Each and every year, something that we’ve been saying rings increasingly true: It’s getting more and more difficult to buy a bad car. The economy-priced penalty boxes of old are now little more than unpleasant memories, and the gap between your run-of-the-mill Honda Accord and a bonafide luxury car — for arguments’ sake, let’s say the Acura TLX — is becoming increasingly minimal.
This has had quite an effect on the industry that tries to cater to new millennial tastes, the Old Guard of luxury, the needs of the middle class, and the wants of the financially well-endowed. As economy cars grow increasingly opulent, the luxury mainstays have had to stay ahead of the curve.
No average consumer can realistically be expected to drive every car out there to determine this for themselves, but fortunately, the experts at Wards Auto take out much of the guesswork with the annual 10 best interiors.
Here’s what they came up with for 2016.
1. Audi TTS
The Audi TTS may not have changed a whole lot on the outside, but on the inside it’s as driver-focused and track-ready as ever. “Audi redefines how a driver experiences a compact sports coupe by integrating buttons and climate controls in clever places on the instrument panel, freeing up space and resulting in a cabin that feels less cramped,” Wards said of the TTS. After sitting in the R8 V10 in New York, we can confidently say that the TTS looks similar from behind the wheel — for a fraction of the price.
2. BMW 7 Series
Angling for Mercedes’s segment-leading S-Class, BMW brought out everything it had for the new 7 Series. The massaging seats, heated armrests, chestnut wood trim inlays, wireless phone charging, gesture control, microsuede Alcantara headliner, and swirling lighted speaker grates help create an interior that Wards says is new and modern, but previous 7 Series owners will find it immediately familiar.
3. Cadillac XT5
Though Cadillac’s current SRX is well into its sixth model year with virtually no change, it’s still showing strength on Cadillac dealer floors. That bodes well for the new XT5, which promises improvement in virtually every aspect of the SRX’s design — perhaps most notably, the interior. “After climbing into a new XT5, Cadillac lovers will scarcely remember the SRX nameplate,” Wards lauded.
4. Chevrolet Camaro
Like the XT5, the new 2016 Camaro represents an overall improvement in virtually every department, and the cabin of the new model shows that GM’s interior strategy hasn’t just been relegated to the luxury marques. “absolutely succeeds on all fronts with the new Chevrolet Camaro, which comes with enough significantly upgraded materials and flare to set a new standard for an interior in this segment,” Wards said. “Who knew the cabin of a muscle car could incorporate so many soft surfaces and still feel like a sporty coupe intended to be driven hard?”
The Chrysler Town & Country is dead — long live the Chrysler Pacifica. Forget the penalty box that was the Dodge Caravan; though it won’t be available with a Dodge nameplate like the T&C was, the new Pacifica is eager to leave the status quo behind with a richly appointed cockpit that feels more luxury SUV than grade schooler-toting minivan. “Consumers needing space and flexibility but wanting pizzazz and even a bit of coddling when the kids aren’t in the back seats will find the Pacifica interior to be a breath of fresh air,” Wards said.
After what can roughly be described as its awkward phase, Honda brought back everything that people loved in the earlier Civics with the 10th generation. It’s a cut above the rest of the cars in its segment, with upscale materials, a clean and intuitive layout, and top-notch build quality. “The new Civic is the least-expensive vehicle on our list this year, but it hardly qualifies as cheap,” says Wards.
7. Lexus RX
Lexus’s recent commitment to bold style hasn’t just been reserved for the exteriors: The inside of the RX, long one of the best-selling Lexus vehicles, is as statement-making as the outside. Wards especially loved the “impeccable fit-and-finish, the satin brushed-aluminum trim, the form-fitting seats, the crisply lit gauges and display screen, the white contrast stitching on charcoal leather and the richly finished Espresso Walnut wood surface that curves like a half-pipe from the center console up toward the glovebox,” but the simple truth is that in its segment, the RX is one of the nicest places to spend some time.
8. Mercedes-Benz GLC
The Lexus may be the best-selling in its field, but Mercedes-Benz has long had the enviable position of posing the gold standard that the rest of the luxury market is moulded in. The GLC, despite its new name, is Mercedes through and through. “The GLC is supremely comfortable in the front row, and scalloped seatbacks add space for second-row occupants,” Wards said.
The Nissan Maxima got a much-needed and well-deserved overhaul for 2016, and Nissan went to great lengths to ensure the interior matched the opulent exterior. Quilted leather seats, rich wood accents, and a straight-forward layout could easily confuse unsuspecting passengers into believing they’re riding in an Infiniti. “took some chances with the Maxima interior, but the rewards are evident,” the site said.
10. Volvo XC90
The critical fanfare for Volvo’s new XC90 hasn’t let up since its release for the 2015 model year, and much of that has to do with its interior. Svelte, handsome, and minimalist to standards that only Scandinavians could achieve so gracefully, the XC90 vaulted from third-string BMW alternative to a vanguard of the luxury SUV segment in a single generation.
“Its interior employs the kind of far-reaching elements seen only in concept vehicles, particularly the 2-tier center console,” Wards noted. “The touchpoints, such as the gear shifter, wood-lined cupholder lid, drive-mode selector and ignition switch, occupy the lower tier, while the soft leather armrest rises about an inch higher and sweeps around the console as if to shelter the controls from a harsh winter storm.”