2013 Volkswagen CCEnlarge Photo
Let’s say you’re in the market for a new sedan, and you have a hankering for something German. You head into your local VW dealer to check out the new Passat, and are amazed to find that even SE models (one up from the range’s basement S model) come with a premium leather interior.
Only it’s not leather. It’s something called V-Tex, which comes from a test tube, and not a cow. If you actually want leather, you’ll have to spring for a Passat SEL Premium, which starts at around $30,000. If you want leather on the Volkswagen CC four-door coupe, be prepared to spend just over $38k for a V-6 model, otherwise V-Tex is your only seating material option.
Don’t go hating on just VW, either. The new BMW 3 Series sedan? It uses cow-from-a-test tube, too, unless you spring for the $1,400 Luxury Line or Modern Line packages. If you want a BMW 3 Series sedan with leather in your garage, the least you’ll spend is around $45,000.
It gets worse. The Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan uses something called MB-Tex, which never graced the back of a cow, in lower models. If you want to seat yourself in animal peelings, it will cost you an additional $1,620 on top of the car’s $51,365 price of admission.
Let that sink in for a second. Halfway to six figures, and you don’t even get leather upholstery. Do you think dealers use this as a selling feature, pitching “cruelty-free and sustainable” seating, that’s “easier to care for” than the “less desirable” leather? Leather, that’s been the benchmark in car seating for the past 100 years or so?
We’re going with no on that, and if customers ask what the seats are made of, they’re likely to be met with a “let me check on that” response. Here’s the rub, though: today’s “simulated leather” looks and feels so much like the real thing that few customers will think to ask.
Vinyl seats, no matter how advanced, simply aren’t leather and they’re certainly not as comfortable as cloth seats. Call us weird, but we’d actually pay extra for a premium cloth seating option. Cloth is cool in summer and warm in winter, which is the direct opposite of both vinyl and leather. Unlike plastic (and even most leather), cloth breathes well year-round.
Cloth seating, however, is disappearing from the industry for reasons unknown. Unless you’re shopping entry-level base models these days, a cloth seat option probably isn’t available. We say stop the madness and give us back the option of cloth seating instead of new-age plastic. If it’s comfortable and sturdy enough, we’ll even pay extra for it.
Failing that, how much does it cost to peel a few cows, really? If we’re paying halfway to a hundred-grand for a sedan, we don’t expect it to come with the same type of material (albeit in a more advanced form) that graced the seats of a 1967 VW Beetle.