After nearly five months together, the Mercedes B-Class and I are most definitely on the same wavelength. You see, thanks to its brilliant DAB radio, the car has reignited my passion for music on the move.
At home, I’ve been a digital radio convert for years, and I’m a keen listener to stations such as BBC 6 Music and Radio One Xtra. But until now, car journeys meant leaving my favourite tunes and DJs behind. Now, however, I can enjoy them in crystal-clear quality wherever I go. Better still, tuning in is much easier than on traditional FM units, while the Merc’s optional Harman Kardon stereo sounds just as good as most of the home hi-fi systems I’ve owned.
And on the rare occasions I’m not in the mood for some radio, the B-Class has plenty more entertainment options up its sleeve. For instance, there are three different connections depending on what music device or mobile phone you want to plug in. This set-up lets my wife and I charge two phones at the same time, while playing music through the stereo. And if you’re feeling a little old-school, then there’s always the six-CD multichanger built into the dashboard. Plus, regardless of what music source you’re using, the central display screen shows the right album cover and track name.
The B-Class’ brilliant DAB radio and neat USB connections are only a small part of a huge array of desirable hi-tech additions to our car.
Orchestrating all this cutting-edge kit is the job of the brilliantly intuitive Mercedes COMAND system, which uses a simple, centre console- mounted rotary control. After struggling for years with cars that rely on a huge array of buttons to access all their functions, this pared-down approach comes as a welcome relief. With a simple swivel and click of the wheel, I can easily access all the car’s audio, Bluetooth and navigation functions.
The Merc’s electronic guidance system is a real highlight. Not only is the mapping clear, it’s also a doddle to program thanks to its simple postcode entry function – much easier than inputting towns, roads and numbers.
I’ve also come to appreciate the Bluetooth set-up, which is straightforward to operate. Pairing your phone is the work of a moment, and the decent sound quality makes it very easy to hold conversations on the move.
I’ve even started using the Linguatronic voice control system. To get it working you have to speak a 15-number sequence and a list of 25 words, after which the software should be able to recognise your commands. I’ve only used it a few times so far, but given how in tune with the Mercedes I am, I’ve no doubt we’ll be chatting like old friends in no time.
“The Mercedes looks good and has plenty of upmarket appeal, but for my money the Ford C-MAX is a better bet for growing families.”
Paul Bond, Road tester
“On a car like this, things like a DAB radio and Vario Plus seating should be standard. It feels like you’re paying extra just for the Mercedes badge.”
Valkirk, via www.autoexpress.co.uk