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While some car brands, like Polestar, turn to tech companies for infotainment, most automakers design their own. Mercedes, with its MBUX infotainment system, falls into the latter category. MBUX has won the German automaker awards for its design and garnered praise from reviewers, especially in its latest incarnation. But what’s it like to use in the real world?

What is Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system?

The center touchscreen on a 2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class showing the MBUX infotainment system layout
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class MBUX infotainment system center touchscreen | Mercedes-Benz

Short for ‘Mercedes-Benz User Experience,’ the MBUX infotainment system is what controls the media and navigation features in a Mercedes vehicle. It originally debuted in 2019 on the A-Class and has since propagated to more of the automaker’s cars. As of 2021, Mercedes offers MBUX on the following models:

  • CLA Coupe
  • CLS Coupe
  • E-Class
  • S-Class
  • GLA-Class
  • GLB-Class
  • GLC-Class
  • GLE-Class
  • GLS-Class

The MBUX infotainment system is centered around dual digital displays: the center touchscreen and the gauge cluster. In most Mercedes models with MBUX, each display measures 10.25”, AutoExpress notes. However, some models have larger displays. Significantly larger, in the case of the 2022 Mercedes EQS.

Between the two, the center touchscreen does most of the heavy lifting, Roadshow explains. It’s where you access features like navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and vehicle settings. However, some of this information can also be displayed on the configurable gauge cluster. For example, instead of a speedometer and a tachometer, you can have one of them be a miniature map.

However, the Mercedes MBUX infotainment system isn’t solely controlled via the touchscreens. There are also two small touchpads mounted on the steering wheel and a larger one on the center console. And if equipped with the Voice Assistant, MBUX accepts voice commands prompted by ‘Hey, Mercedes.’ Plus, both the Assistant and the system overall feature artificial intelligence that learns the driver’s habits and speaking methods.

As of this writing, the Mercedes MBUX infotainment system is in its second generation. Introduced on the 2021 S-Class, it offers more advanced AI algorithms and more connected services. Plus, an increased ability to recognize complicated voice commands and even tell jokes. And because Mercedes offers over-the-air updates for MBUX, it continues to gain features, MotorTrend reports.

Once it’s set up, using the MBUX infotainment system on the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is a breeze

The red-and-black-leather interior of a 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 with its MBUX infotainment system active
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 with MBUX infotainment system active | Matthew Skwarczek

MT and Car and Driver both found plenty to like about Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system. And having spent some time with a Voice Assistant-equipped 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, I walked away similarly impressed. Once I got everything set up, that is. 

Arguably the biggest initial hurdle with MBUX is that, while it’s easy to navigate, there’s a lot of to navigate through. Some settings, such as the ambient lighting, require going through a few submenus. And picking out your ideal gauge cluster configuration takes time due to the amount of displayable information. To be fair, using the Voice Assistant simplifies things. But as it’s an option, not everyone will necessarily have access to it.

The digital gauge cluster on a 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 showing MBUX infotainment system configuration options
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 gauge cluster showing MBUX infotainment system configuration options | Matthew Skwarczek

However, once everything’s in place, the MBUX infotainment system is easy to live with. The touchscreen has a bright, crisp display whether it’s showing infotainment graphics, camera feeds, or the augmented-reality navigation arrows. And it responds practically instantly to your touch. Also, while some settings require submenu hunting, everything is laid out logically.

As for the non-touchscreen controls, the various touchpads are just as responsive as the touchscreen. And while configuring the gauge cluster takes some time, the investment is worth it. On my loaner Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, I had one gauge be the speedometer, one to be a mini-map, and put audio controls in between them. But I could also have the Mercedes MBUX system display things like tire pressure, fuel-economy figures, and how much torque and horsepower I’m using at a given moment.

Plus, several physical controls supplement Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system. There are switches and buttons for the HVAC system, for instance. And if you want to quickly jump to the phone, navigation, or audio menus, there are buttons for each.

A few minor issues remain

Overall, the Mercedes MBUX is a solid infotainment system. My MotorBiscuit colleague said much the same when she reviewed the GLB 35’s cousin, the GLA 35.  But there are a few small items that might need tweaking.

Besides the submenu hunting and setup time, not all of MBUX’s control methods are immediately obvious. For example, it took CarExpert some time to realize the left steering-wheel touchpad could skip through audio tracks. It took me a similar amount of time to learn that as well.

On the plus side, having the audio controls in the gauge cluster lets you skip stations even if something else is on the touchscreen. For example, you can’t change songs on the touchscreen while the navigation is pulled up. If you’re not using the steering wheel controls or the Voice Assistant, you have to exit out of the navigation feature and access the audio one. Though to be fair, that’s likely why the hard buttons exist.

Still, none of these issues prevented me from enjoying using MBUX. While it takes a bit of time to learn its ins and outs, it’s an easy infotainment system to live with once you do.

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