In total, Lucid Air and the new Mercedes S-Class were presented to the world with a difference of a month. Despite being direct competitors, their view of luxury is vastly different. The S-Class has always been a high-tech pioneer. Each model showcases a wide range of technological innovations. Lucid is an all-electric newcomer to the market with a focus on comfort and minimalist design. The difference between the two notions of luxury is highlighted in the interface design of both vehicles.
Every release of the new generation Mercedes S-Class is watched by the entire automotive world. This is a prelude to technologies that will become the industry standard in 10 years. Features such as adaptive cruise control, ABS and all-LED headlights first appeared in the S-Class. At Mercedes, innovation and luxury go hand in hand, and design just underlines this.
The 7th generation S-Class display is equipped with new technologies. It has a central OLED screen, a 3D dashboard and a head-up display with augmented reality.
MBUX, Mercedes’ multimedia system, has received a big update to match the new displays. The first thing you notice is how different it is from typical touch interfaces like iOS and Android.
The first difference is the use of 3D. 3D is rarely used in touch interfaces today as flat design is the standard. Anything that doesn’t fit with general design trends is often considered outdated or ugly. Mercedes boldly enters this path. To be successful, they must create a great modern 3D style that matches their design philosophy and innovation.
At first glance, it seems that they have failed. The user interface is a mixture of outdated trends combined with flat design.
Take the home screen, for example. The search button at the top has gradients similar to the typical skeuomorphic design from early iOS versions.
The rest of the buttons on the main menu screen are flat. The icons are a mixture of two styles. The theme of the icon is inspired by the flat design. It is an abstract symbol of the function it represents. But elements of skeuomorphism appear, transforming an abstract object into a real object. The end result looks a little strange …
Instead of a modern smartphone, the phone icon uses an old shiny office phone. What looks like an air traffic control tower emitting waves is a radio. Mercedes, apparently, also thought that this icon was incomprehensible the first time, so they wrote “FM” next to it. Then the media icon, which is a typical musical note, but with the word “TV” next to it. I don’t know why either.
For other features like climate control, this mixed style works better.
The concept of making digital interface elements similar to their physical predecessors is an obvious design choice. The dashboard is a good example of this:
Only in sport mode does it change to a typical digital display:
In this sense, interface design looks more into the past than the future. Mercedes uses these elements to highlight the heritage of its luxury brand.
It’s easy to criticize the style of the interface and the inconsistencies it creates. But in general, this approach makes sense. The flat monochrome interface stands out in the interior with many different angles, reflections and materials. In addition, in the case of Mercedes, the interface has more points of contact. It should work on the center console, 3D cluster, augmented reality HUD and rear passenger screens. Given the above, it seems that this is a holistic system for the future. However, its fulfillment is not a guarantee of the future.
Lucid Air is Lucid’s first production vehicle. It competes directly with the Mercedes S-Class as an all-electric luxury sedan. Compared to Mercedes, Lucid’s view of luxury is more minimalist and more focused on the well-being of passengers. As the first model of the company, he must emphasize brand values in order to lay the foundation for the future.
The Lucid call is the opposite of Mercedes. While Mercedes limits itself to its heritage, Lucid has no limits. They need to create an interface from scratch that defines brand values. Lucid has not said much about the interface yet, but enough to highlight the different views.
Like the interior, the interface is designed in a calm, minimalistic style. The first thing you notice is that the screens don’t stand out that much. A dark, solid color scheme attracts less attention and fits well into the interior. Gold is also used in other parts of the interior. You can say that UX designers and interior designers have worked together to create a single, comprehensive design. The infotainment system is part of a whole, not a separate function. The complete opposite of Mercedes solutions.
Another big difference between MBUX and the Lucid system is the structure. At first glance, Lucid’s interface looks much clearer than MBUX. Lucid uses a clear layering system. where most of the information is in transparent tabs, cards and windows, separated by a lot of negative space.
Its flat design is more inspired by existing popular touch interfaces. It uses familiar-looking interface elements such as icons, buttons and sliders where you expect them to be. They only have the decoration they need to communicate their function.
In keeping with the philosophy of minimalistic design, 3D elements are used only where they are useful. Without any of the limitations of legacy design, Lucid uses this opportunity to create its own digital look. The speedometer is a beautifully designed 3D element.
The interface also uses many 3D car models for information display and access control.
With this minimalistic monochrome design, the interface works more in the background. However, Lucid is showcasing its graphics capabilities to impress its customers. An example is a charging animation.
Compared to Mercedes, Lucid has a much more traditional approach. Following current design trends, it leaves a much better first impression. Not limited to outdated designs, it takes advantage of the opportunity to define modern style. As such, it stands out from its established competitors. Their vision of luxury is clearly communicated through their user interface design.
I love seeing such a variety of UI designs across brands. Both systems are very different from each other. It’s interesting to see how the interface design reflects both views of luxury. Lucid distinguishes itself from established competitors with a holistic and forward-looking design philosophy. The S-Class is more traditional, relying on a set of individual innovative features that stand out. Mercedes prefers to highlight its brand heritage through an interface. It will be interesting to see how these brands develop and converge in the future.