What Is NuLuxe? Lexus' Alternative to Leather

It may look and feel a lot like leather, but the NuLuxe seating surfaces found in many Lexus models is a synthetic — and more eco-friendly — material.

Evan McCausland | 
Mar 21, 2023 | 3 min read

2023 Lexus ES brown nuluxe leather alternative interiorLexus

Is it leather, or is it NuLuxe? You might ask yourself that question the next time you hop into a Lexus car, truck, or SUV, as availability of the automaker's synthetic leather seating material continues to grow.

The Luxury of Leather — But At What Cost?

Leather has long been a staple of luxury vehicles. Typically produced from cowhide, leather surfaces and accents bring rich textures and supple comfort to an automobile's interior that cloth fabrics can't quite match.

That uplevel feel comes at a cost: The tanning process used to create leather is labor-intensive, making the material more expensive than fabric. Depending on how a manufacturer structures options, adding leather seats on a new car can either cost several hundred dollars or — as is the case in some models like the Lexus ES, RX, and GX — force buyers into higher trim levels, adding thousands of dollars to the purchase price.

Given that we live in a world of knockoff designer goods, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that synthetic leather or leatherette has been manufactured for over a century. Furthermore, automakers have renewed their interest in leatherette over the past few decades. Faux leathers allow designers to bring a sophisticated air to car interiors at a lower price point, in a more ecological (and sometimes even vegan) manner. Traditional leather tanning is an energy- and water-intensive process, and often uses potent chemicals like chromium, which can pose a health risk to both employees and, if disposed improperly, the surrounding ecology.

Enter NuLuxe Synthetic Leather

Lexus claims the NuLuxe manufacturing process emits 65% less carbon emissions than producing conventional leather. Better yet, minimal solvents and no volatile organic compounds are used in the manufacturing of NuLuxe.

According to Lexus, NuLuxe is half the weight of leather, but it doesn't disclose precisely how heavy either upholstery is. Lexus owners may appreciate the minimal effort needed to maintain NuLuxe. Unlike leather, NuLuxe doesn't require the regular use of specialized cleaners and conditioners to maintain its appearance. Instead, vacuum the seat surfaces, and wipe them down with a diluted neutral detergent.

Where To Find NuLuxe

When NuLuxe first debuted in 2014, it was initially relegated to lower-tier models like the CT 200h — but the material has since spread across the Lexus portfolio. With the exception of the flagship LS sedan, LC sports coupe, and LX SUVs, every other Lexus — including the redesigned 2023 Lexus RX crossover and the forthcoming 2023 Lexus RZ 450h EV crossover — offer NuLuxe seating. Even the 2023 GX 460 Black Line Special Edition, limited to 3,000 units and available in a luscious Nori Green exterior paint, boasts three rows of seats trimmed in ''Boulder Gray'' NuLuxe. Maybe you don't need real hides after all.

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