Ward’s Announces 10 Best Interiors for 2011
By Chris Haak
New-vehicle interior design and materials have come a long way since the dark, Tupperware/Fisher-Price days of the 1990s. When once hard plastic and no adornment was the norm, we now live in a world where a compact Chevrolet has been recognized as one of the ten best interiors among all 2011 models sold in the US. Spoken as someone who spent over 100,000 miles behind the wheel of the Cruze’s ancestors (the Grand Am and Achieva), that alone is nearly remarkable news. For 2011, Ward’s reported that there were a record 51 nominees for their top-ten list.
Each year, Ward’s doles out its interior awards “based on materials, ergonomics, safety, the human-machine interface, comfort, fit-and-finish, overall value and aesthetics.” All of those criteria are relevant ones when determining whether an interior is a good one or not. The value message is important, because as I’ve noted on this site before, it’s much more challenging to balance the tradeoffs inherent in a $20,000 car’s interior than in one with a larger budget, like the Bentley Mulsanne. Without further ado, here’s the list of winners:
- Audi A8
- BMW X3 xDrive35i
- Chevy Cruze 2LT RS
- Dodge Charger Rallye Plus
- Ford Focus Titanium
- Honda Odyssey Elite
- Hyundai Elantra Limited
- Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit
- Kia Optima EX
- Volvo S60
We’ve reviewed many of the vehicles on the list above, and have at least sat in all of them, and it’s hard to disagree with Ward’s assessments.
The Audi A8’s presence on the list is not a surprise; its interior design and materials are exquisite and also very much expected of Audi after the German luxury-car maker set such high standards for itself over a decade ago. It’s almost surprising that other Audi entrants weren’t on the winner’s list – or even the list of 51 nominees.
Thinking back a few years as I did with the Cruze’s predecessors, it’s hard to fathom that Hyundai, Chevrolet, and Ford compacts managed to pull off wins, and – because it’s the only midsize sedan on the list – the Kia Optima has the best interior in its segment is another thing that would have been hard to predict even two years ago. Chrysler, long known for its sub-par interior design and materials, scored a bit of a coup as well, by having its new Dodge Charger and Jeep Grand Cherokee on the list. The Charger – with its huge standard LCD display and classy design – looks great, but the Jeep’s interior in Overland trim is fantastic. It’s very quiet and comfortable, looks great, and seems to be of a similar quality to a Land Rover, which isn’t bad company in a vehicle that costs far less.
The winners will be formally recognized at a dinner on May 17 at The Henry hotel in Dearborn, Michigan, where Dodge Brand CEO and Chrysler Group chief designer Ralph Gillies will be the keynote speaker.