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Top 10: Best Car Interiors for 2010 (35-45k)

Updated on February 21, 2011


Lincoln bets. Hyundai Raises. Lexus and Acura call. Saab, Volvo, Pontiac folds.

The competition is becoming lesser yet the stakes rise for American, Japanese, German and Korean automakers in this field. The winners in this category have full-grain leather, near perfect assembly, uniqueness in class and cold, hard luxurious features for a final price between $35,000 and $45,000 USD. Some competitors are entry-level luxury vehicles looking for a spot, and others are outclassing veterans of decades-old. Let the battle begin for value, comfort and above all--luxury!

No real new changes for this year's Top 10: Best Car Interiors, except some vehicles (Honda Civic, Ford Focus, Dodge Caliber, etc.) have entered the 15-25k bracket to compete. MSRP & invoice prices have been added this year for reference (current 02/10). All prices are USD. 11th place (did not qualify) has been included for 2010. Value relative to interior design & quality was an important factor in the rating system.

#11 - Volvo S80 (did not qualify)

Nearly identical interior to V70, although interior does not meet the requirements for this class. Cookie-cutter Volvo interior becoming tiring.

2010 MSRP: $39,200 - $50,950

2010 Invoice: $36,848 - $47,893

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#10 - Audi TT

Felt seating feels cheap, drab interior for price range. Interior becomes slightly more interesting with great price increases. Boring dark and light grays & blacks cover what could be a fun interior. Small dashboard and console area with seemingly hidden features. Pretty much a two-seater, people over five-foot seven are not recommend in the rear seats. Good vent location and ventilation throughout vehicle. Beautiful (and sporty) white stitching on doors and seats a plus.

2010 MSRP: $37,800 - $48,900

2010 Invoice: $35,154 - $45,477

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#9 - Audi A5

Sporty styling whilst keeping a luxurious edge keep the A5 in a niche position among competitors. Driver-facing console is a plus, gadget list expansive. Fun controls are easily found, somewhat confusing dash though. Coupe and new convertible feel roomy. Fine, full-grain leather interior.

2010 MSRP: $36,000 - $58,250

2010 Invoice: $33,480 - $54,174

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#8 - Volkswagen CC

Well appointed interior that barely crawls in to the 35-45k bracket. Excellent assembly, brushed aluminum and generous accessories surround the cabin. Although the CC comes in dark shades, the lighting brings a euro ambiance. CC aims high somewhere between Audi A4 and Lexus ES 350. Interior is symmetrical and agreeable. Ribbed seating gives American-style flair. Center console is relatively easy to operate.

2010 MSRP: $27,100 - $39,800

2010 Invoice: $25,252 - $37,277

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#7 - Acura TL

Fine stitching and a finesse interior poise give the TL a comfortable ranking among the 35-45k crowd. Although just as well behaved as the TSX, the refinement, available features, and available interior amenities lists expand with TL. Some call the TL's interior boring without the nearly unreasonable prices that come with upgrades--I call it conservative and reasonable.

2010 MSRP: $35,105 - $43,385

2010 Invoice: $32,273 - $39,866

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#6 - Hyundai Genesis

I have a great belief that Hyundai will continue to do very well in North America, and will continue to aim (rumored) at the luxury market in the United States with a luxury marque. Think of the Genesis as their test run; the interior is flush with good quality leather, generous padding, and convincing luxury at relatively lesser cost. Door handles feel cheap, look cheap. Stitching is good quality, faux-wood material is unconvincing but excusable. Electric blue lighting is exciting, very large vehicle with plenty of head room. Transmission assembly could take some cosmetic tips. Good entry-level bang for the relative buck. Optional navigation an improvement for Hyundai.

2010 MSRP: $33,000 - $39,500

2010 Invoice: $30,940 - $36,590

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#5 - Lincoln MKS

Reused materials from antique furniture (and other wooden furniture) is used to trim the interior of the MKS--giving it a boost in the renewable-materials-used category. Leather feels a little thin, but within class expectations. Sporty and large feel give the vehicle American character and among the best in class for interior space. Cheap knobs and plastic parts stand out in an otherwise beautiful American luxury interior. Controls don't always seem to make sense, but this is by far the most interesting and modern Lincoln I have ever seen

2010 MSRP: $40,870 - $47,760

2010 Invoice: $37,693 - $43,894

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#4 - Infiniti G37

A classy yet rugged interior. Exciting and confusing controls make for a dizzying area of potential actions. Plastic buttons feel somewhat cheap. Dashboard shows signs of rattles and squeaks if typical Infiniti ruggedness fails. Jazzy metallic and wood inserts a plus, most materials are class appropriate, although not as rich as the Infiniti M. Base G37 somewhat stoic and gray.

