Maria Montero

Mercedes-Benz GLC first drive: a mature SUV with an assistant …

I am a huge fan of cars. Not so much of the screens they use inside of them these days. You see, despite the development of the automobile over the past three centuries, the past 15 years have shown just how out of reach automakers can be. Sure, cars are getting more efficient, using alternative fuels, and performing better than ever, but they’re not ubiquitous yet. There are many places on earth that would consider a car the privilege of the well-to-do. But those same places have advanced in the democratization of connectivity with mobile phones. Cases in question: India and China. You see it all around you – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or how much money you make – you can (and probably have) made a TikTok video. Give a child an LCD screen and they will slide it around waiting for something to happen. This is where we are, this is how we have been trained. We are mobile first.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

    Mercedes-Benz GLC First Drive: A Mature SUV With A Teen Voice Assistant

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC

Hello Mercedes … it doesn’t matter

Two days ago, as I made my way through Bangalore traffic in the Mercedes GLS that the automaker sent for me, I was struck by the sheer number of buttons and controls on the large SUV, apparently to control various functions as quickly as possible. . The driver seemed to rely on Google Maps for directions to the hotel, so I decided to give him a head start by programming the onboard navigation to do the same on the bigger screen. It took me five minutes to enter “MARRIOTT” using the jog dial and capacitive panel combination, and another two to figure out where the ENTER / OK button was. Excellent context for what we will soon experience: Mercedes’ new MBUX infotainment system, developed in part in India, promising a completely new and efficient way of interacting with one’s car.

This is not a new idea. You’ll find a voice assistant button on the steering wheels of most cars with a decent infotainment system, but Mercedes has decided to go one step further by developing its own on-board system. Most cars will essentially invoke the assistant on your phone (Siri / Google) when you press that button. This car, however, reacts to “Hello Mercedes” or the button, and it does so almost instantly. Mercedes has partnered with Xilix and NVidia to ensure the hardware specs are on point, and it shows – the system itself is fluid and responds quickly and accurately to gestures. The UI also appears to be revised to use large touch targets and less ambiguous buttons and text. This is important for when you are driving and you need to focus on the road.

MBUX in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC

MBUX in the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC is finally a touchscreen

But really, the trip to Bangalore was all about the voice assistant. We even visited the offices of Mercedes Benz Research and Development India to take a look at the parts made in India and their gigantic team of 10,000 people. This is where things got interesting, and Mercedes betrayed its legacy as a car maker, not a tech company. While there is a great deal of capacity and offline capability in MBUX, much of the functionality relies on an internet connection to Mercedes’ own cloud and through that its API partners.

Apparently, Mercedes decided to install SIM cards from a recently beleaguered telecommunications company in its press fleet: the cars we were driving. Unsurprisingly, 4G connectivity was spotty and completely offline in many cases. This left the MBUX voice assistant severely disabled. We are eager to see how the car performs in urban areas when we do a road test. We’ll give the MBUX voice assistant a pass this time, because I think connectivity was a major issue.

Additionally, MBUX includes a connected car element through the Mercedes Me app. Like Kia and MG, the Mercedes app allows the car owner to track the location of the car, operate some functions like lights and air conditioning, etc. We expect this to become more and more common in luxury cars as they are already available to consumers in cheaper models as well as aftermarket add-ons.

Driving impressions

Actually, I was much happier running the new GLC than trying in vain to interact with its systems. A bit tweaked for 2019-2020, the GLC remains curvy, understated, and confident as a design exercise. There is some shiny chrome under the bumpers, new headlights and taillights, but it appears to be a minor facelift on the exterior. The proportions are still generous, muscular but not sporty. Mercedes seems to have left the racing crowd behind with its AMG line of vehicles. The GLC is still very mature in appearance, as well as in the way it drives.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC wood grain

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC wood grain is unvarnished and looks luxurious. Although we miss the memory of the seat

Coming straight from a chauffeur-driven previous-generation GLS, the GLC’s comfort and luxury were familiar, but surprising for a supposedly lower-end vehicle. The GLC’s cabin is as quiet as the one I’d just experienced, and it stayed that way even with the engine running high. The engine we tested was a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel producing 194PS & 400Nm, and upgraded to BS6 specs. There are no compromises on this new engine, and combined with the 9-speed automatic transmission, progress is smooth, fast and seamless. Riding modes are available, but clearly, things are tuned for balance and comfort rather than spirit.