“The dealer finally has a Subaru car in that color I want: Cool Khaki!” I was on the phone with my mother. I asked, “Oh, is that a beige-tan color?” She paused, “No, it’s a light blue.” I shook my head, “You know ‘khaki’ is an actual word for an actual color that is very much not blue.” She sighed, “I know…the salesman told me it’s really more of a marketing term.”
Car color names have one job–and they’re failing
You can call me old-fashioned. But I think the words automakers use to describe their colors should–first and foremost–describe that color. If I get a press release on someone’s latest colors and one of them is just listed as “Precious Metal” or “High Velocity,” I have no clue what quadrant of the color wheel it even hails from. That “color name” is failing at its one and only job.
I like cool-sounding car color names as much as the next guy. Classics such as “Plum Crazy” and “Hemi Orange” set my heart racing. But notice that even those old “high impact” color names are each a phrase that includes…an actual color.
And it’s not enough that after you see the color, the color’s name makes some sort of sense. Example: Jeep’s “Rocky Mountain” could refer to a brown, a granite gray, or even something sandier. When you see this dark gray/green car color, you might be tempted to think, Yeah, that’s somewhat reminiscent of Rocky Mountain National Park. But its cleverness doesn’t make up for the fact that before you see the SUV, you have no idea what color the name refers to.
So here’s my plea: It’s high time that car color names chill out and return to being the names of colors. They can certainly get spiced up with fun descriptors. But every single one should include an actual word for an actual color (or even two, if it’s in between). The color should also describe the actual color of the car paint too – we’re looking at you, “cool khaki.” Can we please stick to the good, straightforward color words you’d find in a standard Crayon box?
Read on for what I consider the most confusing color names in recent memory.
The most confusing car color names
There is a trend to make a splash with exciting car and truck color names. The result is some nonsense strings of words that in no way narrow down which color your next vehicle will be. Here are some of the most confusing:
“Lunar Rock” – What color is the moon? Some nights, it looks white/gray. Other times, pollen gives it a rich yellow-orange hue, or it even appears a bit blue. So, what color is “Lunar Rock?” Well, according to Toyota, it is a pale, flat green. Maybe the cheese our natural satellite is made of is finally molding.
“Earl” – This latest Jeep Wangler/Gladiator color name could mean anything. Royal purple? Gray like the tea? In this case, it is a flat blue/bluish-gray.
“Precious Metal” – Which one? Gold? Platinum? Titanium? Rose gold? This Lexus color name couldn’t possibly be vaguer. And it refers to silver. But don’t confuse it with the same automaker’s “Precious white.” I guess their colors are very important to them.
“Area 51” – You’re probably wondering what in the world Ford’s latest F-150 color looks like. Is it the tan of the New Mexico desert? Is it a green reminiscent of a cartoon alien’s skin? Nope. It’s a flat blue-gray. In Ford’s defense, it seems to have realized how confusing this color is, because it has begun to write it as “Area 51 (Blue)” in some materials. GMC thankfully uses the same naming convention for some of its more confusing Hummer colors: “Supernova (Dark Blue),” “Afterburner (Orange),” and “Deep Aurora (Dark Bronze).”
“Moon Dust” – According to Toyota, “Lunar Rock” is green. But what happens when the rocks of the moon somehow chip off into “Moon Dust?” They transform into a silver with traces of blue. I guess naming colors isn’t rocket science.
“High Velocity” – So this one is an unabashed marketing phrase. Ironically, “High Velocity” refers to a solid front axle, heavy full-frame SUV that even its fans wouldn’t call fast (the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator), which just happens to be painted yellow with a touch of neon green.
“Starfire” – Lexus’ confusing color names give Jeep a run for its money. Real stars range from blue giants to red dwarfs. But a Lexus painted “Starfire” is white.
“Sunset Glow Metallic” – Here’s one that makes sense after you see it (a sort of burnt orange). But before? The whole point of a sunset is that they can include nearly any color!
“Anvil” – Aren’t blacksmith anvils so patinaed that they appear nearly black? Not according to Jeep. This Wrangler color is just a flat gray, probably because “Battleship” was already taken by Dodge.
