Bold Colors, Untraditional Materials Standard in Newly Designed SUVs

Traditional interior design has been challenged in the entry-premium SUV/CUV segment. Cabins of 2019 import vehicles priced in the $30,000s and $40,000s are receiving styling treatments with expressiveness akin to high-fashion design and modern art. Manufacturers say these vehicles stand apart from others by allowing consumers to express their individuality.

Volvo, Porsche, Jaguar and Infiniti are among the brands creating SUV/CUV interiors using bold colors and unconventional trim materials. The red family of colors are particularly trendy, with deep reds and, in Volvo’s case, vivid orange. Designers of the Volvo XC40 R-Design, base priced at $36,200, are among the most aggressive in using brilliant colors and uncommon accent materials.

The XC40 R-Design interior features an available intense-orange Lava felt covering the floor, tunnel console and door panels. It contrasts with Charcoal Nubuck leather seats and black dash, door and console accents. The felt is made of 100 percent sustainable material, says Linnea Karlsson, color and materials designer at Volvo Car Group.

An additional design element punctuating Volvo’s design approach is “Cutting Edge” aluminum deco trim with an unusual black-and-silver rectangle pattern. “We worked with material inside the car that you usually see on the outside, such as diamond-cut metal,” says Karlsson. “We also used cartography as inspiration.”

The R-Design is an example of what Robin Page, senior vice president of design at Volvo Car Group, calls “premium creativity.” It takes Volvo in a new direction, Page says, one that’s premium, but in a different way.

Volvo had to make a decision on the design route it would take with the XC40 because it’s in a “completely new segment – a new type of car for us,” he says. “We had two options. We could either play it safe and traditional or throw away the rule book and do something new.”

Volvo describes its product as a vehicle with “strong, contemporary style with a confident urban look, available in contrasting combinations.” Erik Aleby, color and materials designer at Volvo Car Group, says “contrast was one of our big influences” and enabled designers to bring a higher degree of individual expression to the XC40. “We took inspiration from all over,” Aleby says, “mostly from non-automotive -- fashion, art, architecture and modern culture.”

Porsche Macan: Interior part of the sensory experience

Bold contrasting elements also are used in Porsche’s Macan, which has a $49,900 starting price. Porsche states that its design approach is apart from other manufacturers and doesn’t follow trends. “For us, aesthetics is not simply superficial. But always an expression of our personality.”

The name Macan, derived from the Indonesian word for tiger, “fits with the brand,” says Bernhard Maier, executive board member, sales and marketing of Porsche AG.

Like the tiger, its styling has a dynamic and magnetic character. A goal is for Macan’s interior treatment to mesh with the vehicle’s sports-car performance characteristics of “suppleness, power and fascination,” and be part of its sensory experience. “Endorphins are not just released by performance and adrenaline,” Porsche advertising states. “The interior of the new Macan makes you feel happy as soon as you get in.” 

Bright color is an option Porsche uses to elevate the driver’s mood. Highlighting the available color combinations is Garnet Red and Black. Deep red dominates the treatment, covering seat fronts and armrest, and combining with black upper trim on door panels, center console and dash. Brushed-aluminum accents add contrast to the doors, dash, console and steering wheel.

Macan’s top-line Turbo with Performance Package, which enters the premium price range, is offered with an upgraded interior featuring black upholstery with Garnet Red stitching. The leather seat outer portions combine with suede-like Alcantra centers that help keep the driver in place during brisk maneuvers. Seat belts are Garnet Red and accents are racing-inspired carbon fiber. This includes carbon-fiber door-sill guards with “Macan Turbo” illuminated in Acid Green. 

Jaguar E-Pace: ‘Modern luxury’

Jaguar boasts individuality and “modern luxury” with its new E-Pace SUV, which offers top-notch materials and a wide range of color options. While E-Pace pricing starts at $38,900, Jaguar pushes creativity to the highest level with the R-Dynamic AWD models, base priced at $47,695. Designers give the cabin a giant splash of vibrant red with optional Mars Red Windsor leather sport seats and contrasting Ebony trim.

Seats, front and rear, are covered in red leather, and door panels, center console and dash are a blending of red and ebony trim. Emphasizing the cockpit’s driver-centric layout, a partition sweeps from the dash top to the right side of the center console. A strip of red artfully traces its top edge and wraps the center console behind the shifter. 

Designers also focus on details. Red steering wheel gearshift paddles, made from hand-brushed billet-machined aluminum, are available to complement the red interior. A Jaguar with cub graphic is placed in the windshield corner, subtle Jaguar print is in the glovebox and center console, and the HSE model has detailed animal-print seat labels. 

Infiniti QX30: Challenges tradition 

Infiniti offers standout interior packages with the top Sport trim of its entry-level QX30, which has a $40,100 starting price. The manufacturer says the QX30 is built for a new generation of premium buyers with versatile lifestyles. Infiniti touts the QX30 design doesn’t conform to typical SUV expectations.

“It’s a bold visual statement and challenges current preconceptions of what a crossover should look like,” Infiniti states. “The bold Infiniti design approach continues inside . . . challenging traditional standards of symmetry with expressive, modern and dynamic interior.” Asymmetric surfaces with wave shapes and dynamic lines, and contrasting materials, Infiniti explains, react to the movement of natural light to give an in-motion feel.

The QX30 Sport gains a custom look with the available City Black Theme Package, which maximizes mystique when paired with the Black Obsidian exterior. The City Black theme features Graphite upholstery. Front sport seats and rear seats feature integrated headrests, and leatherette outer portions with simulated-suede inserts. The faux suede couples with aggressive side bolsters to cradle occupants during spirited driving.

Graphite leatherette covers the center console, and dash and door trim. Adding what Infiniti calls a “fearless look,” is purple stitching on the seats, center console, doors and dash. Custom-look details include a purple-accented key fob and aluminum-trimmed pedals.

Editor's note: Photos courtesy of Porsche, Volvo, Jaguar and Infiniti

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