- by Atul H. Patel, Editor-in-Chief
There was a time when only the most luxurious vehicles were offered with leather interiors. It wasn't that long ago. I was old enough to remember. But today, even compact vehicles have leather available as an option and leather is standard on some entry luxury vehicles. Really nice synthetic leathers make the situation more complex. But is leather all it's (not) cracked up to be? I would argue that leather is severely overrated. Sure it smells great, looks luxurious, but it's not worth the extra $800 to $2,500. First of all, you slide around a lot on the leather. As a result, in spirited driving, you aren't held in your seat as well unless you have mega side bolstering. Your belongings can also slide around like crazy when you drive in a spirited fashion around turns. This doesn't happen nearly as much on cloth, regardless of the type of cloth. And then, with leather, there are temperature issues. In the winter, it feels cold. This makes heated seats almost necessary. In the summer it feels hot, and then you sweat and stick to it. That's no good and fan ventilated seats make noise. Cloth on the other hand, grips better, absorbs moisture and stays more temperate.
Leather is thought to wear better than cloth, but this is not always true if the leather is of a cheaper variety. I've seen reliability test results that proved this out. Even if it does wear better, it gets wrinkles and eventually cracks without proper maintenance. Cloth is more difficult to wrinkle and it doesn't require care and feeding.
Regardless of where your ethics lie, leather is dead animal skin. I don't like that fact so when I have a choice, I choose cloth. It's interesting that in Europe, even luxury vehicles are offered with cloth. I wish that model was followed here in the U.S. as I was forced to get leather on my latest Saab vehicle. I indirectly paid for it as well. The synthetic leathers are not cheap, but at least they don't have all of the same issues as real leather. Nor do they have all of the same advantages.
I doubt that you all agree. What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment.