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If you’re a fan of cars, chances are you’ve heard of or seen Alcantara. Only a few years ago, car lovers were interested in mainly the performance and exterior of their vehicles. But today, auto manufacturers must ensure cars look spectacular and perform well on the inside too. That’s where Alcantara comes in.

What is Alcantara, and how do you pronounce it?

The Ferrari SF90 Stradale comes with optional Alcantara seats
High-performance cars, such as this Ferrari SF90 Stradale, come with optional Alcantara seats | Martyn Lucy/Getty Images

“Alcantara” is pronounced “al-KAN-taa-ruh.” This trade name for a soft suede-like material is used on vehicles’ steering wheels, headliners, seats, shifters, and door panels. It’s often used in luxury vehicles and supercars. Despite its resemblance to an exotic sueded leather, Alcantara is a synthetic fabric developed by Toray Industries in Japan in the 1970s.

Some consider this material preferable to leather in high-performance vehicles. Read on to discover the attributes that make this fabric stand out and why it might be a better option than leather for your car’s interior. 

Pros and cons of Alcantara and real leather

According to MotorTrend, Alcantara has been gaining popularity as an ideal material for car interiors. This is because it has additional attributes that leather lacks, the company Alcantara claims. Alcantara has many benefits and some drawbacks. Here are some pros and cons, according to Autoweek.

Benefits of Alcantara

  1. It is made of a microfiber pile with a bristled surface. Alcantara gives the look and feel of suede but with none of the negative aspects.
  2. It comes in many colors, providing customers with variety.
  3. Unlike leather, it can be laundered in a washing machine and is not sensitive to cleaning detergents.
  4. It is a good material for steering wheels and seats because it creates good grip so that the driver’s hands and body don’t slip or slide.
  5. It is vegan. No animal has to be killed for your car to look and feel good.
  6. It does not heat up like leather or get soggy like cloth in high temperatures.
  7. It does not require high maintenance given its resistance to liquids and dust.

Drawbacks of Alcantara

  1. The material is more expensive than leather.
  2. It is not as durable as leather. Also, Alcantara cannot be repaired.

Pros of leather

  1. It speaks of class and luxury.
  2. It looks and feels great.
  3. If well-maintained, it can last for years.
  4. It is versatile in its uses and comes in many colors.
  5. It can be repaired or replaced easily.

Cons of leather

  1. It requires high maintenance to remain in good condition.
  2. Even though it is long-lasting, it easily wears when exposed to UV rays.
  3. If not taken care of, it cracks and wears. Fortunately, replacing it is easy.

Differences between Alcantara and real leather

Despite leather and Alcantara sharing many similarities, they also have significant differences.

First, leather has a uniquely soft feel that’s incomparable. However, Alcantara is considered better-looking than leather and offers a car’s interior an exotic feeling. It also comes in more colors than leather.

But leather is longer-lasting than Alcantara. Though the fabric is also durable, it easily wears when subjected to frequent high friction. It is also noteworthy that it has a higher friction coefficient than leather. Unlike leather, which easily slips off when oily, Alcantara offers a firm grip. This is why it is a preferred material for most race cars.

In the past, Alcantara was mainly used for expensive performance cars. For instance, the fabric is used in Formula 1 cars as a flame-resistant seat covering. But the material is now being used more often in mainstream vehicles, such as the Subaru WRX STI. Other cars that use Alcantara include the Ferrari SF90, Lamborghini Urus, Lexus LC 500, Audi RS 3, Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, and BMW M3, M4, and M5.

The bottom line

Alcantara is considered a premium material. Its high friction coefficient makes it the number one option for sports cars. What’s more, when the material is used on a dashboard, it doesn’t reflect the sun’s rays, thus offering better visibility for drivers.

So if you’re a speed freak with fine taste in fabrics, an Alcantara interior is ideal for you.


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