They've Gone to Plaid!
Volvo’s New Cloth Seats Are the Best Thing to Happen to Automotive Interior Design
Earlier this week, a wondrous thing happened: it came to light that Volvo’s upcoming (and extremely pretty) V60 wagon would come with the option to spec plaid cloth seats. Yes, plaid. Volvo calls it “Blond City Weave Textile Upholstery,” and it isn’t some boldly-colored tartan cropped from a Scotsman’s golf pants. Rather, it’s a clean, dignified interweaving of black and white stripes. It’s the kind of fabric you’d expect to see on a Danish lounge chair. Which is refreshing.
As good as automotive interiors have gotten in recent years, color and material choices for seats have become predictable. Most luxury cars will only give you the option of leather in black, beige, brown, gray or white. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having leather in a safe, neutral color choice, but not having other options both limits the creativity of the buyer and leaves us with a homogenous, somewhat bland selection of automotive interiors.
Then there’s this issue: leather is actually not that great of material for car seats. Leather seats tend to get painfully hot in the summer and uncomfortably cold in the winter. They often squeak, are rarely all that comfortable, and even if you maintain them, will eventually fade and crack from use. Patina looks lovely on bags and boots but not in a car. Fabric seats may not seem luxurious — they’ve long been associated with economy cars — but they do not have all these issues. In fact, the Toyota Century — the epitome of automotive luxury in Japan — opts for wool over leather pretty much for these reasons.
So fear not the use of textile over leather in your luxury wagon, and embrace the use of plaid. It may seem out of left field — it sort of is today — but plaid interiors have shown up in history’s most celebrated cars. One of the earliest notable examples is the Mercedes 300SL of the 1950s, a car many consider to be the original supercar. The pattern then had a more of a resurgence in the ’70s and ’80s and showed up in performance cars like the Porsche 911, Lotus Esprit and Golf GTi.
The latter is really the only other car today that offers the pattern on its seats, so the new option in the V60 is an incredibly welcome one. Two cars isn’t a trend, but one can only hope other car manufacturers take a good long look at how well these two cars pull off the pattern and realize they’re missing out on a great design opportunity. We already said every American should buy the new V60; when they do they should make the decision to go plaid.
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