Mercedes is giving buyers of its entry-level CLA the option of less-expensive, iPhone-based infotainment.
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Mercedes has announced a new, optional infotainment system that takes advantage of an iPhone's data connection to bring connectivity to the dashboard at a lower cost.
If you've got an iPhone, you'll be able to integrate nearly all its functionality with the optional iPhone connection kit that's debuting on the 2014 CLA and C-class models. The kit lets the driver use the buttons and knobs of Mercedes' COMAND user interface to control a phone, but the iPhone's data connection will be doing the heavy lifting when it comes to serving up directions and playing music.
While a traditional, car-based navigation and infotainment system will still be available, Mercedes is specifically courting smartphone owners who don't see the need to duplicate the computing power that's already in their pockets. Because the setup requires drivers to physically connect their iPhone in the glovebox, it will also ensure that drivers avoid using a phone while driving.
In addition to navigation and audio, Mercedes is also integrating Siri for totally hands-free connectivity. There isn't an option for Android yet, but Mercedes representatives assured us its in the works.
It's an interesting move for Mercedes, which is trying to attract younger buyers with the CLA. Those customers are likely already smartphone owners, and aren't interested in duplicating a phone's functionality with what they perceive to be superfluous—even inferior—technology.
The move toward letting customers use their own devices is also similar to what Chevy has done with the Spark, a decidedly less-expensive car, but one that's also aimed at younger, connected shoppers.