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A Look at the Mercedes-Benz Comand Infotainment System

It’s a full-featured platform but has a steep learning curve

This is one in a series of articles about how consumers experience radio and audio in today’s new car models.

Mercedes-Benz is one of the world’s oldest car makers. They’ve been responsible for a number of automotive innovations; since the late 1990s they’ve had some form of an infotainment system in the center stack of their leather wrapped dashboards. We learned what M-B has to offer during a recent test of the C 300 4 Matic sedan and the Comand) system for our “Radio-Road-Test” program.

The optional center console touchpad on the Mercedes-Benz Comand infotainment system. Touch the top to move between choices. The assembly is stationary in the console.

TWO TOUCHSCREENS AND A JOG WHEEL

It took me 20 minutes with the owner’s manual before I was confident enough to operate the system. In the model I drove, the Comand system had not just a touch screen, jog wheel and buttons. In the center console was a mini touch screen/ touchpad which gave some initial confusion.

What the driver and passengers see first, when the Comand infotainment system is powered up.

The raised surface fooled me into thinking that the assembly moved like a game controller. It didn’t. After some trial and error, I was able to navigate quickly between the vehicle control, navigation and audio system screens and make the proper choices with the console touchpad.

The standard Comand system also has a jog wheel and dash-mounted touch screen for control. Good thing. There are many, many choices that need to be made before one settles down to listen to audio, be it terrestrial broadcast, satellite or online streaming.

An HD2 signal is displayed. Note the illuminated HD Radio logo.

HD SCREENS AND HD SIGNALS

After the initial learning period, I dove further into the audio menus and found that the optional 10.25 inch display had HD resolution (1920 x 720), with smooth graphics and artist art. RDS information, when available, appeared.

In the test vehicle, the optional Burmester sound system had a tuner that received AM/FM, AM and FM HD and satellite radio. The standard M-B sound system will also receive HD Radio signals. The standard Comand system 7 inch display also has HD-like video resolution (960 x 540).

The radio/audio entertainment system home screen, from which all radio choices are selected.

CONNECTIVITY

The Comand system in our C 300 was enabled for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, as well as Bluetooth audio connection for the phone and audio. Our model had the TuneIn app loaded. Subscription-based internet access through AT&T is offered.

HIGH TOUCH, HIGH END

What you’ll see when you tune in a Sirius/XM channel on a Mercedes-Benz Comand infotainment system.

Owners of these and similar cars expect an experience with great attention to detail and a focus on quality. Compromise on these items does not occur often, if at all.

If your station has a commercial relationship with a M-B dealer, attention to detail is what’s needed on the station end if you expect to reach and keep owners of these connected cars as a part of your audience.

That attention to detail and subsequent focus on quality includes the basics checking RDS inputs and functionality; ensuring that the audio is processed to standard; ensuring that the signal is as robust as possible (whether on the main channel or an HD channel) and all metadata is entered accurately and completely, in a timely manner.

To get to one of the radio screens in the Mercedes-Benz Comand System, you have to do some menu diving.

DAS BESTE, ODER NICHTS

The Mercedes-Benz advertising slogan (translated from the German above) is “The best or nothing.” And nothing is what owners of these cars will spend with your advertisers, if they encounter a signal from your station that does not echo the quality of the vehicle in which they drive.

Paul Kaminski has been a Radio World contributor since 1997. He produces and hosts the msrpk.com programs Radio-Road-Test and the Radio-Road-Test Minute. His Twitter handle is @msrpk_com; his Facebook page is PKaminski2468.

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