When you slip behind the wheel of the AMG GLE 63 S Coupe, you can’t help but notice the dashboard display. Neither can the drive-through clerk at Starbucks, the random person who walked by while I was waiting at the library, or a few of the passengers who went for a ride.
What you notice is that it runs the full width of the dash from above the steering column to the left knee of a front passenger. Stretch your arms out in front of you and hold them there — that’s about how wide the display looks in this sporty crossover. (By the way, hold on for the ride with 603-horsepower and enough torque to push you back in your seat in a way that any crossover has no right to do.)
Known as the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), it’s basically one massive iPad you can use for controlling all of the settings in the car. I connected my phone over Bluetooth and played some of my favorite songs just to hear what they sounded like on the surround-sound stereo and to see what the albums and artist info looked like on the display.
In recent years, cars have started going far beyond the simple center screen that you could argue started with the Tesla Model S back in the day, the one that looked like a 12-inch iPad. These days, the best displays I’ve seen have been in vehicles like the Toyota Sienna and many Volvo models, but none of those can compete with the MBUX.
It starts with the spacious design. I was able to see my phone connection to make and receive calls, but also the navigation pane in the center and then the music control on the far right. Above the steering wheel, the same display has such vibrancy and rich color that it almost seemed like a video game. In the AMG GLE, accent lights surround you on all sides, complimenting the dash display.
The AMG GLE goes a few steps further than that with voice control. I’m usually partial to Apple CarPlay but I liked how the Mercedes voice control lets you speak in normal sentences to say what you want. You can say things like “Hey Mercedes, I’m looking for a gas station” and the voice control will understand you are looking for a nearby location. You don’t have to say quite the right phrase, which is still common on some newer cars with voice control.
What I’m expecting next is that the entire front dashboard will be a display soon enough, and so will the side panels on the doors. It will not be just surround-sound but also surround-display. On the side panels, you might decide to control some of the lights or even push a button to open the door. The passenger will be able to control their display, play a movie that is hidden from view from the driver, and even customize the climate controls.
And then that will extend to the backseats. I’m envisioning a day when displays will be available for the driver and every passenger, making it easy to cue up your own music or videos, play games, hold a Zoom call with friends or colleagues, and browse the web. It’s coming, and the AMG GLE is a hint of how that will all work, including the voice control.
Can’t wait for that to happen.