“Wind Chill” & “Avalanche” – These colors could be an icy silver. Or they could describe a wintery blue. But both the F-150’s “Avalanche” color and Lexus’ “Wind Chill” are just other names for white. (Not to be confused with the F-150’s “Oxford White” or the Lexus’ “Starfire” which are other shades of white). Different model years of Toyota/Lexus call white “Blizzard” and “Ice Edge”–just to keep you on your toes.
“Frostbite” – So, like “Blizzard” and “Avalanche” (above), this Dodge color should be a white, right? Wrong! It’s blue. And not even the Challenger’s lightest, most silvery blue. It is a darker blue. So, you know, the color of the lips of a corpse that froze to death. Frostbite indeed…
“Latte” – A single, layered latte can contain a range of colors. But Cadillac is using this word to make its latest shade of beige sound fancy.
“Tiger Eye Pearl” – Here’s a name that sounds like some fancy, sporty, pearly white. But this Acura TLX Type S special edition color is really a caramel-ish orange pearl coat.
“Titanium rush” – Actual Titanium is silver, or even white. The GMC Sierra’s “Titanium Rush” is a standard black car color that turns slightly gray in some lights. GMC’s marketing team obviously needs to spend more time with the engineers.
“Manganese Luster” – Manganese is also a metal. It can appear silvery, so “Manganese Luster” is redundant at best. At Lexus, it means gray. So, in the ballpark? Regardless, you would need a periodic table in your back pocket to even guess the right part of the color wheel for this one.
“Rich Garnet” – Garnets are a family of precious stones known for coming in a wide range of colors, so this Buick name doesn’t do much to describe this rich red color. Perhaps Buick was thinking of the wine? If so, it should have been more specific.
“Frozen Berry Metallic” & “Snazzberry” – The Porsche Taycan (“Frozen Berry Metallic”) and Jeep Wrangler (“Snazzberry”) share a problem. Berries come in every color, from black to blue to light red. So, which one are these colors referring to you? The Wrangler is a darkish, almost purplish red. While a bright “raspberry” red Wrangler might have been fitting, that color is already taken. And the Taycan looks like some mischievous kid hand-painted a thin layer of Barbie pink over a still visibly beige car. So perhaps a very watery strawberry smoothie?
“Seaglass” – If you take a walk along the beach, you may spot well-worn sea glass in a range of colors (blue, brown, green). So, while it’s a cute name for Toyota’s latest light green color, “Seaglass” does little to narrow down said color before you see it in person.
“Cool Khaki” – The Subaru Crosstrek color that started it all! You know now that this is a sort of flat, pale blue. But did you know that Subaru obviously understands what “khaki” means? I know this because it also offers the Crosstek in a true khaki, which it must call “Desert Khaki” just to differentiate it.
Some slightly confusing car color names
There are several car color names that didn’t make my “most confusing” list because they are only slightly confusing.
“Hunter Metallic” – When you hear this GMC color, you might assume it’s “Hunter Green.” But you’re only half right. It’s actually a light, silvery green. But I’ll take it over “Lunar Rock.”
“Granite” – As I recall from my 24-box Crayola days, this is also an actual color name. And that presents a problem because Lexus’ “Smoky Granite,” Jeep’s “Crystal Granite Metalic, ” and the countless other variations in the industry are all very different colors. Their designers obviously aren’t all drawing with the same brand of Crayons.
“Night Moves” – The Dodge Durango’s special twist on Stellantis’ “Midnight” color might have you do a double-take. But you get the idea. I’ll allow it. And I feel the same way about GMC’s “Marine Metallic.” OK, alright. I see what you did there.
“Redwood,” “Rosewood,” Mahogany,” & “Smoked Mesquite” – Wood is brown. These cars are brown. If you aren’t a woodworker or BBQ grillmaster, you might be surprised at how red Subaru’s “Mahagony” is or how flat the brown in Toyota’s “Smoked Mesquite” Tundra is. At least you know what color family to expect before you see them. But does GMC/Cadillac really need both a “Redwood” and a “Rosewood?”
“Claret” & “Bordeaux” – These cars are wine red. But that would sound too basic for Toyota (“Claret”) or Fiat (“Bordeaux”), so instead, they threw a dart at a wine list.
Got a confusing car color name I missed? Drop it in the comments below!
Next, find out whether ordering your next car or truck in a custom color hurts resale value, or learn why good car names are so rare in the video below: