With this year's Ward's 10 Best Interiors competition, we are updating our template for recognizing the passenger compartments that set standards for comfort, convenience, material quality and style.
The previous Interior of the Year competition essentially achieved the same goal, but the format required vehicle winners in various categories, such as sports cars and trucks.
Depending on each auto maker's launch cadence for the new model year, some of those categories could have few entries or may be overflowing with worthy contenders.
The new format follows the successful process of the Ward's 10 Best Engines competition, which pits all vehicles against each other, regardless of segment.
A Hyundai Elantra does not compete directly with the Hyundai Equus flagship luxury car, for example, and we recognize that by considering each entry within the context of its competitive set, same as our editors do when evaluating 4-cyl. engines and V-8s at the same time.
The benefit of the new rules is that they allow several outstanding interiors from the same segment to make the list.
For instance, the Elantra earns an award this year, but so do its direct competitors, the Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze. Under the old process, only one of those three would be honored.
Our editors selected the Ward's 10 Best Interiors after driving 51 vehicles throughout February and March.
All the vehicles were completely new or featured significantly upgraded interiors.
Editors filled out scoresheets for each vehicle and awarded points based on material quality, ergonomics, safety, the human-machine interface, comfort, fit-and-finish, overall value and aesthetics. Extensive discussions followed.
The 2011 interior winners will be recognized in a special ceremony at this year's Ward's Auto Interiors Conference May 17 at The Henry hotel in Dearborn, MI.
— Tom Murphy
AUDI: A8<br /><i>Perfect Blend of Luxury and Technology Elevates Audi A8</i>
All flagship cars with pricetags nearing six figures have luxurious interiors. And they all are loaded with special features and technology, but few balance both perfectly.
Either they go overboard with old-school polished wood and leather, and end up resembling a stodgy men's club from the 1950s, or they overwhelm with electronic features that challenge even tech-savvy drivers.
The Audi A8 separates itself from the pack by blending luxury and technology into one sumptuous, driver-friendly cocoon.
“It makes $94,000 seem like a bargain. For all of its great bits and pieces, the A8 stands out most for how it combines old-world luxuries of wood and metal with high-tech wizardry,” says Ward's editor James Amend.
On the design side, rich, supple materials and eye-pleasing textures and colors are everywhere. Alcantara inserts and aluminum trim accent the doors, and the instrument panel flows in a beautiful arc from A-pillar to A-pillar. Simple architectural details are crafted into highly stylized design elements.
Some are regally named. Audi calls the intersection where the door and instrument panel meet the “Koenigsfuge” or “King's Joint.”
Four different materials and design lines intersect at this juncture, melding deep wood inlays, aluminum accents, leather dashboard covering and plastics into a beautiful piece of automotive sculpture.
Audi brags the design of this visual element was not compromised to make it easier for the manufacturing folks to produce.
“Designers were free to draft the A8's environmental lines with a focus purely on creating a flow around the passenger,” the auto maker says.
The Kings Joint is one of several examples where Audi engineers and designers deliberately used a more difficult solution to show off craftsmanship and manufacturing quality.
On the technology side, however, functionality and ease of use trumps everything else. “Put it in reverse and the volume cuts out on the radio. Smart!” says judge Tom Murphy.
What's more, the gear shift lever, modeled after the throttle on a yacht, is cleverly designed to act as a hand rest while operating some electronic controls.
The A8's central electronic controller is the industry's simplest to use and features a touch-sensitive pad that recognizes handwritten letters and numbers for navigation destinations.
Anyone who has struggled with tiny buttons, dials or other types of controllers used to input destination data will appreciate this system's simplicity.
Most interesting from a design and engineering standpoint, the system recognizes a wide variety of languages, including Cyrillic, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean characters.
“In any language, touchpad MMI sets a new benchmark for user friendliness,” writes one Ward's judge.
— Drew Winter
BMW: X3 xDrive35i<br /><i>Interior Contributes to New X3's Robust Sales</i>
The monthly sales report for March contains a news flash that resonates in the offices of luxury auto makers around the world: BMW's X3 cross/utility vehicle is rocketing toward a stellar year.
