Leather versus MBTex - 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster Long-Term Road Test

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster Long-Term Road Test

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG: Leather versus MBTex

April 23, 2013

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG comes standard with leather, so my point here is somewhat moot in relation to this Benz halo car. However, it does perfectly demonstrate my point. Despite our best efforts, there is seemingly no avoiding excess wear and tear of the leather on a low slung car's leather side bolsters. Yet, such wear and tear is inevitable on any car with leather seats. It'll just take longer in a car of more conventional height.

That's why I'd opt for MBTex if I were to buy a Mercedes-Benz. Yes, it's vinyl, but it'll look good as new years after leather has cracked and ripped. Plus, believe it or not, MBTex breathes better than the cow-sourced stuff. So says Mercedes' engineers, and so says myself after several hundred miles of driving GLK350s through hot, muggy western Virginia. Better still, it is extremely hard to tell the difference between MBTex and leather. We've had cars for a week before realizing it has the pleather. Mercedes even added contrasting piping to the GLK's real leather to create a clearer differentiation for 2013.

Indeed, not all vinyl upholstery is created equal. I'm not so bullish on BMW's leatherette, but VW's is rather nice. Either way, I think such materials deserve more attention and respect as car seat upholstery. I've never been someone who demands dead cow adorn my interior and it has nothing to do with any animal-friendly leanings. If something else makes as much sense as MBTex I'll get it.

Having said all that, Mercedes sadly doesn't offer MBTex in the wide variety of colors that its leather comes in thanks to the Designo catalogue. You can get Porcelain White leather, but not Porcelain White MBTex. Pity, for another plus is that vinyl is easier to clean.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 21,970 miles


  • that looks less like regular wear marks and more like someone needs to ditch their 80's studded belt :)

  • mfennell mfennell Posts:

    Agree with zimtheinvader. I have a 22 year old BMW with vinyl that only started to show a few cracks in the past year on the base of the driver's seat while my 20 year old BMW with leather is a horror show. Unfortunately, I heard from someone who owned an E90 BMW with leatherette that it was not very durable. His showed cracks after only a few years. I have CLOTH in my Volt and I love it. I don't understand why it's not more popular.

  • jederino jederino Posts:

    I second that a nice cloth is superior, but the MBTex sounds really nice. I wish I could get it in my Infiniti. ;)

  • seppoboy seppoboy Posts:

    Over the years I have had good cloth, bad cloth, great vinyl (thanks VW!), merely OK vinyl, decent leather, and really nice leather. Swore I would never have leather, but then came a used and a new car that could only be had that way. Leather needs to be constantly cleaned and conditioned, most owners can't be bothered to do that, and leather type and quality varies wildly. My used BMW had sturdy leather that was poorly cared for, an Audi had very elegant leather I took good care of and it held up tremendously well... except at the outside shoulder bolster, which should always be upholstered separately with a thicker and more durable leather than the rest of the seat. MB Tex is great stuff, and so is a lot of the Volkswagen vinyl. Now I'm willing to consider any upholstery, as long as it's good, but vinyl, leather, and cloth in that order of preference.

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Agree with zimtheinvader...that's not wear and tear, that is one jerk with something sticking out of his pocket, like a bunch of keys hanging out. You will also see black shoe sole marks on the side of the driver's door storage pocket, where he is kicking the door open instead of using the door handle.

  • motorstreet motorstreet Posts:

    I don't have any experience with MBTex (as far as I know), but I've hated the leatherette in every car I've been in that had it. The leatherette in BMW's and VW's doesn't seem to breathe well at all and it doesn't hold up well either. Many people seem to like VW's leatherette, but I've always found their cloth infinitely better. Maybe M-B has figured out how to make good vinyl seats. I hope they have, though my experience with leatherette tells me to skeptical. I like cloth much more than leatherette and leather offered in many cars though anyway.

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