2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class first drive review: A better baby Benz
In addition to that touchscreen, MBUX can be controlled through steering wheel controls like other current Mercedes systems, via an enlarged trackpad with haptic feedback (the rotary dial is gone), or by natural speech recognition. The driver doesn’t have to learn what specific commands MBUX will accept. It recognizes any of the hundreds of ways someone might say something like “navigate to work.” Voice commands are prompted by a button on the steering wheel or simply by saying, “Hey Mercedes.” I find, however, that it lurks in the background like an overly helpful version of HAL and wants to chime in when anyone in the car says the word “Mercedes.” That can happen fairly often…in a Mercedes.
Mercedes says to think of MBUX like Siri or Alexa on wheels. I throw some questions at it: “Who starred in ‘The Help’?” and “How far to Mount Rainier?” It doesn’t recognize what I’m asking for either question. Either that internet connection is bad here or the intelligence behind it isn’t as smart as Siri.
One surprise-and-delight feature is the augmented reality feature on the navigation screen. On the route Mercedes has programmed, a forward-looking camera shows a view of intersections where we’re supposed to turn. Over top of that, it adds navigation arrows, the names of streets, and the occasional street address, all which proves especially helpful when the streets aren’t marked.
The MBUX screen swipes quickly left and right to move through XM radio stations, the system will pair a phone via Bluetooth on the move, and it is fairly intuitive to find various functions.
Occasionally, however, the navigation system doesn’t provide enough instruction to keep me on the correct route. After a profane rebuke from my driving partner to MBUX, the system responds: “You can’t handle the truth.”
See? Even when it’s frustrating, MBUX is entertaining.