Mercedes’ dashed im­pres­sive dis­play

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE HEAD TO HEAD - JOHN CAREY

WITH a su­per-stretched iPad serv­ing as in­stru­ment clus­ter as well as cen­tre dis­play screen, Mercedes-Benz is about to take a gi­ant step for­ward in dig­i­tal dash­boards.

Richly de­tailed and highly cus­tomis­able, the Co­mand Dig­i­tal In­stru­ment Panel will be an op­tion in the new E-Class.

This big sedan, a lon­grun­ning main­stay of the Mercedes model range, won’t be of­fi­cially un­veiled un­til the Detroit mo­tor show next month. The ex­te­rior of the E-Class re­mains un­der wraps un­til then.

Mean­while, the com­pany has re­vealed some of its in­ner­most se­crets, in­clud­ing a rad­i­cal re­think of how a car in­te­rior should look.

It mounts a pair of 12.3-inch full HD screens be­hind a sin­gle slim sheet of min­eral glass ex­tend­ing across half the new E-Class’s dash­board.

The maker had con­sid­ered, then re­jected, a smart­phone-like touch­screen in­ter­face. It also nixed ges­ture con­trol, a tech­nol­ogy adopted by BMW for its new 7 Se­ries lux­ury limo.

Stuttgart’s smarties in­stead de­vel­oped unique steer­ing wheel-mounted touch con­trols. Th­ese are ad­di­tional to the ex­ist­ing in­ter­face hard­ware, a twist-and-click dial with an over­ar­ch­ing touch­pad, mounted as a unit be­tween the front seats.

The steer­ing wheel touch con­trollers al­low nav­i­ga­tion of the E-Class’s good-look­ing menus with thumb swipes and presses, with no need to take a hand off the wheel. They are

in­tu­itive to use and the sen­si­tiv­ity can be ad­justed just like a desk­top’s mouse.

The touch con­troller on the steer­ing wheel spoke clos­est to the cen­tre of the car han­dles the in­fo­tain­ment, the other con­nects to the driver’s in­stru­ment dis­play.

To han­dle a heav­ier com­put­ing work­load, in­clud­ing nav­i­ga­tion, the cen­tre screen has a quad-core pro­ces­sor. A dual-core chip is good enough for the driver’s screen.

De­spite this dig­i­tal de­tune, the driver’s dis­play has three op­tions to cus­tomise graphic and colour treat­ments, a first for Mercedes-Benz.

Clas­sic and Sport look the way they sound and Pro­gres­sive is mod­ern and min­i­mal — a sin­gle do-it-all dial flanked by graph­ics with a glassy, city-at-night feel.

There’s a blank area about 5cm wide be­tween the in­stru­ment panel’s two screens — this is the area usu­ally ob­scured by the steer­ing wheel and driver’s hand.

What makes the new setup feel spe­cial is the cen­tral in­fo­tain­ment screen. It adopts dis­play graphic and colour themes to match those se­lected for the driver dis­play, fea­tures some fluid and in­for­ma­tive an­i­ma­tions, with even more cus­tomi­sa­tion op­tions.

The Co­mand Dig­i­tal In­stru­ment Panel was the work of a dozen-strong user-in­ter­face de­sign team as­sem­bled by Mercedes.

There’s just one is­sue with the digi-dash — it’s so classy that it makes the coun­ter­part in big­ger, more ex­pen­sive S-Class flag­ship, look passe.

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