The good news for Bavaria is less upbeat for its European rivals, particularly Audi, Mercedes and Volvo, which launched competitive vehicles in recent years that have overwhelmed a segment the first-generation X3 helped pioneer in 2004.
In a few short months, since arriving in showrooms in December, the all-new X3 has catapulted ahead of the Audi Q5, Mercedes GLK and Volvo XC60 in U.S. sales, according to Ward's data.
The well-appointed interior of the new X3 can claim a significant share of the nascent success of the CUV, which earns a Ward's 10 Best Interiors award for 2011.
In scoring the X3, Ward's editors heap praise on the cabin for its refinement, plush carpet, woven headliner, roomy second row and firm, comfortable seats. The CUV is assembled at BMW's newly expanded plant in Spartanburg, SC.
The black-and-cream color scheme is enhanced by tastefully applied brushed aluminum accents, then finished off with gorgeous Fineline Siena wood inserts on the doors, instrument panel and center console. The sense of contrast completes the passenger compartment.
BMW's fourth-generation iDrive central controller, located to the right of the gear shifter, has become familiar and more intuitive for drivers constantly learning to use new applications on their smart phones. Forgotten are the complaints from years ago that iDrive is too complicated.
“I think they've got iDrive figured out,” Ward's editor David E. Zoia writes on his scoresheet.
For the X3, the iDrive also integrates with a vehicle-information library that serves as a digital edition of the owner's manual, visible on the 8.8-in. high-resolution trans-reflective screen.
Scads of information is easily accessible, from the size of the windshield wipers for replacement to the aspect ratio of the tires.
Simplifying searches are digital diagrams of the interior, exterior and engine bay, allowing the driver to select a highlighted component. Within a few clicks, for instance, the driver can read about the purpose of every airbag in the vehicle.
Further improving safety is a “top-view” system that stitches together live images captured by cameras placed on all four sides of the vehicle. Part of a $3,200 optional technology package, the feature shows the assembled image on the display screen, helping the driver negotiate tight parking spaces or spot small obstacles, such as a child's tricycle.
Ward's editors have not been bashful in suggesting BMW interiors are beginning to look alike.
In truth, that's not a bad thing. Brand loyalty can be cemented if a driver always knows how to turn up the radio, where to find the switch for the fan and how to find directions to the opera.
The familiarity from vehicle to vehicle can feel like a warm blanket.
Booming sales of the all-new X3 make the point nicely.
— Tom Murphy
CHEVROLET: Cruze 2LT<br /><i>Chevy Cruze Interior Checks All the Boxes</i>
Clean, sharp appearance. User friendly. Comfortable. Those are just a few of the words our editors use to describe the new-for-'11 Chevrolet Cruze, a Ward's 10 Best Interiors award winner.
A long-awaited replacement for the aged Cobalt, the Cruze impresses judges with its materials, fit-and-finish, aesthetics, safety and exceptional value.
Key materials resonating with editors include a high-quality headliner of woven fabric and upscale leather covering the seats and steering wheel and trimming the shifter.
“Quite honestly, I think this is the best ‘low-cost’ interior in terms of materials,” writes Ward's editor Christie Schweinsberg on her scoresheet. “Yes, lots of plastic, but matte-finished.”
With the Cruze, GM has made no secret of its desire to break away from the auto maker's tendency to shortchange the interiors of its small cars. GM also made the Cruze a little bigger than its predecessor to wow shoppers with surprising comfort for its class.
“Finally, a small-car interior GM can be proud of,” comments Ward's editor Tom Murphy.
The auto maker also sought to build one of the safest cars in its class. As such, the Cruze receives a coveted overall 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. and “Top Safety Pick” acknowledgement from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
A global small car for GM, the Cruze also achieves top crash-test ratings in every country where it is sold.
The Cruze has a segment-leading 10 airbags. Further safety enhancements include a collapsible pedal assembly, electronic stability control and 3-point safety belts in all five seating positions. Up-front passengers benefit from safety belt retractors and lap-belt pretensioners and load limiters.
The value equation really closes the deal for the Cruze. Our 2LT-trim package, a step below range-topping LTZ models, costs $20,675.
