Audi has built its brand around outstanding interiors, so it was no surprise to us when the first Wards 10 Best Interiors list, in 2011, included the new A8 luxury sedan, followed the next year by its platform sibling, the A7 liftback.

But then Audi went three years without stepping into the winner’s circle, which had us wondering if the designers in Ingolstadt had lost their mojo.

Come to find out, they were just hard at work for a few years on some groundbreaking interior concepts that now are taking our breath away.

Three all-new interiors in the A4 sedan, TTS coupe and Q7 CUV rolled into our parking deck for Wards 10 Best Interiors evaluations in March, and it wasn’t easy deciding which one was most deserving of a trophy.

We picked the TTS, thoroughly smitten with its luscious Express Red diamond-stitched leather front seats with wing-back shoulders that wrap around occupants like a super-hero’s cape.

We love the satin-finish aluminum trim that glistens even on a cloudy day and the generously proportioned (considering the size of this 2+2 coupe) cargo hold when second-row seats are folded.

More than just a pretty face, the TTS (with $58,500 sticker) represents significant achievements in layout, ergonomics and, of course, the human-machine interface.

Audi improves its excellent Multi-Media Interface by making it more intuitive, swapping the function buttons surrounding the central control knob for simple toggle switches that provide the same easy access. The old setup was good, but this one frees up high-demand real estate around the center knob for other functions.

Then there are the “wow” factors that take Audi to a whole new level. The virtual cockpit spreads high-resolution Google maps, navigation and vehicle data a foot wide across the instrument cluster, right in the driver’s line of sight. And all that information can be reconfigured dramatically to the driver’s preference.

In the TTS, that’s the only place the map shows up because there is no display screen in the center stack. One might say this design leaves the passenger unengaged, but the screen in front of the driver is so large it can be seen by anyone riding shotgun. Still, this layout clearly favors the driver – not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Another ingenious idea is the climate controls integrated in a perfectly intuitive location: within the vents on the instrument panel, eliminating the need to clutter up the center stack.

Add in the simple sound of a heart beating a few times when you exit the car and the other elements you expect from Audi – upscale materials, stunning audio, soothing use of ambient lighting – and that’s a recipe for success.

The TTS is just plain irresistible fun, and designers who were lucky enough to work on its interior must have arrived each morning at the studio with jump in their step, kind of like a TTS owner headed to the garage, with keys in hand, eager to climb inside.

– with Bob Gritzinger

tmurphy@wardsauto.com