By on January 20, 2014
quilt aston

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante

To paraphrase Ian Fleming, once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is already a fad. Car designers (or their bosses) are among the most faddish people on the planet, it seems sometimes. Don’t believe me? The new GMC Canyon midsize pickup truck has Altezza tail lights. One of the most widely proliferated fads in interior design has been the use of so-called French stitching, the use of contrasting colored running stitches along seams on leather upholstery. As someone who does machine embroidery on leather for a living, I know why it’s become popular. It looks good. The stitching slightly quilts the leather and gives it a three dimensional texture, a luxury touch. However, is it still a luxury touch when the latest Toyota Corolla has contrasting French “stitching” molded into the dashboard plastic?

I believe that I’ve found the next two interior design fads and like contrasting detail stitching they are starting out at that upper end of the market. The fads are quilted leather upholstery and textured woodgrain.

The first car that I noticed with quilted leather upholstery was an Aston Martin Vanquish Volante. Technically it wasn’t at the 2014 NAIAS, rather it was at “The Gallery”, a collection of about 30 six figure cars on display at a local casino for the enjoyment of about 400 invited heavy hitters. Well, I figured, they had to do something more distinctive and exclusive than French stitching.

quilt audi

On the floor of the NAIAS, one of the Audi convertibles in S Line trim had grey leather upholstery quilted with red stitching. Okay, that’s number two.

As Mr. Fleming indicated, when something happens three times or more, that usually indicates a pattern. In this case that pattern is diamond shaped quilting. Mercedes-Benz used the 2014 NAIAS for the world premier of Daimler’s latest flagship, the S600. While a Maybach trim package will be eventually offered on the S600, now that the Maybach brand of cars has been discontinued, until that ne plus ultra level of trim is offered, the S600 is the most luxurious Benz you can buy. Not only are the seating surfaces covered in quilted leather, so are the front and back consoles.

quilt s600

Mercedes-Benz S600.

It won’t be long, will it, before quilted leather is offered as an option by most luxury brands? Of course, soon afterwards, you will probably find faux quilted vinyl in more mass market motorcars.

Quilted leather isn’t the only trend that just now is being offered on luxury cars but that later will spread to more plebeian automobiles. I recently reviewed an Audi A7 TDI and one nice touch in the cabin is how the interior designers worked to have a variety of textures pleasing to both eye and hand. Along with leather grain and brushed aluminum, there was plenty of wood, but instead of being covered with a high gloss clear coat giving a mirror smooth finish as might have been done just a few years ago, or even the more recent satin finishes, the Audi’s wood had grain you could feel.


Textured grained wood in the new Hyundai Genesis

Now normally I’d follow that rule of Mr. Fleming’s and wait until I found a third example before I declared a fad officially started, but the new Hyundai Genesis has an interior using wood that has a textured grain, one you can actually feel. Hyundai’s product planners seem exquisitely sensitive to signifiers of luxury so I don’t think that I’m going out on a limb to say that by next year’s NAIAS, you’ll be seeing cars that have interiors featuring both quilted leather and textured woodgrain.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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48 Comments on “2014 NAIAS: The Next Interior Design Fads: Quilted Leather, Textured Woodgrain...”

  • avatar

    Quilted leather? Sounds like that trend will someday be the equivalent of the pillowed velour and leather of the 70s and 80s. Textured woodgrain? Well you paid for it you might as well feel it.

    Brougham anyone?

  • avatar

    I for one like it. Hopefully the trend gives GM a kick in the pants to step up their interior quality even more,

  • avatar

    Quilting must be an Audi S/S-Line thing; I’ve noticed that the S6 and S7 default to quilted seats. Blecch. (Fortunately, adding ventilated seats gets rid of it.)

    • 0 avatar

      Blech is my reaction to quilted leather, too. Unless I’m wrong, and I’m never wrong (thank you Prince Humperdink), this will look as unfortunate in 15 years as rouged leather does now.

    • 0 avatar

      A friend of mine wants to order his S7 with the quilted diamond patterned leather seats in a burgundy color. I told him i thought they looked like couches that belong in a bordello. He wasn’t amused.

  • avatar

    The quilted leather is a welcome change from the boring flat surfaces that we’ve been seeing. It kinda harkens back to the tuffed surfaces of the 70’s and 80’s to me, which isn’t a bad thing if the materials are improved.

