Alfa Romeo Giulia ($50,490)
Central display screen not your ordinary black rectangle but integrated neatly into overall design. Love the artistic lines, gorgeous wood trim. Giulia, she a curvy one.
Bentley Bentayga ($278,730)
Beautiful stitching and leather finishes; first-rate user-experience features. At this price, Bentley understands function is as important as looks and feel.
First class all around; great mix of materials. Lots of redundancy, which is good. Kudos for gesture control, but inadvertent hand movements can trigger unwanted actions.
BMW Alpina B7 ($153,845)
Tough leaving this gem off list, but last year’s winning 7-Series was more groundbreaking. Extraordinary attention to detail and refinement; blue and green gauges are stunning.
Buick Encore ($36,175)
Upper instrument panel is soft but shows signs of orange peel. Too much hard, black plastic on center console, seatbacks, door trim. Somewhere under there is a Chevy Trax.
Buick Envision ($49,320)
Extremely functional interior but overall lags Mazda CX-9, which is less expensive and has more room. Grayish film on IP won’t be mistaken for real wood, but it comes off well.
Buick LaCrosse ($50,270)
Great use of light pipes. Connecting phone is easy-peasy, and overall user experience is top-notch. Ample rear middle-seat headroom; impeccable fit-and-finish.
Very cool laser-etched white plastic trim on instrument panel, and displays/gauges are big, bright and clear. But rest of interior looks too down-market at this price.
Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback ($27,740)
Two-tone black and caramel work well, but piano-black trim in center console prone to scratching. Nice to have heated rear seats and dedicated phone cubby in center console.
Genesis G90 ($71,550)
Wood, leather, headliner, seats all top-notch; subtle accent lighting a nice touch. All the bells and whistles of a 6-figure, long-wheelbase, ultra-lux Euro cruiser. An incredible value.
GMC Acadia ($52,285)
Second-row seats slide easily for third-row access, but wood looks like contact paper and bronzed metal looks too fake. Cheap moonroof latch; good storage space on rear doors.
Honda CR-V ($34,635)
Affordable, even with robust lane guidance, other ADAS features. Half-moon, touch-sensitive volume dial on steering wheel is innovative; nice to also have volume knob on dash.
Honda Ridgeline ($43,770)
This won Wards 10 Best User Experiences last year, but excessive amount of piano-black trim seems out of place in pickup; nice red hints in black seat leather.
Hyundai Ioniq ($31,460)
Certainly needs more than one USB port. Interesting laptop slot in center console, but is $31k a good deal for Hyundai hybrid? And what’s with mismatched seatbacks facing second row?
Silver Optic Fiber metallic trim on doors, IP and center console is striking, and overall “Gallery White” interior aesthetic is dazzling. But competition was crowded with luxury entries.
Infiniti QX30 ($39,495)
Nappa leather is lovely, and Infiniti gets credit for individualizing interior of a platform shared with Mercedes. Still, center stack, graphics and gauge cluster appear outdated.
Jaguar F-Pace ($72,585)
Handsome matte-finish gray wood, especially up against aqua light pipe accents on door trim, center console. Volume knob is a reach, and tuning radio is cumbersome.
From Jeep to Volvo
Jeep Compass ($35,555)
Materials show huge improvement over previous generation but about par for segment and price. UConnect once again is excellent; screen is clear, bright and easy to navigate.
Kia Niro ($32,445)
Headliner feels like cardboard. High-quality, low-gloss coatings can hide multitude of sins, but there is a substantial amount of dull gray trim in here. Nice gauges and hybrid infographic.
Four rows of buttons in center stack are two too many, but UX features and ergonomics are excellent. Priced competitively with Honda CR-V, but CR-V is superior.
Lexus LC 500 ($102,995)
Now we know what a baseball feels like, cradled in a catcher’s mitt. Materials on par with more-expensive Bentley. Alcantara headliner from stem to stern! Central touchpad nicely set up.
Lincoln Continental ($72,870)
Delivers on the details: ivory leather with brown piping, silver wood, Alcantara headliner and exemplary cupholders. Perfect balance between touchscreen and real knobs, buttons.
Maserati Levante ($90,000)
Luscious saddle-brown leather accented by white stitching; beautiful “Zegna edition Silk” feels like coarse industrial-strength fabric. UConnect infotainment system works great.
Mazda CX-9 ($45,855)
Blends a lot of disparate materials, such as real rosewood and aluminum, in artistic way. Third row is comfy, especially with ability to slide second row fore and aft. Nice head-up display.
Beautiful pinstriped wood on doors and IP – very yacht-like. Cheap plastic cupholders detract from metal switches and quilted leather. Stunning first impression, but a bit overdone.
Mini Countryman ($38,450)
Great material quality, design and technology at a fair price. Largest Mini ever finally gives Americans the space they need. Thanks, BMW, for iDrive learnings.
Nissan Armada ($62,730)
Unconvincing wood trim and a whole lot of it, but gathered fabric for drapery effect on doors is distinctive. Suffers from button/control overload; backseat entertainment options plentiful.
Nissan Rogue ($35,475)
Upholstery and trim impressive for this segment and price range, but there’s a lot of cheap black plastic that detracts from the positive vibe. Two in-floor storage bins in cargo hold.
Subaru Impreza Limited ($29,260)
Both Limited and Sport versions are worthy of recognition, with updated Starlink HMI and infotainment system and premium matte-finish materials. Faux carbon fiber is fetching.
Toyota Corolla ($24,831)
Blue piping brings freshness of exterior color inside, but interior overall is awfully dark. Too much hard, black plastic. Ergonomics are OK but skinny, shallow audio knobs are hard to grab.
Volvo S90 ($66,365)
Some of the best materials (wood, speaker grates, etc.) ever used in a luxury sedan. Probably would have gotten the nod if XC90 had not shown us much of this finery a year ago.