Crafting a true luxury interior in today’s automotive market is no easy task given the competition, and not just among high-end manufacturers.

During the 2012 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors test period, we drove a number of mid-market vehicles with luxury appointments. But the Audi A7 fastback lays bare the deep chasm that lies between it and direct rivals, as well as more mainstream luxury intenders. 

The A7 interior is truly inspiring, carrying over some of the styling cues of the flagship A8 sedan, which earned a spot on the 2011 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors list.

While some luxury auto makers attempt to cram in every high-end material available, Audi takes the opposite approach by keeping it simple.

The dark matte-finished wood strikes an easy balance with the gray leather seats and high-quality plastics and aluminum trim.

The fine-grain ash-wood inserts, generously applied to the dash, center console and door panels, resound with WardsAuto editors, with more than one describing them as “gorgeous.”

But there’s more to a Ward’s 10 Best Interiors winner than aesthetics; it also has to be an inviting space in which owners look forward to spending time.

In that regard, the A7 does not disappoint, particularly the seats, which straddle the line between comfortable and supportive. Some editors gripe about the A7 accommodating only four occupants despite a $67,000 price tag.

But the spacious and cozy rear bucket-like seats more than offset that small demerit. And besides, any buyer who needs five seats in this segment will be looking at the A8 sedan.

It’s the A7’s dramatically swooping rear roofline that precludes seating for five and makes the liftback so sexy. Rear passengers can stretch their legs even with the front seats fully reclined.

The infotainment system is one area where luxury auto makers often struggle, making it overly complicated in an attempt to offer every new “gee whiz” feature.

The A7’s infotainment system, centered around a 6.5-in. (16.5-cm) color display that automatically deploys from the top of the dash, quickly becomes familiar and simple to use. Finding a radio station or adjusting the dual-zone climate controls becomes second nature.

“This interior complements and improves the driving experience in one of the finest cars I’ve driven,” editor Jim Irwin writes on his A7 score sheet.

bpope@wardsauto.com