    The textured wood is excellent, the overly laquered finish was too tempting to try and imitate with plastic. Ain’t nothin like the real thing.

  • avatar

    I like the textured wood with low gloss finish, since that is the type of furniture we primarily have.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the point of wood in a car. I’m happy with carbon fiber and synthetics.

    If MB TEX lasts longer and retains looks better than standard leather, I’d prefer the synthetic once again. All I’m concerned with is the technology in the seat: heating/ cooling/ power adjusting headrests/thigh supports and massage functions.

    Heate/cool all the surfaces that my skin comes in contact with and you can keep your cow to do “cow stuff” like make milk, meat and love to.

    • 0 avatar

      I love the look of wood, never really liked it until I had this old Lexus loaded with it. It has a nice depth in the sun you can’t get anywhere else, maybe with carbon fiber.

      Seems like one of the only things that is “real” sure it is the thinnest of veneers under hard urethane coating but it is real…unless it is fake. But the real stuff has a nice look. And I really have grown to love the wood steering wheel almost prefer holding something hard less sweat under the fingers than leather.

      There isn’t much real in a car interior these days.

    • 0 avatar

      Carbon fiber is crap, that stupid fad and LED lights can die now, awful trend. I love wood in my cars and I want real leather, especially when I am being charged real leather prices.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The problem with simulated leather is that it is often attached to a seat design that is less nice, especially with BMW. Up until very recent releases (like the F30 3-Series and F15 X5), non-leather BMW seats have always looked like they didn’t belong anywhere inside of a luxury vehicle. And the “Comfort Seats” are just such an ergonomic upgrade that the synthetic-upholstered seats become very unattractive…

  • avatar

    Gmc jimmy diamond edition…. Barf

  • avatar

    This whole luxury thing is a shell game. It’s sort of like ‘diet’ foods that imitate the good stuff, but soon our bodies catch on to the switchout and the appeal vanishes.  

    ‘Luxury’ cues come from constructs that in
    a traditional construction are labor and skill intensive. Because of that they are relatively rare and our eyes (and fingers) sense this. Of course in mass produced stuff like car interiors, these desirability cures are essentially faked, there is no quality ‘workmanship’, it is imitated with clever use of molds and finishes. So the novelty wears of quickly as it spreads to other products (because it doesn’t take any more time on the assembly line anyhow). And the race goes on. Someone notices a new or under used cue, imitates it as a mass produced product, and for a few weeks it looks impressive.   The sad thing is that the automotive press (yes, to a degree TTAC as well) laps this up. Read any new car review and notice how much attention is given to the interior treatments and finishes (as much as is given to the physical performance of the vehicle). Getting all hyped up about something that will look old and ordinary by the time you’ve had the car for 2 months. Is a mass produced novelty finish any reason at all to choose a particular car?

    • 0 avatar

      I actually had a real problem with this in the Mazda 3, a car I really wanted to like.

      The dash surfacing and bits like the leather on the shifter emulate quality luxury items, but they ended up coming across in person as rather thin pastiche, missing any real richness, like the dressed-up parlor in a suburban tract home.

      I prefer the honest simplicity of the GT-86, a car maligned for its low quality interior. It reminds me of the 90’s era Toyota, when switches were high quality but unadorned. Those items wore like iron. I would guess that a lot of the luxo-pastiche will start looking tacky around 50K miles.

      And I really miss the metal interiors and switchgear that we lost in the 70’s to safety and plastics. But that is another story.

    • 0 avatar

      Well said. It is a funny thing, a car interior is about the most “dishonest” product there is, always trying to look like something other than what it is.

      I went to the (crappy) Boston Auto Show this weekend. I was surprised how cheap (and fake) some expensive car interiors are. The BMW X1 really stood out as did the Porsche Cayenne.

  • avatar

    Then that would make the next trends:

    Tuck and roll leather interiors.

    Textured wood steering wheels.

    Either textured leather or quilted woodgrains.

    • 0 avatar

      And which manufacturer will be the first to do knock-off Rolls wheels, where the logo remains horizontal as the wheels spin? My bet is on Lincoln or Buick.

      • 0 avatar

        That sounds like something the Koreans would be first to adopt. I’d go with Skoda, they were the first to copy the Rolls Royce umbrella in the driver’s door, but Ferdinand Piech told them to knock it off.

