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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #91: Hell bent for cloth | Hagerty Media

My 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis coupe is superior to my old 1979 Mercury Marquis Brougham coupe in every way. It has the fuel-injected 302 instead of one tended capriciously by a "Variable Venturi" carburetor, cruise control that works without fail, fabulous Town-Car-esque ribbed alloys instead of steel wheels behind covers, full-width tail lamps instead of poverty-spec items surrounded by dull black plastic.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact/avoidable-contact-91-hell-bent-for-cloth/
55 REPLIES 55
911m491
Pit Crew

I actually agree about cloth. I own mostly Euro cars in the garage but drive two Mercury 2003 models one with cloth and the other a Marauder with leather, the cloth is much more comfortable and quiet in the GS
JeffWeimer
Intermediate Driver

I am 100% in agreement about cloth interiors. We purchased a 2017 RAV4 Hybrid XLE instead of a higher trim precisely because that was the only trim that had cloth. Heated seats, too, so you *can* have both. We did this because of the awful leather seats in our 2006 Honda Pilot, an otherwise still typical Honda vehicle even if a bit garish compared to my 80s/90s Accords. It was quite a surprise to see compared to my friend's 1995 Prelude, which leather seats were exceedingly nice and supple when new. People will absolutely go for cloth if offered, dealers need to be made aware of that.
Nick_D
Intermediate Driver

Volvo 740/940 cloth seats were zippered and removable. Made from a very nice three dimension weave, whatever polymer Volvo used felt good and could be chucked in the washer when dirty. I'd kill for that functionality on my minivan.
bookish
Pit Crew

On an unrelated note, how could Ford have owned Volvo for years and still make such abominably uncomfortable seats?
spoom
Technician

I think so, also. The cloth seats in my old Buick LeSabre were super comfy all temps, with long pants or shorts, likewise in my original 4Runner. Vinyl would stick right to ya if you parked in the Sun. Flash forward to a current black/black ride with leather. Remote start and heated & cooled seats take care of all situations and dress. Of course it has the carbon footprint of a politician.
CitationMan
Instructor

Did America’s obsession with leather seats in regular cars begin with Ricardo Montalban and the “rich Corinthian leather” of the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba?
CJinSD
Instructor

Every person I've known who has stated that they want leather seats in a vehicle is a woman. It doesn't matter if it was one of the women I broke up with because they were animal rights activists and vegetarians. They want heated leather seats, unless they've used heated and cooled leather seats. Then they want those.

Personally, I'm not a fan of many cloth seats. Perhaps that's because most of the ones I've encountered in the past fifteen years have been in Enterprise rental cars, which often seemed to have served as sets for bukkake movies even if they had no more than thirty-five miles on their odometers when I picked them up.

spoom
Technician

Sorry, I'm not a woman (transcripts upon request) and I want leather depending on what cloth is offered. I once asked a vegan if they would prefer a Lincoln with an Ed Gein interior. Vegans don't laugh much.
CJinSD
Instructor

You want leather depending on what cloth is offered. I'm talking about times when I have discussed buying cars with various women. Most of them have said heated leather seats before expressing a brand preference, or a body style preference, or even a price range. 

OCULUSNY
Intermediate Driver

My Mother finally prevailed on my father (who hated hot or cold vinyl) to get leather seats in their next car. As she got older, and had a few outfits made of that 1980s artificial Ultrasuede, I laughed and warned them that Dad was going to have to pry her out of the car because of the Velcro effect that faux suede had with the mouse-hide velour seats. He relented and they slid in and out unimpeded thereafter.
MikeD
Pit Crew

You're insane! Cloth gets DIRTY! Cloth STAINS! And don't tell me you can clean it, because you know nobody does. I'll take leather/vinyl/pleather any day. And these days, unlike your 1979 Bordello on wheels, most cloth looks like mouse fur.
iamwho2k
Pit Crew

Two words: seat covers. Made of neoprene, so it's durable without being harsh, plus it can add the missing color the automaker completely forgot about. In my case purple-ish Hawaiian print that nicely matches my Mazda 6's dark cherry mica paint.
Rider79
Instructor

Seat covers? What is this, 1963?
spoom
Technician

DON'T SIT ON THAT CAR SEAT!!! That's for company!

PaulyG
Pit Crew

Jack:

Toyota Century cloth interior is what you should be aiming for. The gold standard IMHO.

