2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class review

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2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Photo: Supplied

2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Photo: Supplied

Mercedes-Benz has spent the last century creating cars that can avoid a crash, but this a collision it could not avoid.

The German brand has smashed the modern car head-first into the smartphone with its all-new A-Class hatchback, a machine that fuses convenience and connectivity with everyday motoring like nothing before it.

Mercedes' fourth-generation compact car may look like an evolution of its predecessor on the outside, and it doesn't move the needle too far in terms of its mechanical make-up, but it has revolutionised how those behind the wheel interact with the car, and the world around them.

It does that through a holistic new digital interface called MBUX - which is short for Mercedes-Benz User Experience - that sits within two 10.25-inch high-resolution screens on top of the dash.

The display concept isn't new, as the Digital Widescreen Cockpit was first introduced on the current S-Class almost five years ago, but the functions within it, and how occupants interact with it, are at the cutting edge of connectivity.

We had a preview of the MBUX system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year when it was first showcased as part of a static display, but using it in the real world during the A-Class' international launch in Croatia this week highlighted the sheer depth of its functionality and how easy it is to use.

Just as Steve Jobs said when he introduced the iPod, "you don't know what you want until you show it to them". This is the equivalent when it comes to connecting people, cars and the internet.

At its core, MBUX links embedded data sources within the car, like GPS and vehicle parameters, with cloud-based services, artificial intelligence and an advanced voice recognition system.

Within the myriad of functions, the main infotainment screen separates phone, navigation, audio, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control and vehicle settings across a horizontal plane, with additional shortcuts to key functions in two small circles below each icon, such as a quick link to your home or work address in the nav, selecting the next track from your media device, or calling your better-half under the phone icon.

While that all seems fairly conventional, it's super easy to use and to personalise. But it goes deeper than that, with the car able to learn from your driving habits and tailor the screen to suit. For example, if you're driving to work it learns what radio station you listen to in the morning, if you call your boss regularly at that time of day and stop at the coffee shop on the way, and will automatically bring up the quickest route, switch over the radio and have your boss' number on speed dial.

Clever stuff!

Source: Drive.