbers, which will usually have stiffer valving which may be locally or remotely adjustable
  • Stiffer front anti-roll bar
  • Rear anti-roll bar
  • Special wheels and tires, typically with lightweight wheels of increased diameter and low profile tires offering greater resistance to side forces – such are usually less durable than standard tire/wheel combinations, being subject to both tire and wheel damage by rough pavement ("potholes").

Navigation packages[edit]

A Navigation package is a set of functional enhancements to assist in the operation of a vehicle, sold and priced as a unit.

This package may contain one or more of the following enhancements:

  • GPS receiver to determine the location of the vehicle.
  • Enhanced odometer sensing by computer.
  • Electronic compass, usually presented on or near the central rear-view mirror.
  • CD-ROM drive or other computer storage of mapping information.
  • LCD display device for presentation of maps and navigation information.
  • Voice synthesizer for the acoustic presentation of turning instructions to the driver.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Trim levels 101: All about trims, styles, options and packages". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c "How to Choose New-Car Trim Levels and Options". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  3. ^ a b "Your vehicle's trim level: What it is, why it's important, and how to find it". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  4. ^ "2017 Ford F-150 trim level comparison". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  5. ^ "Ford Focus Sedan and Hatchback Models". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  6. ^ "Chevrolet Impala SS History 1958-1969". Archived from the original on 2013-10-23. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  7. ^ "1965 Mustang History". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  8. ^ "1965 Ford Mustang". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  9. ^ "1977 Nissan Cedric 4Door Sedan 2800 Brougham". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  10. ^ "Project Car Hell, Possibly Legal Japanese Import Edition: Nissan Cedric Brougham VIP or Toyota Corona GT-R?". Retrieved 31 March 2018. 
  11. ^ "The Cedric and Gloria Series". Retrieved 31 March 2018.