Car Tech Spotlight: Mercedes-Benz Radio
Proprietary streaming music service in the CLA 250 provides a cool soundtrack of curated music, but with lots of lag.
Streaming audio has become a must-have infotainment feature, with the popular service Pandora Radio becoming a standard in many vehicles. A 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 I recently tested uses TuneIn instead of Pandora as part of an optional apps package for the subscription-based mbrace Plus telematics system.
It also features Mercedes-Benz Radio, a music channel that provides “a hand-picked selection of music, all day long, every day of the week, commercial‑free.” The music “is based on the curated style and genres of Mercedes‑Benz Mixed Tape” assembled by the Mercedes-Benz online magazine mb!, and it’s also available as a music stream on a computer or via a mobile device.
I really liked the music provided by Mercedes-Benz radio, and that someone was playing deejay for me. Mercedes-Benz Radio also had a cool feature I haven’t seen in other cars, but was frustratingly slow to respond.
While most streaming services allow you to tailor music to your current tastes by picking artists, as with Sirius XM satellite radio, Mercedes-Benz Radio allows discovering artists and bands you may otherwise never encounter. It also lets the user set the sound quality by selecting to receive the stream at either 64, 128 or 160 Kbps, which makes a discernible difference.
And though Mercedes-Benz Radio doesn’t have deejays, a song’s title and the artist’s name along with artwork associated with the track is displayed on the CLA250’s 5.8-inch dashboard display. Except at times the system was so slow to respond that I was unable to get info on a song I found interesting.
As you can see in the beginning of the video below, I wasn’t able to find out the song title and name of the artist of the track that was playing (if you know what it is, let me know in the comments below), only because I was checking out other functions of the infotainment system. And by the time the system responded, the next song had started.
Then you’ll notice in the video that when I went one menu back and then immediately selected Mercedes-Benz Radio again, instead of going back to the display showing the track info, the system showed “Connecting …” for a full two minutes. Or until I finally give up.
I’ve seen this lag before with the Mercedes-Benz's mbrace system, even though I have good Verizon Wireless coverage in my area, which provides the data connection for mbrace. Mercedes-Benz Radio is a fun feature and a good differentiator for the CLA250, but sometimes not really worth the wait.
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