The short, two-tier dashboard is topped by an instrument cluster that looks a lot like the S-Class’s two conjoined screens, only without a cowl, making it stand free and look for all the world like it’s the interior of a concept car.
They’ve used a louvred-style film on the screens to stop light reflecting off the windscreen and windows, and the simplicity of the look allows the two-tiered, sculpted dash itself to be symmetrical, reducing complexity and fussiness.
There is an all-new row of switchgear for the ventilation system, carved out of aluminium, in a ribbon below the three central vents. There’s also a soft-covered armrest behind a squared touchpad.
The MBUX voice-command system now runs to the philosophy of Amazon’s Alexa setup, allowing for chattier, real-world conversations and instructions, effectively acting as a concierge.
It is capable of networking with the Internet of Things and cloud-based services from Google and Amazon’s Alexa (though not yet Apple’s Siri), allowing drivers to just ask for any information about the car, the drive or their own work or personal diaries.
But it’s the Ask Mercedes function that Mercedes-Benz expects to the A-Class’s most popular digital feature.
"Research shows most people are only aware of about 20% of the features available to them from the products they buy," Sajjad Khan, Daimler’s vice-president for digital vehicle and mobility, says. "This makes it easier to understand what the products can do."
Ask Mercedes is claimed to help by combining artificial intelligence with an augmented-reality chatbot, so anybody inside the car can ask questions by typing them on a smartphone or using voice recognition. It can also be used away from the car via Facebook Messenger, Google Home or Amazon Echo.
It can answer questions about driving styles or fuel-saving techniques, or even the Daimler ownership structure and it’s augmented by upgrades to the little-understood Mercedes Me interactive system.
Owners will be able to unlock the car, along with opening its sunroof and windows on hot days, from a smartphone app, while there’s an "in-car office" available that lets drivers pre-load phone numbers, meetings and even conference-call PINs so they don’t need to look at their phones en route.
The standard rear seat remains a 60:40 split-fold unit, but there is a 40:20:40 option that can tilt the rear seat forward to add to the luggage space, without having to drop the seats. The luggage area is 225mm wider than before, swallowing two sets of golf clubs, a wheelchair or even a bicycle.
The clean-up of the body-in-white engineering has allowed a claimed 10% more exterior visibility from the driver’s seat, particularly improving the over-the-shoulder rearward visibility, which remains a major bugbear of other MFA cars, like the GLA and the CLA.
It’s not all good news, though, as the W177 follows Volkswagen’s Polo in refusing to offer overhead grab handles. It has coat hooks on the inner handles of the hatch so people can hang coats or bags while they pack the rest of the hatch area, but no overhead grab handles.
But it’s the leap in both technology and trim quality that will stand out, along with an ambient light show that includes 64 colours and it even lights up the inside of the sculpted, circular air vents, which come straight from the E-Class coupe.