Every year, WardsAuto editors take to the streets driving new cars in the United States, seeking to find the 10 best interiors that raise the bar for each brand and vehicle's segment.
For 2016, the editorial staff selected 10 winners from a field of 47 vehicles with new or significantly improved interiors, based on their overall design, materials, ergonomics, safety, comfort, value, fit-and-finish and the user-friendliness of the so-called human-machine interface.
One thing we should take from this year’s awards is that, for the first time, luxury automakers dominated the list, capturing six out of 10 spots. In previous years, only as many as three luxury brands had made it to the top.
The publication argues though, that this was due to the overwhelming number of new luxury models, as 19 out of the 47 eligible vehicles this year hailed from premium brands, citing the examples of Audi which had five new cars, including the A4, A6, Q7, S7 and TTS, while BMW and Lexus each had three entries.
Even so, WardsAuto says that all non-premium brand models in the list lean toward the luxury side of the aisle, integrating lots of soft surfaces, upscale materials, warm ambient lighting and the latest connectivity and safety features typically associated and found in premium cars.
"It's important that the Wards 10 Best Interiors list include mainstream, affordable vehicles," says Drew Winter, director-content at WardsAuto. "But the average price of a new vehicle in the U.S. has risen past $33,000, which is forcing us to reconsider how we define mainstream, affordable vehicles."
With all that said, how about we see the winners below? After you’re done checking them out, tell us which car has the best interior overall in your opinion.
The most impressive thing about Audi’s new sports coupe was the clutter-free dash with the fully-digital instrument panel that also incorporates the infotainment and navigation displays, as well as the integration of “buttons and climate controls in clever places on the instrument panel, freeing up space and resulting in a cabin that feels less cramped.” It also scored points for the quality of materials and trim.
BMW’s latest flagship sedan was praised for its design language and for incorporating “enough electronic wizardry to entertain a member of the Geek Squad for hours”, all while maintaining “enough familiar aspects to keep brand loyalists happy, such as the horizontal array of audio and climate controls in the center stack”.
A successor to the SRX, Cadillac’s new XT5 luxury mid-size crossover won editors with its “first-rate materials” and “generally flawless fit-and-finish”. Wards also pointed out “how comfortable and ergonomically correct the XT5 is, whether in the reclining second row or seated in the driver’s seat, where the shifter and all controls are within easy reach”.
GM’s second car to make the list is the new Chevrolet Camaro, with the editorial team stating it comes with “enough significantly upgraded materials and flare to set a new standard for an interior in this segment”.
The new Pacifica is Chrysler’s stylish replacement to the well-regarded, but rather square, Town and Country minivan. Wards says it was impressed by the lavish appointments and its spaciousness, with even the third row of seats being quite comfortable for an adult.
The 10th generation of Honda’s popular Civic may be the least-expensive car in this year’s list, but Wards says its interior “hardly qualifies as cheap”, sporting a modern design and a suite of available tech features that help it “stand apart from its segment rivals”.
For the past 20 years, Lexus has dominated the mid-size luxury SUV segment, with Wards saying the new RX continues the tradition of offering an “impeccable fit-and-finish” while not forgetting its “utilitarian purpose” with “second-row seats [that] fold nearly flat, exposing a massive cargo”.
Formerly known as the GLK, Mercedes’ brand-new GLC makes a great first impression with its modern yet elegant design language that follows in the footsteps of the C- and S-Class models. The editors added that it’s “supremely comfortable in the front row” and offers a long list of tech and comfort features.
Wards says it was highly impressed with the eighth generation Maxima’s spacious cabin that “makes a brilliant first impression with expert craftsmanship” delivering “a warm, inviting interior that competes with significantly more expensive vehicles from luxury brands”.
It took Volvo nearly 13 years to come up with a replacement for their XC90, but the new model makes up for the lost time with an interior that the editorial staff say, “makes the most dramatic styling statement in this year’s competition” with “far-reaching elements seen only in concept vehicles, particularly the 2-tier center console”.