An RS appearance package of exterior enhancements ticks the final sticker price up to a palatable $22,190.
The fact that GM kept its eye on the ball and completed the outstanding Cruze interior while suffering through a historic bankruptcy in 2009 is remarkable.
This small-car interior checks all the boxes, and we look forward to further refinements the auto maker has promised for the car in the '12 model year.
— James M. Amend
DODGE: Charger Rallye Plus<br /><i>Charger Interior a ‘Stunner’</i>
We know what you're thinking. Dodge? Charger? Best interior?
Forget what you think you know about Chrysler interiors, and this car in particular. The auto maker's Fiat-led management has turned the U.S. auto maker inside-out.
The '11 Charger Rallye Plus interior not only obliterates the car's also-ran past, it raises the bar exponentially for the sport-sedan segment.
Bold color use makes an instant impression — a positive, exhilarating impression.
The “radar red” seats and door trim scream with the brashness expected of an American marque.
“Very Dodge-like,” says judge and Ward's editor James M. Amend. “Fits the brand.”
The seats score well on comfort, too. Front and rear, both of which are heated.
And for those really frosty days, there also is a heated steering wheel, which benefits from one of the most sensible audio-control solutions in the industry.
All Chrysler steering wheels feature finger-friendly toggles on the backsides of their cross-members. Volume on the right, station/track navigation on the left. Not new, but decidedly clever.
The car's human-machine interface is new for '11. Available also in the Dodge Journey cross/utility vehicle and the Charger's Chrysler 300 platform-mate, the HMI is showcased by an 8.4-in. (21.3-cm) touchscreen, largest in the sedan segment.
Icons also are large and neatly arranged along the bottom for easy access to the climate controls and navigation through UConnect Touch, Chrysler's upgraded infotainment system. And response is immediate.
The Blue Oval's new MyFord Touch system, while arguably more elegant, has smaller “buttons” that react more slowly.
UConnect touch “might be the most intuitive HMI of the lot we tested,” Amend says.
Framing the screen is a distinctive piece of embossed aluminum trim that also surrounds the Charger's stylish instrument cluster. The gauges, like the edges of the center-stack touchscreen, glow red to echo those audacious seats.
Factor in safety features such as a center-rear head restraint and the Charger's interior inspires genuine confidence to complement its bravado.
“An absolute stunner of an interior,” says Ward's editor Drew Winter.
“Where has Chrysler been hiding these designers?”
— Eric Mayne
FORD: Focus Titanium<br /><i>Focus Ups Ante in Small-Car Interiors</i>
The Ford Focus has come full circle, returning to its roots as a well-crafted Euro-inspired global car that for a time was stripped of all charm for the U.S. market.
The new global C-car is more in line with the Focus that graced U.S. and European roadways in the early 2000s, before the two models veered away from one other.
For upping the ante in the small-car segment with an interior that blends high style with comfort and flexibility, the '12 Focus earns a Ward's 10 Best Interiors trophy.
We tested the '12 Focus 5-door Titanium edition, which comes with all the bells and whistles, including deep gray/maroon 2-tone leather. While admittedly not for everyone, the contrasting colors are a perfect match for the Focus' sporty demeanor.
The attention to detail is evident, from the attractive stitching on the seats to the flawless fit-and-finish.
Chrome-like accents are used liberally, lining gauges and vents, as well as adorning key touch points such as the gear selector, emergency brake and door handles.
From the onset, the '12 Focus was designed to be sold relatively unmodified in all global markets as part of the auto maker's “One Ford” business plan, and the seats clearly reflect this theme.
Firm and supportive, they are well-suited for aggressive driving.
Our fully loaded tester stickers at $27,520, which seems high for C-car buyers. But even the less-expensive trim levels convey a sense of quality and style uncommon in this sector.
Ford has received criticism that the MyFord Touch infotainment system onboard the Focus Titanium is too complicated.
Yes, there is a learning curve with the system, which requires navigating through layers of menus to get the function you want. “MyFord Touch still a bit of a handful to operate,” writes Ward's editor David Zoia on his scoresheet.
But with time, the system becomes more intuitive and quite handy. If Ford is guilty of anything, it's trying to cram too much functionality into one device.
