Color has returned to vehicle interiors in a big way, as we’ve discovered among our nominees for this year’s Wards 10 Best Interiors list.
In eight years of this competition, never before can our judges recall so many nontraditional hues in test vehicles. And more than a few entrants have bold and bright colors that once upon a time would have been considered a curse to sales.
In the past we may have had a handful of vehicles with something beyond standard black, beige or gray inside, but I count on this year’s list of 40 nominees 15 vehicles with either small pops or large swathes of bold color.
And this hue explosion spans segments and price ranges.
In the entry-level sector, there’s the lime-green trim inside the new Hyundai Kona small CUV and orange trim inside its rival, the also-new Ford EcoSport.
In both cases, color helps spice up and distract from what are relatively basic cabins with lower-end materials.
Both CUVs have colorful hard trim on their center stacks and seats, but the EcoSport takes it a step further by having prominent burnt orange metallic trim on its doors and dash. And whereas the Kona’s seats are piped in green, the EcoSport’s feature vertical orange stripes on seatback and bottom cushions.
In the bread-and-butter midsize-sedan segment, Toyota is shaking off its bland-and-boring reputation big time with the red passenger compartment in the Camry XSE sport grade. A crimson cabin in a Camry?! This isn’t your father’s Toyota.
Other than black, gray and various shades of caramel and cream, red is the most commonly seen atypical interior color in this year’s competition.
Also featuring red interiors, somewhat more predictably than the Toyota 4-door, are the Kia Stinger, Ford Mustang, Dodge Durango SRT and Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Geared for sporty intenders, the sedan, coupe, SUV and CUV all have red leather seats like the Camry, but the Stelvio pushes the boundaries further by having a red lower instrument panel. Magnifico!
A new spin on red comes in the Lincoln Navigator Black Label Destination model tested, as every surface from carpet to microsuede headliner appears bathed in lustrous burgundy wine.
Lovely but less showy is the dark blue found in both the Mercedes E400 and Infiniti QX50 we are testing, as well as the blue seat piping in the refreshed Hyundai Sonata.
Our E400 has a navy upper IP and doors, as well as navy carpeting and sill trim, while the QX50 has a deep ocean blue microsuede covering its center armrest, which flows into the luxury CUV’s center stack.
Shades of brown also are prevalent in this year’s competition. Inside the Buick Enclave Avenir, Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse High Country and Infiniti QX80, you’ll find shades of coffee, butterscotch or chocolate. The all-new second-generation Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid also features supple Saddle Brown leather.
But perhaps the most eye-catching interior we have tested so far is that of the Volvo XC40. The small luxury CUV is unique for its accent color (blazing orange) and where it is placed (almost everywhere below shoulder height). The XC40’s carpeted floor is entirely orange, as is the vast majority of its door trim. Our Subaru Crosstrek tester also highlighted its black interior with bright orange contrast stitching.
Other trends we’re seeing with this year’s 10 Best Interiors nominees are a lot more wireless phone-charging pads, as well as more elaborate perforation patterns on ventilated leather seats.
The Mustang and new Range Rover Velar both follow this trend, with the Velar’s perforated east-west triangles also appearing on speaker grates on its doors.
The Ram 1500 Limited pickup we have for testing also has artistically patterned speaker grates.
Speaking of the Velar, we think its multi-function dials will start a trend. The chameleon controls, acting as a fan switch one minute then as a seat heater the next, are an effort by Jaguar Land Rover to de-clutter the center stack.
The Panamera has gone in a similar direction, replacing two parallel rows of switches on either side of the center console with capacitive switches and a large touchscreen. The overall design is much cleaner.
Ambient lighting continues to play prominently in our competition, with BMW and Ford/Lincoln test vehicles offering more than a half-dozen colors. Hmm. Do I feel like green today? Or violet?
In selecting the winners, WardsAuto editors evaluate cabins on a variety of metrics including the quality of materials used, ergonomics, safety, how well displays relay information, fit-and-finish, comfort, value and overall design/aesthetics.
Forty all-new or significantly redesigned interiors are being evaluated this year, and there is no price cap. WardsAuto will announce the winners of the 2018 Wards 10 Best Interiors in late April. Stay tuned!