Mercedes Makes the Mundane ‘Magical’
Leave it to the Germans. Just when you think the most simplistic, mundane bits of a vehicle can’t be improved, they surprise. Such is the case with the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 Roadster, which packs more user-facing technology than this week’s latest and greatest Android device.
But much like the thousands of Android-powered smartphones, Mercedes has a problem with branding. Look no further than the latest technological breakthrough on the SL: Magic Vision Control.
Is it a heads-up display that shows turn-by-turn directions projected on the windshield? No. Is it an auto-tinting technology that follows the sun and dims its harsh rays? Not quite.
It’s a new windshield wiper. Seriously.
To Mercedes’ credit, the engineers in Stuttgart have tackled an issue that’s been completely overlooked by the competition. And maybe for good reason. But by removing the standard washer fluid nozzles off the hood and replacing them with dozens of pin-sized holes in the wiper blade, Magic Vision Control sprays less fluid on the windshield in more precise blasts. That ensures a cleaner clean, little to no overspray and not a drop of fluid entering the cabin when the top is down. Good stuff. But “Magic” it is not.
What does come close to automotive sorcery is the optional fitment of what Mercedes calls “Magic Sky Control.” It’s a technology that’s been around in a variety of forms for over a decade, but when the SL’s little brother, the SLK, debuted in 2011, it came equipped with a new moonroof that can go from nearly clear to completely opaque with the push of a button.
The roof uses the same basic technology you get with automatically dimming mirrors, but with a twist. A matrix polymer film encapsulates tens of thousands of oblong-shaped nano particles sandwiched between the two plates of glass making up the roof. (Yes, I had to look that up.) When an electrical current is applied, the particles coalesce, allowing light into the cabin. When the current is switched off, the particles disperse, and tint the moonroof to keep sunlight out.
It’s incredibly tricky and works in a second, but it’s hard to keep a straight face when describing it to your golfing buddies.
Granted, Magic Vision Control or Magic Sky Control aren’t as bad as the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, but they’re not far off. And if a moonroof and a new windshield wiper can be cast as “Magic,” why stop there?
So here are some branded names of current, future and potential Mercedes-Benz technologies just begging for the Magic treatment:
Magic Finger Control: Hands-down, the SL has the most pleasing mechanical massage function outside of the AcuTouch 9500. You can choose between four settings – slow and gentle, slow and hard, fast and gentle, or fast and vigorous. Why not go with one of the greatest branded names of all time, the Magic Fingers?
Magic Trunk Control: Another first for Mercedes is the inclusion of a new system that detects when your foot is kicked underneath the rear bumper, allowing you to pop the trunk hands-free as you wrestle a bag of dog food. Magic Trunk Control! You’re welcome.
Magic Cruise Control: Mercedes was one of the first automakers to market with adaptive cruise control, which lets you set your speed and then uses sensors in the front bumper to keep track of the vehicles ahead of you. When the car in front brakes, the Mercedes slows to a halt. It’s a boon for commuters and if anything’s magical, a car that can stop and start itself certainly qualifies.
Magic Air Control: It’s a beautiful day just begging for some top-down fun. But it’s a bit chilly out. The SL has the answer. Embedded in each headrest is what’s essentially a glorified hair dryer. It blows warmed air on your neck, and works beautifully in conjunction with the heated seats and aforementioned massage function.
Magic Hair Control: Mercedes just needs to up the amperage on the headrest neck warmers and – voilà! – your semi-wet hair gets a decent blow-out on your way to work. The only downside is the perpetually overplayed “hair dressers’ car” cliché. Alternatively, there’s the auto-deploying windproof head cover that keeps your perfectly coifed hair unmussed, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a convertible.
Magic Seat Control: Like many luxury vehicles, the side bolsters on the seats of the SL can be adjusted in or out to fit varying body shapes. But Mercedes takes it a step further (and BMW, for the record), by connecting the bolsters with the car’s computer to detect G loads. When you chuck the SL into a corner, the bolsters move inward to hold you in place. They also hug you when you attempt your best Dukes of Hazzard impersonation on a set of railroad tracks. Don’t ask how we know…
Magic Body Control: Two cameras scan the road surface ahead identifying bumps and potholes in the road. An on-board computer recognizes the ruts and loosens or firms up the suspension to compensate. Sound good? Mercedes already has a prototype running around doing just that, and it’s likely to be fitted to the next-generation S-Class. And yes, it’s already branded as Magic Body Control.
Magic Traffic Control: Taking the adaptive cruise control to the next level, Mercedes is working on a partially autonomous driving mode that lets the car steer itself when you’re stuck in start-and-stop traffic. Just like Magic Body Control, there’s a solid chance that Magic Traffic Control (or whatever it’s called) will make its debut on the 2014 S-Class.
Magic Bladder Control: Using Mercedes’ latest voice recognition technology and the ability to speak simple, natural language commands, the phrase, “I need to pee” will automatically route you to the nearest clean restroom.
Magic Child Control: As soon as the embedded microphones detect a crying kid, the passenger compartment dims, the child seat begins to rock and Dora the Explorer is automatically played on the rear headrest screens.
Magic Backseat Driver Control: At the flick of a switch, a soundproof, kevlar-lined panel is raised between the front and rear seat areas, eliminating any and all annoyances from the back. Can be used in conjunction with Magic Child Control.
Magic Road Rage Control: If the system detects elevated levels of stress in the driver’s voice, a calming elixir of kava, lavender and chamomile is spritzed toward the driver and Bon Iver auto-plays on the stereo.
Get on it, Mercedes. And where should we send our consultation invoice?