PaulyG

https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/toyota/22998350.html
Nick_D
Intermediate Driver

They're actually wool in the older models. I'd like to own a Century at some point.
Nick_D
Intermediate Driver

Marquart's Custom Creations in Fort Wayne, IN does phenomenal work, including 6-7 figure vehicles prepped for auction in the halcyon days of the Kruse Auction Park.
danhise
Detailer

The Veloster N has only cloth seats, which I find a little odd. They look nice new, but I'm wondering about 5 years from now. The leather seats in my seven-year-old Focus ST have been nicely durable.
Genethemachine1
Pit Crew

Jack, this revolution is already kind of happening. Most sport car/sport sedan seats offer a two-tone interior, a mix of leather and some form of cloth like alcantara fabric. It’s comfortable and grippy where it counts. Think Miata with Recaro option, or the previous F series M3 base seats.
Unbalanced
Intermediate Driver

Here’s the other thing about leather. It’s just so boring. When my son was buying a new GTI, he would have happily spent a bit more to get some of the features of the upgraded trim levels like better headlights or a louder sound system. But they only came with leather. To get the plaid seats you had to get the base model. And as he told me, plaid is definitely more important than seeing where you’re going or losing your hearing a year or two sooner.

Raised him right.
CitationMan
Instructor

A boring, bland culture demands boring, bland things. The funniest part is that most hipsters today think everything gray and muted and sleek is cool, when it’s just plain boring.
spoom
Technician

oooooooo! Find an upholsterer who has the super heavy denim like sewn in RI in the 60's, 70's-The  first LEVI'S 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis coupe!

CitationMan
Instructor

Not quite Marquis material, but you can still buy the stunning Porsche Pasha fabric in Europe. They say it’s velour/flannel.

CitationMan_0-1611936823835.png

spoom
Technician

I'm thinking rust-colored corduroy, and an avocado green with harvest gold dash, door panels & console. Classic.
danio3834
Intermediate Driver

What's interesting about the cloth vs. leather debate is that in many cases, the automotive-grade cloth costs more than the bonded pleather used in most mainstream seats. A good example of this are the base seats in the most recent Ram pickup. I had the pleasure to drive a fully loaded BASE ST crew (V6 etorque) for a while which had cloth seat fabric more akin to kevlar than anything I've sat on before. It was durable, yet comfortable. I had a peace of mind when sitting on it that I don't have while perched on the genuine leather thrones in my longhorn. The cloth doesn't smell as nice, though.
SJacobT
Detailer

Whatever the fabric they upholstered the seats in our 2011 FJ suits me perfectly - wears like iron and doesn’t stain; comfortable-ish - and is weirdly 100 times better than the garbage they put in its 2015 SR5 4Runner driveway companion...
spoom
Technician

So sad to hear that the 4Runner's cloth has declined so much since my Dark Metallic Silver 1989 SR5's with the two-tone gray cloth interior 😞

kyree-williams
Pit Crew

For me, leather is only really worthwhile if you're going to do it right. The perforated "Nappa" leather in my 2017 XC90 Inscription is excellent. It wears well, is easy to clean, has a pleasing Amber color, and is comfortable. (Even still, if I had bought and ordered a new XC90, I might have spec'd the wool upholstery they offer).

I also liked the leather in my 2014 Lincoln MKS, which was probably the same Bridge of Weir leather you have on your MKT. It was nice enough.
CrazytownRoz
New Driver

Why not get some "Bus Fabric" from an 80s bus?

Then you can proceed to tell everyone and their brother that you have "Bus Fabric" in your car.

Since that's already been done, maybe something more ironic? Upholstery made from used Hammer Pants?
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Two things I don't have:

* an addiction to irony
* a trust fund
motorsledge
Intermediate Driver

Personally, if the choices are vinyl, leather or cloth, I would opt for cloth. However, the cloth option removed, anything less than leather in an average 40K vehicle is insulting, IMHO. Furthermore, I feel it necessary to scream from the nearest soapbox, why can't I find a vehicle with a decent seat, after over 100 years of automotive engineering? As recently as my '13 Honda Accord, I was a happy camper, but the lease was up, I let it go and have yet to find another as accommodating for my sorry ass. I have tried all versions of Toyota, Hyundai, Ford and Chevy and they all absolutely suck. It occurred to me while devoting all their R&D to engineering the dashboard douchebag with bedside attachment, the most basic of needs has been overlooked with manufacturers seeking the cheapest possible option, but it's got seat-side airbags!
bookish
Pit Crew

Cloth seats in convertibles are nasty.
Rider79
Instructor

Indeed. Speaking from 40 years of convertible-owning experience, white (or at least light-covered) vinyl is best for convertibles, and a durable type of leather second best. Cloth is a ludicrous choice for any convertible that will be driven - and parked - top-down; it gets way too dirty, and rain will "muddy" it, at best, and possibly stain it.
bookish
Pit Crew

And, in the south, mildew.

OCULUSNY
Intermediate Driver

Back in 1968, I owned a Jag E-Type coupe with black leather. Being about 5 years old and a daily driver of the previous owner, the driver seat was getting tired. I too hated the thought of vinyl but discovered at an antique auction one day, a pair of black mouton (lamb) fur coats. I debated for a moment until the bid stalled at $40. I took them home and then my dealer-Dad's upholsterer. He htought it a great idea....until he tried to work them. They were dried out enough that he said we cold make a dash board or door panel covering, but the hides/stitching would never hold on a seat.

