2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Long-Term Road Test

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250: The Case for MBTex

March 26, 2014

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250

My mother was recently shopping for a new compact crossover and briefly considered the Mercedes-Benz GLK350. When finding out that leather was not standard, she was dismayed. Even when I presented the argument for the standard MBTex premium vinyl upholstery I'm about to share with you, there was simply no way around the notion that luxury cars must have leather and it must be standard. It's a notion that's certainly prevalent, but not one to which I adhere.

Nevertheless, here is my case for MBTex found in our 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 long-term car and many other Mercedes models.

1) While on the GLK press launch in muggy western Virginia, my driving partner opined tentatively that the standard MBTex seemed to be breathing better than the genuine leather included in $1,850 Leather package. When he shared this observation with a Mercedes engineer, we were surprised when he admitted that the observation was actually correct. MBTex is in no way that old slick vinyl you'd find in a Chevy truck, nor even the swampy leatherette found in our old long-term BMW 135i. MBTex is a more advanced material and indeed breathes better than leather.

2) In our recent comparison test between our CLA250 and the Audi A3, one of the key equipment differences between the two cars was that the Audi came standard with leather. However, it was difficult to tell the difference between the two seat coverings. If I lined up 10 people and asked them to identify which car had the real stuff, I guarantee the ratio would be close to equal. I certainly think the CLA's MBTex looks and feels better than the leather in quite a few cars, including our $100,000 Tesla.

In other words, your passengers are likely to think your car has leather even though it doesn't.

3) MBTex, as you'd expect from vinyl, should wear substantially better over time. I highly doubt our CLA will show the same scraping and creasing on the left driver-side seat bolster we observe on virtually every leather-equipped long-term car. Furthermore, take a look at the vinyl upholstery from a 1970s Mercedes. There's a very good chance it looks as good as new. Then look at leather from a 1990s Mercedes. It's probably not looking so great.

4) Why does the interior of my car need to be covered in cow hide? I'm not exactly a member of PETA, but if something does a better job than leather, why use the animal?

5) In a similar vein, if something does a better job than leather and nobody will be able to tell the difference, why pay extra for it?

Despite these arguments, my mother wouldn't budge. It didn't matter that MBTex was better in so many ways than leather and that no one (including admittedly herself) could tell the difference. It was the principle of the thing.

I suppose principle is enough for people to pay $1,850 extra, or buy a different car entirely.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,598 miles

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