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The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class gets first crack at the company’s voice assistant

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class gets first crack at the company’s voice assistant


2018 A-Class hatchback is bound for Europe, but the US market has to wait for the sedan

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Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback
Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback
Daimler AG

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a sign that the automaker — known for its large, luxurious, and expensive cars — is starting to send its most advanced technology into more attainable vehicles.

While the A-Class hatch was revealed in its production form on Friday in Amsterdam, we got a ride in a mildly disguised version last month in Las Vegas when we saw the Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX, infotainment system that launches with this car. The company’s executives said that it wanted to launch the system — with its new “LINGUATRONIC” voice assistant that makes you say, “Hey, Mercedes,” to activate it — in the car that its youngest customers land in, with the most interest in technology, rather than much older demographic that goes for the $100,000-plus S-Class cars.

In Las Vegas, the system worked about as well as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It wasn’t perfect, but it did integrate well with the car’s navigation, phone, audio, and climate control functions. Better still, the graphics looked really slick on that prototype vehicle and still look good on the production car. Both the screen in front of the driver and the one in the center of the dashboard are configurable, displaying the information you want at any given time. The center screen is also controlled by voice, touch, or a touchpad on the console.

MBUX also enables car-sharing through the Mercedes Me app that’s rolling out on a number of the company’s new cars soon. Owners can decide who they let enter or start their vehicle for a given amount of time through the smartphone app, rather than having to juggle a set of physical keys. There’s also Car-to-X communications that Mercedes continues to introduce on its new vehicles, despite some indifference to the technology (at least from the US government).

Mercedes is also adding more advanced driver assistance technology to its smallest vehicle. The available adaptive cruise control now guides the driver around curves by performing some steering inputs, while an active lane change assist lets the car change lanes after the driver taps the turn signal.

The new A-Class hatchback goes on sale across Europe this spring, competing with the likes of the Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, and Volkswagen Golf. The US market, however, won’t get to experience MBUX until the end of 2018 at the earliest when the A-Class sedan, as well as next-generation CLA and GLA models, start to appear. Given the early impressions of it, buyers who are tired of clunky voice assistant integration in existing vehicles might want to check out the cars when they become available.