Infotainment has become a critical part of a car’s user experience and an integral part of a vehicle. So far, manufacturers that control the software and hardware platforms from start to finish have delivered the best infotainment experience. Tesla is a good example of this kind of vertical integration in the automotive world, just like Apple is in the tech world. Gone are the days of outsourcing your infotainment system. Ecosystems matter.
Mercedes-Benz wants to achieve this kind of vertical integration with its ambitious new operating system, MB.OS. This “chip to cloud” platform focuses on four primary domains: infotainment, automated driving, body and comfort, and driving and charging. The entire suite of new tech is slated to arrive in the company’s vehicles beginning 2025, but you’ll be able to experience the first MB.OS domain – infotainment – in the 2024 Mercedes E-Class.
Earlier this week, at Mercedes’ R&D center in Sunnyvale, California, I was able to sit inside the 2024 E-Class and take the third-generation MBUX infotainment system for a spin. Visually, it’s similar to the current MBUX Zero Layer interface, but the app icons are flatter and more phone-like, and you can now change the temperature and seat heating/cooling directly from the control bar on either side of the home button.
Gallery: 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class MBUX Infotainment
Updated Hardware: Superscreen, Selfie Camera, And Motorized Vents
MBUX in the 2024 E-Class benefits from updated hardware. The new Superscreen is like the Hyperscreen, but with only two displays (centre and passenger). It doesn’t include the instrument panel, which is in a separate binnacle. The optional selfie camera is mounted in a little dome, situated at the top-centre on the dashboard. The air vents are motorised, but can also be adjusted manually, and their position is saved in your profile.
A single, more powerful computer runs the Superscreen. This aims to make the interface more fluid and responsive, and while that’s definitely the case, I still noticed some hiccups. Hopefully this will be fixed before the first cars ship. The viewing angle and brightness of the passenger’s display can be changed based on the driver’s gaze to prevent the driver from seeing what the passenger is watching. Mercedes calls this Dual Light Control.
The optional Burmester 4D sound system features 17 speakers and supports Dolby Atmos. Want even more of a club vibe? Active Ambient Lighting is a setting that synchronises the ambient lights to whatever audio is currently playing. 5G connectivity is now standard and completes the updated hardware package.
Software Partnerships: Google Place Details And Apple Spacial Audio
While Mercedes wants to be in control of MB.OS, it’s not opposed to partnering with what it calls “local heroes” – software services that are popular in a specific locale, like Google in North America, for example. As such, the third- generation MBUX in the 2024 E-Class already uses Google Place Details for points of interest and features native Apple Music integration – complete with Spacial Audio via Dolby Atmos.
In addition, the 2024 E-Class supports Apple CarKey and Apple HealthKit. The latter enables Mercedes’ Energizing Coach feature to customise its program based on your stress level and sleep quality. And when the full-spec MB.OS launches in 2025, it will use Google Maps in the US and Amap in China.
Android Apps: Angry Birds, Spotify, TikTok, And Zoom
One exciting MB.OS feature that’s already implemented on the 2024 E-Class is support for third-party Android apps. This is possible because the new MBUX runs Linux and implements Android app containers. Does this mean you’ll be able to access the Google Play store or sideload Android apps? No – you’ll have to install third-party apps via the Mercedes Me Store tied to your Mercedes Me ID.
Still, the advantage is that any Android developer can bring their app to MB.OS or create a new app for MB.OS. In fact, the 2024 E-Class I sat in came with Angry Birds, Spotify, TikTok, the Vivaldi web browser, Webex, Zoom, and Zync video services pre-installed – the same apps you’re already familiar with. I played Angry Birds, made a Zoom video call, watched a few TikTok clips, and used Vivaldi to browse Motor1.com.
Routines: Automate Your Car
You might already be familiar with routines if you use Google Home or Amazon Alexa to automate your home. Routines on this MBUX system are pretty much the same thing, but in your car – a set of rules that let you automate tasks. Wanna turn the temperature down, crank the fan up, turn on seat cooling, and switch to the Chill channel on SiriusXM when you’re in a traffic jam? There’s a routine for that.
But the 2024 E-Class can also suggest routines based on your habits. If you turn on the seat heating every morning between 8 and 9 AM after starting the car when the temperature is below 45 degrees, a suggested routine – shown in a different colour – will eventually appear in your list of routines, and you can either save it or delete it.
Overall, I walked away impressed with what the infotainment system in the 2024 E-Class has to offer. Mercedes’ third -generation MBUX is more responsive and more intuitive but doesn’t deviate too far from today’s Zero Layer interface. While I find the third-party Android app support particularly exciting, I’m curious to see how this ecosystem develops. Curating the Mercedes Me Store properly is going to be very important going forward.