Mercedes Benz Distronic is a term coined by Mercedes for their in-house adaptive cruise control systems. Mercedes Distronic was introduced back in 1999 for the W220 S-Class and it was one of the very first radar-assisted adaptive cruise control systems in history.
Nowadays you can get Distronic in almost every new model including the entry-level A-Class. There are a couple of different Distronic packages you can get. The most basic Distronic system works as a more traditional cruise control system that is not designed to stop you completely.
The Mercedes Distronic Plus system is a bit more advanced because it is also able to get the car to a complete stop. However, if you want the Distronic Plus system, you will also have to buy the driver assistance package.
The range-topping Mercedes Distronic Plus system with steering assist offers the highest level of autonomy because the car is able to steer by keeping you between the lines. However, there are some more advanced Mercedes autonomous driving systems such as the one found in the new S-Class.
Mercedes Distronic system – The basics
The basic modern Mercedes Distronic system is designed as a more traditional cruise control system with following distances, it will slow you down, but not entirely. If you want true adaptive cruise control capabilities you need to step up to the Distronic PLUS system.
This system uses sophisticated sensors and cameras up to 120mph. When you active the system you will see a green steering wheel symbol appear in your instrument cluster which means that the system is engaged successfully.
The system constantly monitors everything that is going on around you while putting a strict emphasis on keeping you between the lanes. The system is also able to do minor steering wheel corrections if you keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
This is the range-topping Distronic Plus system which also includes steering assist. The system works perfectly while traveling at constant highway speeds, but it is also a useful system to have while traveling in stop-and-go traffic.
Mercedes Distronic system – The technology
The Mercedes Benz Distronic PLUS is a fairly advanced piece of equipment that offers an additional layer of convenience and safety. The system takes advantage of three main radars, the long-range radar is located behind the grill and the other two short-range radars are located within the front bumper.
Short distances radars are able to scan everything in front of the car up to 30 meters while also utilizing an 80-degree scanning angle while the long-range radar is capable of scanning up to 300m at an 18-degree angle.
These radars monitor your surroundings constantly, and when the car in front moves, your Mercedes follows. When the system deems it needs to brake violently, it is going to alter you with an acoustic signal and a warning light in the instrument cluster.
Mercedes also offers a more sophisticated autonomous driving system in the new S-Class called Automated Valet Parking which can virtually park the car without any driver assistance. It is not yet sure if this system is going to become available in newer more attainable Mercedes models.
Mercedes Distronic system – Pros and Cons
The main benefit this system offers is convenience as it negates the need to operate both the gas and brake pedal at all times. The system works well which means that it should make your journey that bit more comfortable and less stressful, both in stop-and-go traffic and on the highway.
This system also boosts your overall on-road safety by watching everything that’s going on around you and adapting your drive according to the environment. However, the system is not perfect and there are a few disadvantages you ought to be aware of.
The first and most obvious drawback is the cost associated with getting the system. If you want the range-topping system you will also have to buy additional features such as the driver assistance kit. Furthermore, the system can sometimes feel a bit too assertive which is not something you want if you are not aware of it.
Finally, the system is unable to keep you safe entirely, as such you always need to keep a sentient eye on everything that is going on around you. It is also worth mentioning that Mercedes models equipped with Distronic fare a lot better when it comes to the second-hand market.
Is Mercedes Distronic worth it?
If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel both on the highway and in the city and you want the highest level of convenience and ease of use, the Distronic system is definitely worth it. If you look at the system as somewhat of a replacement for your own attention, then you will be disappointed because it is only an additional layer on top of your spacial awareness.
As such, some might find the system basic or archaic, but the reality is that automakers are not able to offer anything more because the current regulation does not allow them to. The system is indeed useful, especially when it comes to long-distance highway cruising.
Is Mercedes Distronic better than Tesla Autopilot?
Both of these systems are often referred to as industry-leading by many experts, but Tesla’s Auto Pilot indeed offers a more sophisticated and cohesive cruise control experience. Tesla is a technology software company that happens to design and build cars as well.
This is rather obvious because the AutoPilot is slightly better calibrated and more confident. That’s not to say that the Mercedes system is bad, but it’s not as cohesive as Auto Pilot is.
Is Mercedes Distronic safe?
As previously stated, Distronic is not there to replace your awareness, but rather to complement it. As such, if you keep your wits about you and you pay attention to everything that’s going around you, the Distronic system is indeed safe.
The system will prevent you from crashing into other cars by slowing the car down, but if you don’t keep your hands on the wheel, the system will prompt you to take control.