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A COMAND you can master

The next generation of Mercedes' COMAND system looks like a winner

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We have spent a good deal of time over the past few months complaining about the navigation systems in Mercedes-Benz models. As we found in the 2007 Mercedes E550, the E320 BlueTec, and the SL550models, the Benz COMAND solution for onboard tech fails to live up to its cars' world-renowned performance credentials. With its small, poorly rendered navigation screen buried at knee-level in the center stack and fidgety controls, the existing system leads had us tearing our hair out more than once.

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Well, today at the 2007 New York auto show we saw the next generation of Mercedes' cabin technology on show in the 2008 model year C300 and C350 sedans, and we have to say, we are impressed. Gone is the washed out blue-on-blue display surrounded by unmarked plastic buttons. In its place, a bright, high-resolution screen pops up out of the dash at the touch of a button.

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The menus on the new Benz multifunction system (which can be used to control everything from navigation to audio to video to hands-free calling) are intuitive and easy to program using a dial on the central console. Another encouraging element of the new system is that it appears to be configured to be able to connect to any Bluetooth-enabled phone, as opposed to the proprietary hands-free calling system (or the $400 add-on Bluetooth modules) that Mercedes has relied on in the past.