At CES 2019 announced a new wearable, the 2020 CLA alluding to the technical prowess of the new and improved MBUX that would be launching in the new car. The CLA will join the A-Class and GLE-Class SUV in offering Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system. The next-generation system is a huge leap forward over the previous generation COMAND interface. The system incorporates natural language.
The voice control is set up to recognize the trigger phrase “Hey Mercedes,” and can reply to complicated questions. On a drive with the system in Croatia I even found an easter egg where Mercedes told me she loved me! In the press conference in Las Vegas they demo’ed a more practical example: “Hey Mercedes, which child-friendly Asian restaurants are nearby that are neither Chinese or Japanese?” We haven’t been able to test the new system for ourselves but we hope they have increased its edge computing capabilities (the ability to problem solve without the cloud) so the system can be more responsive when data connection becomes limited.
MBUX is housed on a standard seven-inch screen, with the accompanying seven-inch gauge cluster, but most folks will likely upgrade to the larger 10.25-inch screens. The screen is operated by touch, natch, but also by touch pads on the redesigned steering wheel as well as a new touchpad on the center console.
In an interesting twist, we’re seeing some new methods of interacting with the car, the CLA get the Interior Assistant, which we first saw on the GLE. The gesture-control system replaces pushing buttons you can do things like wave your hand towards the rear-view mirror to turn on the light, or gesture over the passenger seat if you need the light on there. The technology works during the day and in complete darkness.
The Interior Assistant has more complicated gesture controls as well, throw a V finger-gesture over the center console and your pre-programmed favorites are loaded up. The system can also distinguish between passenger and driver’s hands and bring up each person’s favorite functions.
When it comes to smart driving features the adaptive cruise control gets technology boost with route-based speed control. Using the GPS, the car will automatically slow down for curves, toll road stop or whatever else shows up on the map. The system detects if there are slower speed zones, like say for construction and will slow the car accordingly.
Other new driver’s aids in the CLA include active steering assist to keep the car centered in the lane as well as active lane-change assist. Active emergency stop will bring the car to a complete stop if the system thinks you aren’t paying attention or are otherwise incapacitated.
These new offerings, coupled with the now de rigueur blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assist, mean the CLA will be one of the most techy compact offerings on the market.
Inside, the design echoes that of the new A-Class — that is to say, the now ubiquitous turbine-inspired HVAC vents are front and center, topped by the optional larger screens and plenty of ambient lighting.
Mercedes joked during that they were launching the sexiest gadget of the show, a new wearable that could go toe to toe with anything launched at one of the world’s largest tech conferences.