As OEMs jazz up interiors of high-volume vehicles with features typically reserved for luxury models, they must strike a perfect balance or risk diluting the definition of premium, experts say.

“Focus on smart design and what we would refer to as the magic of the interior,” says Rob Huber, a designer with European-based supplier Faurecia SA. “That will set the bar higher.”

In other words, surprise the premium consumer with clever functionality. Huber points to Faurecia's “Premium Attitude” concept car.

The concept includes a “magic wave” instrument panel that allows users to visually shut off elements of the central display to enhance driver concentration, lower distraction and improve safety.

A “magic skin,” with kinematics hidden underneath, rises from the central instrument panel, covering information screens not required at that moment.

In addition, the concept features a sliding tray in the trunk, which functions like a chest of drawers or a tool box.

Benjamin Jimenez, project chief designer for Toyota Motor Corp.'s Calty Design Research Inc., says auto makers should look to premium consumers' lifestyles for inspiration.

He points to the '09 Venza cross/utility vehicle, which goes on sale in the U.S. late this year. It contains specially designed holders for an MP3 player and cellular telephone.

The rear cargo area of the Venza also was designed to accommodate tour-sized golf bags a luxury consumer would carry.

The Venza in-cludes a unique 60/60 cockpit design, where each front passenger enjoys 60% of the vehicle's forward space, giving the CUV the spacious feel of a luxury model. Most vehicles feature a 40/40 design, Jimenez says.

Lorene Boettcher, design manager-Americas & Asia Pacific for Seton Co., says leather will continue to play a role in premium interiors.

“There will be a movement of leather-wrapping to make a vehicle even more luxurious, and this is happening because it is profitable for car companies,” she says. “Outside of wheels, leather is the most profitable item on a vehicle.”