Any Regrets From Buying a Car With a Black Leather Interior?

As I mentioned at the start, our silver Highlander XLE has a black leather interior. It’s incredibly comfortable and it looks fantastic when clean, but… Wow. It sure does show every little spec of dust, dirt, and grass.

The problem is particularly acute right now because we’re in the midst of soccer season. Thus, when I rolled into the driveway yesterday after a long day at the fields, I had to break out the Shop-Vac. It was either that or start raking the grass out of the carpets and of the seats.

But when I finished, I was once again reminded about how freakin’ fantastic it looks when clean. And it won’t show stains or other grime the way lighter seats do. So… Do I have any regrets?

Nope. No regrets. Not yet anyway. It’s not that hard to vacuum it out. And have I mentioned yet how good it looks when clean? 😉

Note: A decent set of floor mats makes the cleaning far easier.

Why black leather?

As for how we wound up with a black leather interior…

We’ve always bought silver cars. I prefer light colors because they don’t show dirt as easily (ironic, huh?). The same goes for scratches. And they don’t heat up quite as much. But I don’t really like white, so silver it is.

When we decided to buy our Highlander XLE, we were thus targeting Silver Sky Metallic. And since they only pair certain interiors with certain exteriors, our options were limited. It was either black leather or dark gray SofTex.

Related: Got creases in your leather seats? Join the club.

In case you didn’t know, SofTex is Toyota’s name for their synthetic leather. They claim that it has the same properties as leather, and the salesman that I spoke with said that it’s “better for the environment” and that it “holds up better than traditional leather.” Whatever.

If I’m buying a car with leather seats, there better be some actual leather inside. So the dark gray SofTex was out. And besides, I prefer a bit more contrast between interior and exterior.

Note: Just because a car has “real” leather seats doesn’t mean that everything is leather. In fact, even if you buy a Highlander with a real leather interior, my understanding is that only the seat bottoms and seat backs are actual leather. The rest of it (side bolsters, trim, etc.) is made of SofTex. And the 3rd row is entirely SofTex, too.

What about heat?

Okay, if you’re willing to ignore the fact that black leather requires a bit more upkeep in terms of vacuuming to keep little bits of whatever from showing up on it, what about heat?

I already said above that I prefer light colored cars because they don’t heat up as quickly. So surely a dark interior is a bad idea. Right? Well, for those concerned about heat buildup, I have a solution. Get yourself a windshield sunshade to block out the rays.

The rear windows are all tinted so the interior color should have a minimal effect back there. And if you’re worried about the front side windows, you can always get some aftermarket tint installed for relatively cheap. I’m personally not a fan of aftermarket tint, but I know that many are.

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5 comments… add one
  • Jennifer Sep 29, 2014

    My husband and I are debating buying a new 2015 Highlander. However, the third row seat headrests have me extremely concerned. Apparently, there are only two settings, up high or very low. The headrest levels are completely inappropriate for my kids’ (ages 6 and 8) heads. Given that this is a family car, I am baffled at the apparent lack of different levels for the third row seat headrest. Has anyone else had this problem? If so, please let me know how you addressed it. I feel that I cannot purchase the car because of this issue.

  • Scott Mar 14, 2015


    We are taking out brand new 2015 Highlander Limited in to a shop in 2 weeks to get the front 2 side windows tinted to match the rest of the vehicle. Has anyone else done this? Shop seems to think a Charcoal tint at 23% should match up perfectly. We just want to make sure that it does match the rest of the windows so that it doesn’t look like an aftermarket job gone bad.

  • Tiss Sep 8, 2016

    Many people are allergic to vinyl aka “softex”. If you’re going to spend that much on a car make sure it’s leather and not plastic seats no matter how fancy Toyota has named it. Good for the environment bad for your health. God only knows how Toyota even made that, all the toxi fumes from a new ones new plastic seats, scary.

  • Charissa Sep 26, 2016

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  • Barry Murphy Jan 21, 2018

    Any interior dash color other than black has a reflection in the windshield that can cause the driver to miss seeing something important, like a bicycle, motorcycle, or pedestrian. The glare from pastel colored dashes is actually dangerous and I won’t buy a car unless it has a black dash. The black interior does not get hot… the black EXTERIOR will get hot. By the way, the exterior colors that get the hottest are red and green! Interesting that plants that live on sunlight were designed by God to be green. Could it be that the color green absorbs the most colors of light, both visible and invisible? I know that I had a green car once and it was an absolute OVEN! If you are worried about black interior getting hot, USE YOUR AIR CONDITIONER! I’m glad to see black interiors coming back after so many years of boring pastels. Incidentally, Hyundai took away their black interior in the Hybrid Sonata for 2018. Too bad. My daughter was going to buy that car. Wake up car makers and GIVE US THE CHOICE OF INTERIOR COLORS!!!! Ford Mustang has the option of black interior, and they are selling like hotcakes.

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