Commercials and magazines bestow a lot of attention on the outward appearance of new cars. After all, everyone wants to be seen in the hottest-looking set of wheels, right? However, you never actually get to see how your car looks when you’re driving it. Your vehicle’s interior is much more important than its exterior styling in the grand scheme of things.
Consumers today demand a lot more than decent materials and easy-to-use tech. They want the latest infotainment features, artful design and considerate ergonomics. After all, dashboards have come a long way from their original style, which was an actual wooden board. If you’re in the market, which car should you choose to deliver an interior experience that’s second to none?
After a decade-long visit to the lower echelons of the compact car segment, a place foreign to the industry-leading brand since the Civic’s inception in the 1970s, the roomy new model has reset the bar for subcompact interiors. It features upmarket-looking materials, clean gauges and infotainment — it brought back the volume knob — supportive, adjustable seats and a host of steering wheel mounted controls.
Kudos to Volvo for going in a new direction while its German competition continues to reinvent the wheel. The new XC’s Scandinavian-inspired cockpit feels fresh and unfettered, while still delivering state-of-the-industry design. It’s covered in beautiful hides with polygonal buttons and vents that look equally artful and functional. We also like the large, unbroken LED gauge cluster and central screen, which share functionality nicely with physical buttons.
Bentley Continental GT
When Bentley redesigned the Continental GT, initial impressions were that the car was hardly any different. A closer look reveals that while the 2018 car doesn’t hide its Bentley heritage, it still packs some technological firepower. The 12.3-inch center infotainment screen rotates out of the way, replaced by finely burnished wood a-la Rolls-Royce. Surrounded in your color choice of perforated leather and lustrous hardwood, this is a car that never lets you forget you’re driving a cool quarter million dollars of automobile.
Lexus’s mousepad touch pointer isn’t the only thing polarizing about this interior, but you have to hand it to the Japanese luxury brand for defying tradition and delivering a truly opulent experience. The big Lexo rocks two-tone interior schemes with world-class trim materials, which are featured in hand-cut veneers on the doors and all around the cabin. The large, center-mounted digital readout displays all you need to know and can reconfigure itself depending on the car’s drive mode.
In addition, the infotainment screen steals a page from Mercedes’ book, extending across the cabin in a clean, softly sloping slot. Also, build quality is top-notch — you won’t hear any squeaks here.
Who are we kidding — Mercedes is quite simply making the nicest interiors in the world right now, short of ultra-exclusive brands. That began with the launch of the latest S-Class, a car with an interior so stunning, every near-luxury brand out there has stolen its speaker grille design. Echoing the same style used in a six-figure executive express across your lineup is difficult though, and Mercedes deserves credit for pulling it off.
The GLC, while compact, offers a beautifully laid-out cabin that puts all controls easily at hand and exhibits a good example of the oft-lamented floating tablet infotainment screen. Its three-spoke wheel and complementary circular vents are consistent in their theme, and the quilted leather seats look like they belong in, well, an S-Class.
Interiors With Class
Interior designs for cars tend to move in leaps and bounds. In the ’80s we had tape decks, the ’90s brought CD players, the ‘naughts navigation and now, we have in-car integration and infotainment. The latest advance is still too young for us to see a clear frontrunner for “interior of the future.”
Luxury marques are offering hand-gesture-based controls and fancy heads-up displays, but these have equal chances of success or horrible failure. It’s the cars that combine these great features with traditional interior qualities that are real winners.
Scott Huntington is a writer and car fanatic from Harrisburg, PA.