A Brilliant Execution

July 14, 2005
Many vehicles have tried to win my favor when it comes to in-car audio. I've loved Land Rover's audio systems since the amazing Linn audio systems graced their concept trucks. Lexus' Mark Levinson units are better than any home sound I've been privileged to own. And my beloved Ellie Mae has a plug right in the dash for my iPod - which has been like having one of the first in-dash CD players in the 1990s.

Now the R-Class has taken me a step closer to nirvana. It's just a simple cable and some steering-wheel-mounted switches - but in the end it makes the R-Class Benz the first new vehicle I've driven where iPods and other MP3 players can be controlled with the flick of a thumb.

Benz preloaded some iPod Minis with tunes and stowed them securely in the glovebox, connected to the R's audio system through a proprietary wire. Out of sight - but not out of mind. Using the steering-wheel controls, I could shift through playlists, albums, random song shuffles and even switch away into the R's standard Sirius programming.

Now taking your own music along with you doesn't have to mean ungainly wires draped over the dash, as my Element admittedly suffers. And you don't have to commit to a single order or list of songs - you can change your mind in mid-lane change if you like (though we wish you wouldn't). And when your exhaustive music collection fails you on some deserted stretch of Highway 101, you can flip on the satellite radio and catch the news - whichever flavor of news you prefer, red-state or blue-state.

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