Daily Edition: Nov. 30, 2005

November 29, 2005

TCC Drives: 2006Toyota RAV4

There's big news for the new RAV4, headed to dealerships soon: V-6 power and third-row seats.

V-6 power in the RAV is a long time coming, but third-row seats? Really?

That's what we thought when we first heard the news. How could they cram in that third row? But the RAV4 is a lot bigger. While the proportions have stayed roughly the same, truth is, the "little" RAV4 sport-utility is no longer that compact. The upsizing of the RAV4 stretches it by 14 inches overall and puts it at only about 3.5 inches shorter overall than the Highlander, with a wheelbase about two inches shorter than the Highlander. In terms of height and width, the differences are too close to call; even curb weight is comparable.

This translates to an interior that's very roomy for four adult occupants, with space for cargo, too. Toyota claims a 20-percent improvement in overall interior space, with improved head-and-shoulder room in the second row especially, but we also noticed significant improvements in front seating and the driving position. The gauge cluster and steering column are no longer angled up as much, allowing a more natural driving position for those who are of average height or taller.

2006 Toyota RAV4 by Bengt Halvorson (11/29/2005)
Two more seats, two more cylinders, more value all around.

DuPont Says Silver Still Most Popular

From Beijing to Berlin, there's at least one thing that motorists all seem to have in common. Yet again, silver remains far and away the most popular color for car buyers around the world, accounting for nearly one in four passenger cars, trucks, and crossover sold during the last year. According to the latest color popularity survey by DuPont Automotive systems, white, gray, blue, and black round out the Top Five list.

With the exception of silver, color choices tend to vary from one market to another, according to Karen Surcina, DuPont's color marketing manager. "The most amount of color is in the North American palette," she says. By contrast, European buyers overwhelmingly favorite neutral shades, such as silver, black, or gray. The Japanese have long favored white, which once accounted for 70 percent of new vehicles, but even there, silver has taken over as the top choice. Germans, by the way, never choose beige, the color of their taxis. For the same reason, New Yorkers don't like yellow.

Manufacturers are constantly on the lookout for new colors that will give them a distinct advantage in the marketplace. According to DuPont research, 39 percent of American motorists said they'd choose a different vehicle if their top pick wasn't available in the right hue. Meanwhile, colors can also influence a car's long-term value. "Black is always a good seller on the new-car market, but not on the resale market," notes Dave Fischer, marketing manager for DuPont's Automotive Systems Group. That's because it tends to show off a used car's scratches and nicks.

A lot of things are likely to influence the shades that motorists choose. Silver, for example, is especially popular on luxury cars, while red is a favorite on Corvettes and other sports cars. The folks who buy small and specialty cars are more likely to try purple, yellow, and other standout fashion shades. Even the economy has an influence. Bright shades pick up in popularity during boom years, dark tones when times are tough. Color choices also flow with fashion trends, and what's popular on the runways of Paris this season may directly influence what's in showrooms next autumn.

Over the next few years, look for silver to slip a bit, though new versions infused with other hues could help keep it popular. Blues are gaining ground, and new versions of green are likely to make a comeback, according to DuPont's Surcina. New technology is offering a literal rainbow of new colors, including a "holographic" flake that radiates a rainbow of hues, depending on how it's viewed. DuPont has even come up with a glow-in-the-dark paint that could allow an automaker to add safety stripes for extra visibility at night or, perhaps, glimmering flames that appear only after dark.

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