For those who don't want to use MyFord touch for the more often-used controls, such as audio and HVAC, there are redundant, traditional controls located underneath the 8-in. (20-cm) touch screen.
With the all-new Focus, Ford shows it understands interiors are not just an afterthought but a key factor in consumers' purchase considerations.
“Focus sets a new benchmark for features, comfort and style in a small car,” writes Ward's editor Drew Winter.
— Byron Pope
HONDA: Odyssey Touring Elite<br /><i>Homer Needed This Odyssey</i>
Thanks to the Greek poet Homer, the term “odyssey” has been synonymous with epic voyages — a foreboding term connected to angry gods, curses, 6-headed monsters, whirlpools and crashing on the rocks.
The war hero Odysseus survived 10 years of such lethal traps as he sailed aimlessly home to Ithaca after winning the Trojan War.
But that's ancient history, and today the Odyssey is more than required reading. It's also required driving for anyone with children or a frequent need to haul lots of people and stuff.
For its superb flexibility, outstanding comfort and ability to calm the stormy seas of a child's tantrum, Honda's fourth-generation minivan earns a Ward's 10 Best Interiors award for 2011.
Minivans deserve more respect than they get. Fold-away seats, cupholders and back-seat DVD players are among the innovations tested, then perfected, in the modern minivan.
And with car-based unibody construction, no minivan requires V-8 power. With fuel prices broaching $4 a gallon, is there a smarter fuel-efficient vehicle that accommodates seven or eight occupants?
Minivans are all about the interior, and in that regard the Odyssey triumphs with high-quality materials, expert fit-and-finish and clever cubbies throughout.
From the optional “cool box” refrigerator below the center stack to the “Wide-Mode” second row that can accommodate three baby seats to the remarkably spacious third row, the Odyssey interior delivers everything a family could want.
With two fullsize captain's chairs able to slide laterally toward the doors and a middle seat that is nearly 4 ins. (10-cm) wider than in the previous model, the new Odyssey is a smartly conceived 8-passenger vehicle, cemented with easy access to the third row.
Honda might face some criticism for not including a power function for folding the third row into the floor, especially in a vehicle that stickers for $44,030.
But the seats fold manually with such simplicity (just one light yank on the strap) that money saved for the necessary motors was well spent elsewhere — say, on the removable front center console and flip-up trash-bag ring, or the argument-preventing ultrawide 16.2-in. (41-cm) dual-screen entertainment system for rear occupants.
Designed, engineered and assembled in North America, the Odyssey was the second-best selling minivan in the U.S. in the year's first quarter, behind the Dodge Grand Caravan. The rivalry will continue as these two brands slug it out in the family-hauler sector.
If Odysseus could have driven home to Ithaca in Honda's newest minivan, the course of literary history surely would have been altered.
— Tom Murphy
HYUNDAI: Elantra Limited<br /><i>Elantra Brings Style to Compact Segment</i>
Affordable small-car interiors are supposed to be tolerable, not a feast for the eyes, but that's the only way to describe the Hyundai Elantra.
Stylists used the auto maker's new “fluidic sculpture” design language to create a unique interior that entertains and engages the eye with interesting shapes, textures and flowing surfaces.
From the curvaceous center stack and artfully designed door panels to the brushed metallic trim and firm, comfortable seats, the whole package looks, feels and smells like a luxury car, not a product for budget-minded consumers. Did we mention it has heated rear seats?
“Breathtaking design,” says judge Eric Mayne on his score sheet.
Hyundai has been making spectacular strides in vehicle engineering and quality, but until recently it has been cautious when it comes to design.
Hyundai's new role as a class leader in design just began with the swoopy exterior lines of the latest-generation of the hot-selling Sonata midsize sedan. Now the auto maker seems to be finishing the job with the interior styling of the Elantra.
“Hyundai turns a new page here, producing a vehicle with its own design character,” says Ward's editor Dave Zoia.
Our judges especially are impressed with the center stack and the way designers substituted sensuous curves for the straight architectural lines that typically run from the top of car's instrument panel to the end of the center console.
