In this era of cheap gasoline, low unemployment and brisk vehicle sales in the U.S., is it any wonder that luxury vehicle brands are loading up their portfolios with every imaginable body style, propulsion system and the latest electronic safety and convenience features?

People have money to spend, which makes it an ideal time for automakers – both luxury and mainstream – to push the upper trim levels, premium audio systems, spiffy wheels and softest leathers, while reaping the economic benefits.

This dynamic is evident in the 2016 Wards 10 Best Interiors list, which includes six luxury brands, constituting a majority for the first time ever. In past years, no more than three premium marques occupied the list.

After evaluating 47 vehicles with all-new or significantly improved interiors during February and March, it’s not at all surprising that eight WardsAuto editors selected entries from Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo. Luxury brands made up nearly half the field.

What is surprising is the premium look and feel of certain Chevrolets, Chryslers, Hondas and Nissans that made the list, while Volkswagen, Ford and Hyundai didn’t miss the winner’s circle by much.

The four mainstream vehicles making the list, the Chevrolet Camaro, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Civic and Nissan Maxima, represent the finest interiors available in the muscle coupe, minivan, compact car and sport-sedan segments. The well-equipped models evaluated all could pass for near-luxury status.

What we see now is a new definition of premium that isn’t stiff or pompous, like the chaps trading Grey Poupon from the backseats of their shiny Rolls-Royces.

Instead, certain luxury elements appear to be accessible to everyone at nearly every price point. We tested a $16,470 Scion iA that will display your email; a $27,710 Hyundai Elantra with adaptive cruise control and heated rear seats; a $29,890 Mazda CX-3 with blindspot monitoring and navigation; and a $31,800 Fiat 500X with a heated steering wheel.

Some of these features couldn’t be had in luxury cars only a decade ago, and yet mainstream brands are finding ways to integrate them at a reasonable price point. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate cars based on their technology offerings.

In the coming days and weeks, WardsAuto will present articles, photo galleries and videos featuring the winners, as well as sidebars and additional features about this year’s competition.

Each nominated vehicle is scored based on aesthetics and design harmony, as well as materials, ergonomics, safety, comfort, value, driver information and fit-and-finish. There is no price cap for vehicles considered.

The winners will be honored in a special ceremony May 11 at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com