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Toyota eliminates hard point by extending cushioned leather trim into knee area.
Toyota eliminates hard point by extending cushioned leather trim into knee area.

2018 Wards 10 Best Interiors: Going Soft

The right cushioning or microfiber in key interior locations makes all the difference when it comes to weighing an interior’s softer touches. (Scroll down for 10 Best Interiors video.)

Whether a padded leather console, a microfiber-trimmed headliner or a rubberized door pull, WardsAuto editors collectively have a soft spot for soft surfaces – and our 2018 Wards 10 Best Interiors winners list reflects that yearning.

“It’s so soft – I couldn’t stop petting the armrest,” says one editor, referring to the microfiber suede stitched on the armrest of the Infiniti QX50. The same material adorns the door panels, instrument panel, roof pillars and the headliner. Creamy-soft, quilted leather seats that seem to conform to the occupant add to the premium comfort level in the all-new CUV.

Similarly, the Lexus LS 500 is plush throughout, with top-shelf suede covering nearly every surface from floor to headliner, including the upswept stitched pattern on the door panels.

Judges say the Range Rover Velar “strikes the right balance of luxury, sport and technology” with its massaging leather seats and velvety surfaces in all the right places. Plush armrests are a given, but the Velar transcends with just the right amount of padding on the door panel and a wide, cushioned windowsill for those who still enjoy driving with an elbow poking into the wind.

For similar effect at less than half the price, the $36,375 Chevrolet Equinox ramps soft leather up the rear third of the door panel from the armrest to the windowsill.

Kia’s new rear-drive performance sedan, the Stinger, gets notice for its soft surfaces that enhance its sporty character, including the upscale feel of the padded upper dashboard and the generous application of supple red leather on the seats as well as the door panels, front and rear.

In the Lincoln Navigator, revered by one editor as an experience as much as an automotive interior, individual cushioned-leather armrests comfort front- and second-row occupants and even the hard plastics seem of a higher grade.

The softer side isn’t limited to luxury cars or SUVs – trucks are the new ultimate utility vehicle. The Ram 1500 Limited we tested proves today’s pickups are as comfortable and stylish as any other premium offering, and even the cowboy-themed Long Horn version has its tender side in saddlery-grade leather.

Finally, a vehicle doesn’t have to be the most expensive in the field to have some supple touches in just the right places. Our least-expensive winner, the $29,775 Hyundai Kona, and our third-least expensive model, the Toyota Camry at $39,253, both feature rear seatbacks that are padded all the way out to the door seal, eliminating an often-harsh hard point.

The Camry also features one soft touch we’ve come to treasure, especially in tighter cabins and sports cars: Padding on the center console knee area, at least on the passenger side in the new Toyota sedan’s innovative interior.

Call us soft. We won’t mind.

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