The door panel design also garners high praise, especially for the aristic way the lines of the door handle are integrated into a graceful, sweeping arc that runs from the dashboard all the way to the rear edge of the door.
At $22,000, our test car is not cheap, but it is loaded to the hilt with features, including side-curtain airbags and high-quality leather on the seats, steering wheel and shift knob.
Other interior features not usually found in a car in this class are a big 7-in. (18-cm) high-resolution display screen with a rear-view camera.
It is rumored that Hyundai's top brass in Seoul are concerned designers are going too far with the new styling language. We disagree. Hyundai is evolving so fast, it's scary.
— Drew Winter
JEEP: Grand Cherokee Overland Summit<br /><i>Jeep Interior ‘Summit’ of Excellence</i>
Move over Land Rover. You are no longer the only brand that promises extreme off-road experiences in the lap of luxury.
The '11 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit affords tranquility and elegance in equal measure thanks to a product-development process that leverages cutting-edge digital tools and the creative focus that comes with a dedicated interior design studio.
Redesigned for '11, Jeep's flagship SUV follows the '09 Ram fullsize pickup as the second vehicle to benefit from Chrysler's new commitment to interior design. And the results are “striking,” according to Ward's editor James Amend.
The saddle-brown and black color scheme enchants the eye and invites the sense of touch. The premium leather seats are nothing short of sumptuous, while the contrasting stitched edge piping suggests a ruggedness that befits the brand.
“Black olive” wood and satin-finish metallic trim pieces demonstrate thoughtful integration. The latter, particularly, is well-executed, flowing harmoniously between the center stack and the console.
Jeep earns points for comfort and convenience with its generously padded center armrest and adjustable cupholders.
The latter seemingly were in short supply during this year's testing as numerous entries from other auto makers featured simple wells to accommodate everything from Big Gulps to skinny Red Bull cans.
(Note to Subaru Forester designers: Square cupholders? Really?)
Back-lit with light-emitting diodes, the 2-gauge instrument cluster is crisp and easy to read. And the ample tiller wins the “meatiest steering wheel award,” says Amend. The wheel also is heated.
Laminated glass in the SUV's “Command View” sunroof contributes to a cabin that is 12% quieter than the previous-generation Grand Cherokee, according to Chrysler.
Ward's judges can't confirm the measurement, but there is no doubt the Grand Cherokee Overland Summit offers a serene driving experience that belies whatever harsh reality prevails outside.
— Eric Mayne
KIA: Optima EX<br /><i>Optima Wins On More Than Looks, Alone</i>
There was a time when climbing into a Kia triggered a certain numbness for the driver: no interesting flourishes, cheap-looking plastic trim, lots of hard shiny surfaces.
But no one buying a Kia today has to suffer, as evidenced by our stellar $27,440 Optima EX tester, which dazzles its way onto the 2011 Ward's 10 Best Interiors list.
“A standout,” says Ward's editor Steve Finlay of the new midsize sedan. “Quality leather and stitching you'd expect to find in a luxury car.”
Like Finlay, most Ward's editors find the Optima's materials exemplary.
Besides the handsome pale-grey leather with white stitching, our judges like the ample soft-touch wrap on the dashboard and door panels; the beefy HVAC knobs ringed in a tooth-y rubber for better gripping; plus the thick, plush carpeting.
The headliner is a fashionable and non-fuzzy circular knit, and the hard plastics used are an attractive matte black. Subtle metallic trim adds just the right amount of bling.
An exotic-looking faux wood rings the Optima's shifter and window-control buttons, reminiscent of the stunning wood trim in last year's winning Infiniti M56 luxury sedan.
But the Optima wins on more than looks, alone. No, its success has as much to do with ergonomics as aesthetics.
“Everything is where it should be and is easy to use,” summarizes Ward's editor Drew Winter of controls placement.
The Optima's center stack is angled toward the driver, putting most knobs and switches in easy reach, and buttons are big, with clear lettering.
The first tier of buttons on the center stack controls radio and navigation functions while the second, lower tier is for the heating and cooling systems.
Our navigation-equipped tester comes with a large display screen that provides another way to interact with the aforementioned functions.
