What Is Mercedes-Benz MB-Tex?

The German automaker offers a convincing, durable, and affordable alternative to leather.

White Mercedes-Benz GLE SUVMercedes-Benz


The automotive industry's quest to find alternatives to leather isn't new. Mercedes-Benz has used a type of synthetic leather called MB-Tex for decades. The famous 300 SL Gullwing built from 1954 to 1957 notably came standard with partial MB-Tex upholstery. Fast forward, and this material remains available on a long list of Mercedes models as a cheaper and more durable substitute for genuine leather.

MB-Tex Is a Familiar Synthetic Leather

Mercedes-Benz isn't the only carmaker with its own line of synthetic upholstery. BMW offers Sensatec, and Lexus calls its material NuLuxe, but Mercedes began offering an alternative to leather well before its rivals. MB-Tex looks a lot like leather, yet it's made with vinyl rather than from cowhide.

It's available in a wide range of colors including black, beige, and brown, and its surface is usually textured to achieve a look that's close to real leather. Mercedes-Benz also offers several stitching patterns.

Pricing for MB-Tex vs. Real Leather

Cost stands out as one of MB-Tex's main selling points. It's cheaper than leather, largely because it costs less to manufacture and is not as prestigious in the minds of many luxury-car buyers. The 2023 GLC 300 comes standard with MB-Tex, and Mercedes-Benz charges over $1,500 for an upgrade to leather upholstery. Opting for a softer type of leather called nappa can cost just over $2,500 more than MB-Tex.

Is MB-Tex More Durable Than Leather?

Durability is another advantage of MB-Tex. It's a synthetic material engineered to withstand decades of wear, while leather tends to crack and fade over time, especially if it's not properly cared for. You might see a worn-out Mercedes from the 1980s with a rough body and a tired engine, but an MB-Tex interior can still look like it's only a couple of years old.

While caring for leather requires using specific products including conditioner, MB-Tex can be cleaned with standard vinyl cleaner. Some dealers even recommend cleaning it using mild dish detergent, water, and a soft cloth.

MB-Tex is compatible with heated and ventilated seats, so buyers who select it don't need to make a compromise on equipment. But Mercedes' synthetic upholstery has some drawbacks. It can be slightly rougher to the touch than real leather, and it doesn't give off the natural smell many motorists associate with a luxury car. Choosing MB-Tex can also limit configuration options because it's offered in fewer colors and color combinations than leather.

All vehicle pricing includes MSRP plus destination charges (set at the time of publication), and will be rounded to the nearest thousand.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American journalist and automotive historian based in France. He enjoys working on old cars and spending time outdoors seeking out his next project car.