The way I test is to press a fingernail into the material, then quickly remove and look. If you don't see any indent at all, it's leatherette. If you see the 'dent' recover in a few seconds, it's leather. Someone mentioned pressing with a thumb. Same concept, but I think this works better.
I use leather softener from Color Plus. IMHO it's better than anything else I've tried, and I've tried most products mentioned on the forums. It's also less expensive for the quantity you get. So far my new to me 2002 330Ci has absorbed about one pint. The South Florida sun is hard on leather.
Last edited by MitchSF; 02-01-2009 at 06:40 AM.