The virtual, on-screen buttons also are substantial, with a sufficient amount of ‘white space’ around them to minimize accidental selections while driving.
The Optima also scores well on fit-and-finish, with the only quibble being minor leather puckering on seat corners.
“Clearly, everyone was on the same page, from design to execution,” Winter writes. “It just doesn't get any better than this.”
— Christie Schweinsberg
VOLVO: S60<br /><i>Scandinavian Design Gets Bold With Volvo S60</i>
People often use rational words, such as functional, simple and minimal to describe Scandinavian design.
In creating the all-new '11 Volvo S60's interior, designers added excitement, sportiness and a dynamic elegance.
The interior's quality and craftsmanship, bold lines and, yes, functionality, helped earn the sedan a spot among Ward's 10 Best Interiors for 2011.
Ward's judges laud much in this car, particularly the comfortable sculpted leather seats with extra-wide support. They look and feel great.
“Best seats in the business,” Ward's editors James Amend and Byron Pope declare independently on score sheets. Fellow judge Drew Winter stops just short of that, deeming them “among the best.”
In creating the new S60, Volvo wanted to shed the image of only making safe but staid vehicles for the sensible set. That's why the car's stylish interior takes on the personality of an extrovert, not a typical Swedish automotive trait.
For instance, the two-tone leather in our test vehicle is black and what Volvo dubs “Beachwood Brown,” generically known as burnt orange.
Such a color scheme in any car might risk going over the top, let alone in an upscale model starting at $37,700. But the hue works in the S60, particularly as it plays off the black accents.
“Who would have ever thought an orange-accented interior could look so good?” Amend says. It may be bold, but “it's not garish by any means,” Pope adds.
Enhancing the smart look of the S60 are rich materials and surfaces. Whether leather, metal, wood or plastic, they are used for Scandinavian design at its best.
The interior sports a dynamic element, with flowing lines that look like they are in motion. Instruments and the center stack angle toward the driver, but the rest of the 5-seater is passenger-friendly. Rear passengers get 2.1 ins. (5.3 cm) more leg room than in the previous model.
All occupants receive the benefits of a new 12-speaker audio system. The Volvo S60 is one of the first cars to use Audyssey Laboratories MultEQ technology, similar to that used in movie theaters.
MultEQ removes distortion caused by cabin acoustics, providing improved sound quality for all occupants, regardless of where they are sitting.
True to its Volvo roots, this is one of the safest vehicles on the road. For starters, the S60 is fitted with a generous supply of front, side and curtain airbags, as well as active head restraints with a whiplash-prevention system.
The car also is equipped with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, park-assist cameras, a collision warning with full auto brake, blind-spot alerts and the market's first pedestrian-avoidance auto-braking system.
Previous-generation Volvos were staid and safe. The '11 S60 is sleek and safe as evidenced by its striking interior. It's comfortable, too. Just sit a spell in those orange seats.
— Steve Finlay
Interior Nominee Quick Hits<br /><i>WARD'S SIZES UP THE FIELD IN 10 WORDS OR LESS</i>
Acura TL ($42,395)
'09 TL was award winner; redesign doesn't go far enough.
Acura TSX Wagon ($35,470)
Clean, consistent design overall, but too many buttons.
Audi A8 4.2 FSI ($93,525)
Aesthetically breathtaking, functionally sound, elegantly intuitive, supremely comfortable.
BMW X3 ($52,025)
Great driver's interior, unmistakably BMW. Big step up for X3.
Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon ($69,585)
Not enough differentiation from standard CTS, but Recaro seats are divine.
Chevrolet Cruze 2LT ($22,910)
Multiple colors mesh beautifully; comfortable front seats for taller people.
Chevy Silverado 3500 Crew ($51,825)
Disappointing when compared with highly styled Ram, Ford HD offerings.
Chevrolet Volt ($44,180)
Strong use of graphics and color; excellent HMI. Unique finishes for plastic trim.
Chrysler 200 Limited ($27,455)
Much improved but the bar has risen in the segment.
Chrysler 300 Limited ($40,775)
Stunning instrument cluster and Mercedes-level seats highlight elegant redesign.