I wound up selling the car (with original seats) the following fall when I went back to school. Don't know what happened to my mouton coats, but several years later, at another auction, I bought a man's XL bison fur coat (below the knee length) with a muskrat collar. Truly a great coat that I proudly wore inside my BMW 2002 to the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. There, I was constantly stopped in the crowds for questions and a "feel." It was later consumed by a sea of bugs that nested by the hundreds underneath its plastic bag cover. Gross and gone.
bookish
Pit Crew

I have to disagree in a sense. I dislike BAD leather interiors. And, unfortunately, most leather interiors are bad, just as described here.

Glove soft, nicely contoured leather is a real joy. And I can shift slightly in the seat for comfort, unlike when I'm held in the viselike grip of velour.

And new cars have gone to PERFORATED leather. What an abomination. It is MADE to get filthy. And what do they do to postage stamps to get them to tear easily? They PERFORATE them.

Convertibles and pickup trucks are meant to have good ol' honest, unpretentious vinyl. Long wearing, hard to stain, easy to clean.
Geok86
Advanced Driver

I love the plaid seats in my MKVII GTI, and would never buy one with leather, too bad VW forces leather on those who want a sunroof, or a GolfR in the US. Europeans get all the best VW stuff.
MSW
New Driver

Depending on the car I usually prefer cloth interiors. A car like a 70's Camaro or Firebird vinyl is ok with me. Leather is definitely easier to wipe clean but usage and age take its toll and it ALWAYS cracks and looks worn in the daily driven cars I've had in the past. If you have ever sat in a late 60's early 70's car with comfort weave seats you know how soft and comfortable those were!
Flashman
Instructor

I bought a pair of sheepskin seat covers for my Porsche 968, in preference to sitting on the leather surfaces. I've never regretted that decision (and could remove them if I had). Liked them so much I bought another pair for my wife's Audi, many years ago.
golfnut53083
Intermediate Driver

Back in the day, Ford had an awesome "knit vinyl" that wore like iron and was also very comfortable. I would love them to bring it back instead of the current "Active X" material they are promoting for animal lovers.
TonyT
Instructor

There used to be leather cockpit seat covers in commercial aircraft that was then topped with lamb's wool covers. The seats are now cloth but still sport the sheep fur. Every combat military aircraft that I have sat in has been a durable mesh made of a Nomex blend that breathes (swamp butt is a no-no) and keeps the operator from sliding around. Leather is nice in a creaky wingback chair while holding a warming libation in one hand and a fine cigar in the other while sitting in front of a nice fire in a stone fireplace on a snowy day somewhere in England.
Rider79
Instructor

Can't say that I agree. Cloth - especially those obnoxious velour interiors - grab ones clothes, and twist them around the legs and torso when one tries to move a little in a seat. I will take (heated) leather any day - or (heated) vinyl, if leather is not available. The cloth interior in my 1968 Impala Custom coupe was notably not bad, though - comfortable, and without any "grippiness".

Our 1998 Grand Prix GTP coupe had the best combo, I think: perforated, heated leather. The perfs helped it stay cool in summer. Contrary to some comments hereon, it stayed clean rather well; and, it did not rip or tear, despite over 130,000 miles, and carrying two young daughters (and friends) in it.
smith-Ford
New Driver

Tears of joy came to my eyes while I read this. I no longer have to be a closet fabric interior lover. I can come out and not be alone
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

There are DOZENS of us!
ChevyDave
Intermediate Driver

For me, the preference depends (mostly) on the intended use of the car. Cloth, Alcantara, Kevlar, what have you, is far superior to leather for any kind of performance driving. Those who’ve ever completed a track day with their leather clad runabout and 3-pt belts know exactly what I’m talking about. For everyday use though, it is hard to beat the livability of leather.
docc
Pit Crew

What fun, as always, Jack! I just performed (a very overdue) leather treatment on my ///M roadster using a very popular treatment product. Now the leather is buttery smooth. And smells like raw meat. The car keeps pulling into burger-joint drive-thrus on its own.
TRdelux
Intermediate Driver

Wow Jack, A Judas Priest reference.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

If you think that's the last one you'll read here.. you've got another thing coming.
RickN
Intermediate Driver

Amen and Amen. Thank you for putting voice to my long-time rant about car interiors...funny how the public has been duped into believing that this so-called "leather" is a luxurious upgrade. Hard as a rock in winter, hot as @# in summer and it doesn't hold up. Make all the jokes you like - I would gladly return to my midnight blue veloured 1986 Buick interior, which was rich looking and oh so comfortable in all seasons. And it was, I repeat, BLUE. Imagine that...