How big is Texas? If you’ve ever wondered, good news: you’ll soon be able to Ask Mercedes.

Next question: why did Mercedes-Benz choose to launch the new CLA at the Consumer Electronics Show technology event in Las Vegas rather than at the Detroit motor show that takes place next week? I’ll field that one: because of the car’s younger, tech-friendly audience.

The CLA has been key to Mercedes increasing its appeal among more youthful buyers, particularly in the US, where the average CLA customer is 10 years younger than for any of its other models. In Europe, the average age of a CLA customer is also younger than for any other Mercedes, and half of all buyers of one previously owned another car firm’s vehicle. Crucially, according to Mercedes, 75% of CLA customers went on to buy another Mercedes as their next vehicle. 

In other words, it is a conquest car, allowing Mercedes to win over younger customers - who could go on to buy several more of the firm’s cars. Reaching a more youthful market means pitching the CLA at a smartphone-savvy, Netflix-loving, internet-dwelling audience. So, as a result, Mercedes has packed the CLA with plenty of tech. Like the related Mercedes-Benz A-Class, it receives infotainment systems previously only seen on the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, including a host of advanced features.

So the reading lights can be controlled by waving a hand near the rear-view mirrow, an ‘energising coach’ system can sync with a Mercedes-Benz Vivoactive or Garmin smartwatch to recommend comfort settings (and even display driver’s pulses in the media display), and there’s the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system.

That system includes the most advanced version of its Ask Mercedes system, which, the company says, can now respond to “more complex queries”. In its CLA press materials, the firm provided examples of such questions, which include how has the Apple share price performed compared with Microsoft, what is the square root of three and, yes, exactly how big Texas is (it’s 268,581 square miles, if you were wondering).

Okay, it’s not quite KITT, but it’s an intriguing step. Will the ability to ask your car complex queries add appeal to customers used to talking to their phones? Hmmm, that’s one to ask Mercedes in a few years…

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