Aesthetics and design harmony is the category where the most points can be awarded in Wards 10 Best Interiors judging.
Giving a leg up to quite a few vehicles in that department this year was ambient lighting.
The now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t design trend (that’s especially pertinent to us as we drive out of a dark and dank parking garage into daylight everyday) decorated a slew of vehicle interiors we evaluated this past winter.
Ambient lighting can make some ho-hum interior features (cupholders, door trim) into hoo-boy features and, in one case, for not a lot of money.
The razzle-dazzle feature was found on four of our 2019 10 Best Interiors winners: the Bentley Continental GT coupe, BMW M850i sports coupe, Lincoln Nautilus CUV and Mercedes-Benz A220 sedan.
The A220 has perhaps the best application of ambient lighting we’ve seen in an interior.
It highlights the expected spots (seams of door- and instrument-panel trim), but also makes the car’s circular blade vents even more show-stopping.
Not only are the A220’s outer rings and control knobs illuminated, but so are each of the 12 fins on the car’s five round vents (three on the center stack, one each at the farthest ends of the IP).
Since the feature’s introduction, the colors and color combinations available in many interior ambient-lighting systems have proliferated. The A220’s is the most expansive we’ve seen yet, with a whopping 64 shades to choose from, and color mix and flash settings to create a discotheque experience inside the car.
But perhaps the best part of the A220’s ambient lighting system is its cost. It can be had as an option for a relatively affordable $310. Given the A220 is Mercedes’ least-expensive car in the U.S., value-for-the-money will be important to its buyers.
BMW for years has been making available ambient lighting in its interiors. The nominated 330i and X5 has it, as does our winning M850i. The feature softens some of the sharp lines and angles inside the sports coupe.
Per BMW standards, colors can be displayed alone or mixed with white. This judge’s favorite is the lilac/white mix, although our photographer’s is orange as seen in the photo below.
The Bentley Continental GT, as you might expect from a car nearing $300,000, breaks some new ambient-lighting ground. While it has light pipes on doors, the IP and on the edges of the center console, it also uses, to absolutely stunning effect, ambient lighting to illuminate each of the variable-angle Fibonacci-pattern holes drilled in its door-mounted speaker grilles (pictured below).
The Lincoln Nautilus Black Label offers a choice of seven colors and, as seen in the photo below, uses a ring of light (a dark periwinkle blue at the time of our photo) to dress up the bottoms of cupholders which can be an unattractive space inside a vehicle.
Among nominees, the Audi Q8 (pictured below) and Subaru Ascent CUVs also have ambient lighting we enjoyed.
The Q8 uses light pipes as well as a color-wash effect on the doors and instrument panel, while, as in the Nautilus, the Ascent uses ambient lighting to spice up the bottoms of cupholders (shown in the pic below in a turquoise blue).