2010 MSRP: $33,250 - $40,400

2010 Invoice: $30,727 - $37,313

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#3 - Cadillac CTS

Since CTS' recent face-lift, I have been a fan of this car's interior. It went from somewhat drab, scion-ish, entry-level luxury vehicle to a mature, comfort focused entertainment device. The CTS' list of amenities and interior features seems endless, and few corners are cut. Squeaks and rattles are not a problem (at least certainly not-so compared to the DTS). Wood grain, beige colors, blue lighting and metallic trims leave the CTS' ambiance slightly confused and seemingly trying to cover too many tastes at once. CTS' analog clock does flow well with the overall technologically leaning CTS flavor.

2010 MSRP: $36,730 - $60,720

2010 Invoice: $34,526 - $56,470

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#2 - Lexus ES

The Lexus ES has set the standard of mid-size full luxury vehicles for the past decade and a half and continues to do so in 2010. Although the interior design is aging (and some of the available wood trims remain hideous), all is forgiven when sitting inside the ES. The navigation unit is one of the most easy to use, controls are found quickly and are logically arranged. Leather is ultra-plush, as usual. It's interior is more mild-mannered and conservative compared to its exterior, which seems to be what the market wants in this class. The dashboard and doors are padded generously. Stitching and alignment is excellent, build quality is good as well. Navigation greatly increases price, but comes with real-time weather information and Bluetooth technology.

2010 MSRP: $35,175 - ~$44,000

2010 Invoice: ~$33,075 - ~$41,425

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#1 - BMW 3-Series

Although the BMW 3-series pricing starts out in the 25-35k bracket, the real magic occurs in this price range. 3-series interiors are notoriously drab for base models, but with more money comes more features and glamor to this monolith among intelligent interiors. The features list is exciting, with cutting-edge technologies standard. Aesthetic electrical issues have occurred as well as interior rattling. The 3-series' interior remains impressive at this price range, although other vehicles are considered more luxurious. M3 spoils sports-luxury interior seekers, but is out-of-budget in this price bracket.

2010 MSRP: $32,850 - $66,500

2010 Invoice: $30,220 - $61,180

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    • profile image

      Rahsaan Shareef 

      6 years ago

      Audi's will always place high

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That BMW interior is still hideous along with the Lexus ES. Acura TL beat everyone. Volvo shouldn't even be mentioned that interior is yuck. BMW and Mercedes need to get it together, they make cars that look great outside and are disgusting inside.

    • Mercedes-Benz30 profile image


      8 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Well, let's start with the "disagrees":

      Well, with the Volvo I sort of agree and disagree with you. The interior, yes, is basically a carbon-copy of the V70's---but this is a very common practice among even the leading auto manufacturers: that is, to use similar interiors for different models. This could be either as a cost-cutting measure or an effort to streamline the brand's interior feels---or both. Nevertheless, I think it's a timeless interior that's elegantly restrained--as this seems to be Volvo's motif.

      The Audi A5 is another car that should be higher on the list---in terms of interior design/quality. Audi's have earned top praise from even the most discerning magazine editors/reviewers---like Car and Driver and Motor Trend. Most of them have been described simply as "jewel-like".

      The one I disagree with most is the Acura TL: I cannot even fathom how anyone could say this is a "boring" or "conservative" design. The TL's interior design, to me, is more visually appealing, exciting and even radical than practically any other car under 45k.

      Ok ok, now for the agrees :-) :

      The Lexus's interior, yes, is obviously dated and is in dire need of a major overhaul. The other Lexus sedans (IS, GS and LS) all seem to share interiors that highly resemble each other and reflect Lexus's current design morale--but the ES is like the "ugly duckling" out of the pack in its interior department. I don't doubt for a second that the materials are top-notch, but the design is way too 90's and it's got to go.

      The 3-Series and VW CC's interiors' are wonderfully elegant. The 3-series has come a long ways since the 90's and early 2000's---where the typical German austerity and utilitarian-look seemed to be the status quo.

      The VW CC (especially with the metallic trim instead of the wood) is simply one of the best interiors of this price range--hands down.


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