The Mercedes A250 Edition AMG is a beautiful, 1.9 litre, 4-cylinder hatchback which churns out a nominal 225 bhp and goes from 0-100 in just over 6 seconds. The car drives quite smooth and corners Dubai’s interchanges with ease. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss.
Mercedes A250: What’s on the inside?
The Mercedes A250 comes with the company’s MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) infotainment system. As per my knowledge, the car is also the first to have this completely redesigned UI. It’s a system designed purely with a modern touch-interface in mind. Touch interactivity is extremely visible in A250 as you use it. The main display is a beautiful touchscreen, there’s a touchpad where gearboxes usually are and even the steering has touch-points (similar to those on Blackberry Bold devices from forever ago).
The car is decked out with tech that not only allows comfortable use through physical touch but also for a whole load of voice functionality. “Hey Mercedes’ is extremely useful while driving and quite intuitive.
Here in the UAE, we also have the MercedesMe app, which gives you a lot of access to your vehicle from anywhere. You can check on the car, unlock it, switch it on and off, etc.
Mercedes A250: Daily Use
The cockpit of the Mercedes A250 and its horizontal alignment can be very overwhelming at the first instance. There is just so much to interact with.
10” Media Display
The main interactive display is 10” but the dash is constructed in such a way that it looks like one long horizontal display. It goes right from the digital instrument cluster to the display itself. Understanding how the display works is pretty easy. Its extremely intuitive and pretty simple to understand. They interface is divided like any menu system today with a Homescreen, Basescreen and so on. You’ve got various categories such as audio, seat adjustment, car settings and many more. All these categories are accessible through swiping across the screen, which is seamless.
The User Interface (UI) is very well made. An example of this is the audio category is browsing your favourite radio stations through a vinyl-cover styled gallery or interacting with the maps through pinch and zoom.
Speaking of maps, I get that Mercedes had a great idea in mind when they created their mapping systems (on the basis of HERE maps) but there’s an augmented reality mode for the map that drove me mad. It shows you the drive like any GPS app but for some reason Mercedes decided to add a augmented reality as a background. The car uses the front cam to establish what’s around and then display’s it on the screen. I know it might seem like I’m nit-picking but for a feature people will be using a lot, I found it to be a major distraction. I’m not sure if the virtual sky can be switched off but I definitely like Mercedes to add that option at some point.
The customisations on the car are endless. One particular feature I love is the driver profile setting. Each driver (up to 7) can save all personalised settings like seat adjustments, screen brightness, vehicle ambience, call favourites, etc. So, whoever drives your car, doesn’t have to mess with your settings ever!
Right ahead of the arm-rest, replacing what would be the space for a gear box in most cars, you will find the touchpad for the vehicle. The touchpad is super sensitive and takes some getting used to. It also has three physical buttons above it. Now since I had the car for a very short period of time, I can’t say I got comfortable with the system because initially I would keep touching it expecting a gear. Later I found myself interacting with the main display or on the controls on the steering wheel.
The touchpad also comes with handwriting recognition to search for contacts and such but honestly, I never used this. The touchpad mainly came useful for quick gestures to change the song or radio station. Its haptic feedback helps with you not having to look down while using it too.
The hard buttons on the steering wheel are extremely well thought out. In daily-use it turned out to the primary mode of my interaction with the vehicle. On the right side of the steering wheel are the controls for media, calls and voice activation. On the left are the controls for cruise-control, speed-limiting and speed settings for both.
Now the unique factor aren’t the controls but the two touchpads on the steering. The touchpads (which heavily reminded me of the trackpads on Blackberrys back in the day) have individual controls. The one on the right controls the main 10.5” display. The one on the left controls the digital instrument cluster in front of you while driving. Both are extremely easy to use and definitely help keeping your hands on the steering at all times.
The entire interior of the car has a metallic finish and once you touch a lot of it you realise there’s a lot of plastic. That being said whether it’s the airplane like toggles for your AC or the seat adjustment buttons or the dials for volume, everything has very satisfying clicks and doesn’t feel flimsy in any way possible.
Last but definitely not least, comes the voice assistant. At varying degrees, we’ve all got used to voice assistants in our lives. On your smartphone you’ve probably used ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Ok Google’ atleast a few times.
Now you might be thinking that voice-assistants are a thing of the present but in actuality, Mercedes had this in the works over two decades ago. André Berton, Manager for Voice Control in Research and Development, Dailmer AG speaks about this on the Dailmer Blog.
“Mercedes-Benz is known as the inventor of the automobile. And we were also the pioneers in the voice control of vehicles. More than 50 years ago, our colleagues in Ulm began to develop programs for speech processing. Many of us were inspired by films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and by K.I.T.T. in the “Knight Rider” TV series. In 1996 we introduced our Linguatronic in the S-Class — it was the first voice control system to be installed in a vehicle. A voice control system naturally makes a great deal of sense in a driving context, because the driver’s hands should remain on the steering wheel and his or her eyes stay on the road.”
Does it work?
Now the reason I specifically mention this is because the sheer work put into the ‘Hey Mercedes’ functionality is visible right from the second you start using it. 8 out of 10 times the voice assistant would understand my commands even if I stuttered or stopped to think of the correct wording for a second.
Now Mercedes does claim that the car learns user behaviour and speech patterns as time goes by, but I can’t comment on the same since I only used the car for four days. While using the voice functionality I was easy able to adjust temperature, change tracks or radio stations and get directions. Now while there are more functions like cracking jokes and asking the voice-assistant what it thinks of BMW, those are mere gimmicks and I don’t find anyone using those unless showing off to other passengers in the car.
Daily-use is easy and the system works to make your drive safer and more efficient. I love that the entire system works offline too. Berton also mentions that the system is said to receive updates ‘about every six months’.
The MercedesMe app is a one-stop-shop for everything you want to know about your car while you’re away from it. You can also interact with the car, but while I was testing the car this wasn’t the smoothest experience. The app allows you to see the status of the car, check its location, start and stop the car and perform various other functions.
The one function I was most interested in was the start-stop one. We all know it gets really hot here in the UAE and being able to start the car a few minutes before getting to the car can be a real benefit. Unfortunately, this function just didn’t seem to work properly.
When it’s quirky..
It worked a few times, but when it didn’t, it was a real nuisance. For example, when the above photo was taken I was testing out the feature and switched the car on. Once the car was on, I wanted to switch the car off. Unfortunately the app wouldn’t respond and I needed to go all the way down to switch it off. In most cases (with all vehicles) with remote engine start, the car does go off automatically after a while if you don’t manually get into the car but still, this shouldn’t have happened. Something similar also once happened with the windows. Considering we’ve reviewed smart car apps as far back as 2016, its pretty disappointing to see these bugs.
Apart from this the app works pretty well. Location tracking is great and the immense information on your smartphone can be handy in many scenarios. All-in-all a decent perk to spend some money on.
Mercedes A250: Final Thoughts
The overall experience on the MBUX system in the Mercedes A250 was an absolute delight. When it comes to the task of adding technology to a car and it actually being useful for the consumer, I give Mercedes top marks.
The ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice capabilities, MBUX’s beautiful thought out user experience and the steering wheel controls stole the show for me in this review.
The Mercedes A250 starts at $41,050 (Dh150858.75) and the MBUX system is standard to all of them. At this price, the MBUX system and the zippy comfort of the Mercedes A250 come together at pretty decent package. For more information on the car, click here.