  • avatar

    The Chrysler 300 Luxury Series also has textured grained wood trim, so there’s your third.

    • 0 avatar

      And the Cadillac CTS and ATS. They had a couple at the local car show here in Salt Lake, and the wood was pretty heavily textured. I honestly really liked it. The A8 had a normal high gloss wood, and it didn’t look as nice.

  • avatar

    This article is just trying to get my hopes up for a return to plaid nylon fabric. Too late – I’m already convinced that unless I can find an original ’62 Rambler American, I’ll never see a plaid nylon fabric interior again.

  • avatar

    Do I recall that Kia has a vehicle (or vehicles) with quilted leather and/or quilted leather-look door panels?

  • avatar

    BWM (and I believe Mercedes) has been offering ‘open pore’ finishes as part of their special order programs for years – I was in an ’04 7 last years with Coral leather and a fantastic blonde wood trim.

    The scary part is that if it’s real wood, you are going to want to get it detailed to prevent bleaching/cracking, and I don’t trust someone other than the dealer to do my cabinetry work…

  • avatar

    Can I just install bubble wrap seat covers and call it a day, please?

  • avatar

    Like technology, luxury touches in autos trickle-down from most to least expensive. However “luxury” in everyday cars needs to mass-produced in a less expensive way. Hence, the molded french stitching in a Corolla. Textured wood is now all the rage because it’s pretty easy now-a-days to make a piece of plastic trim look like real polished wood. But don’t worry, I’m sure textured wood-like plastic is not far off.

    However, trim-lines and luxury items, unlike technology, is more cyclical.

    Remember gated shifters? Used to be, you would only see them Audi’s, BMWs & MBs. Just recently, I had one in my 2006 Suzuki Grand Vitara and my daughter’s 2012 Elantra has one. But most top-tier cars don’t use them anymore. They use more elegant straight shifters, rotary knobs or even push buttons (Hello, 1960s Valiants, anyone?)

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      That’s true. I remember the J-gate Jaguar shifter, which may well have preceded all the examples you mentioned. But the electronic gear selectors are now trickling down to cheaper cars, in various forms. Several Chrysler Group vehicles have them, and the new MKZ employs a push-button setup that actually frees up a lot of console space.

      Another thing that has trickled down is the electric tilt-telescopic steering column, which is usually linked to memory settings. Originally in the Lexus LS 460, it has ascended to pricier brands like Rolls-Royce and Bentley, but it has also moved down to plebeian cars…so that most full-sized cars (300, Azera, Cadenza, Charger, Impala, LaCrosse, Maxima and Taurus) offer this feature in one trim level or another. Granted, mid-sized cars are so nice these days that full-sized cars are practically entry-level luxury when nicely equipped…but don’t be surprised if the next Sonata offers an electronically-adjustable steering column…

  • avatar

    Chrysler did this in the early 90’s. It was optional on the LHS and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

  • avatar

    “The new GMC Canyon midsize pickup truck has Altezza tail lights”

    I thought the Altezza tail light fad was over.

  • avatar

    Ugh! The quilted look reminds me of the two options you had when having seats reupholstered in “tuck & roll”…either the regular ribbed design, or the quilted look. I thought the quilted look was out of place in a car then, and am not impressed with it now…regardless of how upscale the vehicle sporting it is. Just my 0.02 worth!! :-)

  • avatar

    I can’t wait to see how Aston-Martin pulls off its cross-marketing with Peterbilt, another purveyor of diamond-quilted upholstery.

  • avatar

    Oh look, you actually got to see inside the S600 when you were there that was nice of the a-holes who were running the Mercedes section to let you see it considering when the public went this weekend they had the S550 locked up and then the geniuses that they are, had the S600 not only locked up, but also had the rear seat blinds up, because you know, who the hell wants to pay to go see cars in the freezing cold and actually see inside them, right?

  • avatar

    While I like the diamond stitching in the Audis, that quilted leather in the Aston Martin at the top of the article looks like the molded foam pad my wife’s elliptical machine rests on.

  • avatar

    my 08 volvo c70 has natural oak wood for the “floating” center console and part of the door handles… love it. never liked the shiney wood finishes in other luxury cars.

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