Chrysler Town & Country Limited
($40,385) Good value, but other Chrysler interior redesigns are more thorough.
Dodge Charger Rallye Plus ($34,635)
Bold use of color, high-quality surfaces and trim set this sedan apart.
Dodge Durango Citadel ($42,645)
Superb execution of 7-passenger vehicle, but uses old-school audio/navigation system.
Dodge Journey Lux ($34,510)
Great style; engaging color choices make up for unusable third row.
Fiat 500 Lounge ($23,150)
Love the IP, funky design; sitting in back a challenge.
Ford Edge Sport ($40,530)
Sleek interior front to rear, but not much “sport.”
Ford Explorer Limited ($45,415)
Spacious and highly functional, but $45,000 should bring a little more luxury.
Ford F-250 King Ranch ($63,470)
Well done but incomplete when compared with Ram Laramie HD.
Ford Fiesta ($19,605)
On par for price segment. Buttons stylish, but less ergonomic.
Ford Focus Titanium ($27,520)
Dazzling with gray/cranberry color scheme; dynamic information display.
Ford Mustang GT ($39,680)
Captures essence of legendary brand without being overly nostalgic.
GMC Acadia Denali ($49,725)
Looks dated, with too much hard plastic for the price.
Honda CR-Z ($23,310)
Unique design, bright trim commendable; a great bargain.
Honda Odyssey Touring Elite ($44,030)
It's not cheap, but well crafted and luxurious. This minivan soothes in style.
Hyundai Elantra Limited ($22,110)
Beautifully shaped center stack; Hyundai interiors are copycat no more.
Hyundai Equus ($65,400)
Ultra luxury for the price of mid-level luxury; lavish features, conservative styling.
Infiniti QX56 ($71,850)
Clever folding second row; gorgeous ash-wood trim.
Jaguar XJ Supersport ($111,075)
Spectacular materials, including leather headliner. LCD gauges controversial.
Jeep Wrangler Sahara ($33,340)
Liked all-weather seats; Wrangler has come a long way.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit
($48,770) Highly crafted interior redefines luxury in the SUV segment.
Kia Optima EX ($27,440)
Craftsmanship, flowing lines and dramatic use of color make this look like a luxury car.
Kia Sportage EX ($29,490)
Kudos for high-quality stitching and other details, but orange trim was too much.
Lexus CT200h ($38,239)
Extra points for clever HMI, but it's been done before.
Lincoln MKX ($51,135)
High-gloss caramel faux wood hurts an otherwise upscale interior.
Very basic; Honda Fit is a better value, more stylish.
Comfortable 6-passenger seating in a small package is strongest feature.
Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4
($35,150) A little busy, but captures Mini flavor; plenty of room.
Mitsubishi Outlander Sport SE ($28,570)
Too many hard plastic surfaces; lacks upscale details.
Nissan Juke ($22,490)
Interior more attractive than exterior; loaded with character.
Nissan Leaf ($35,440)
Futuristic, but still functional, comfortable and user-friendly.
Nissan Murano Cross Cabriolet ($47,825)
Interior does not help sell this unusual value proposition.
Nissan Quest LE ($43,790)
Design less polarizing than predecessor, but Honda and Chrysler tough to beat.
Porsche Cayenne Turbo ($117,610)
Beautifully styled, with many cues carried over from Panamera sedan.
Ram 3500 Longhorn Crew ($59,535)
Spectacularly rugged; impressive attention to design details and graphics.
Saab 9-5 Turbo ($50,140)
Disappointing reminder that Saab needs to rediscover its own design language.
Scion tC ($18,995)
Spacious backseat, but interior surprisingly bland for a youth brand.
Subaru Forester Touring ($29,068)
Nicely sculpted instrument panel, but materials lack upscale finishes and textures.
Toyota Avalon ($38,884)
Design a bit old school, but plenty of space and storage.
Volkswagen Jetta SEL ($23,065)
Yes, VW took out content, but interior more than adequate.
Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid ($61,385)
Attractive, with improved ergonomics; but still kinda plain for the price.
Volvo S60 T6 ($46,200)
Eye-catching colors and textures, distinctive floating center stack, superb seats.