One Week Using Sync, Part Two - 2013 Ford Focus ST Long-Term Road Test

2013 Ford Focus ST Long Term Road Test

2013 Ford Focus ST: One Week Using Sync, Part Two

January 28, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

In an earlier update, I wrote how I'd try using Sync, Ford's voice activation system, as much as possible for one week and minimize using the MyFord Touch (MFT) screen. Here's how it went.

First, the good news. Using Sync really does make a lot of tasks hands free, and that's good for driver safety. You can use Sync for most things, from changing radio presets to adjusting the car's temperature. I liked using it to switch modes for the touchscreen (quickly bringing up the map, for instance) but I found it most useful in terms of audio.

Instead of using the finicky touchscreen to pick a playlist or artist from my phone, I'd just say "Play artist: Metallica" or "Play song: Skyfall" to quickly get what I want.

I only have about 10 satellite radio stations I listen to, so once I've cycled through the first six (using the steering wheel buttons) I'd say "Sat two" to move to the next band, or "Sat one, preset one" to move back to the original group of six presets. There's a Mode button on the steering wheel that will change audio sources, but it cycles through every source (satellite, AM, FM, etc), which I don't want.

I didn't use Sync as much for navigation or phone calls, mostly because I didn't have the opportunity. But for the few tests I did try out, Sync again worked well for inputting a destination or calling a contact on my phone. And while I don't have any way to really verify this, it seems like Sync has gotten better over the years at actually understanding what you say.

Now, the bad news. First of all, it is a little weird talking to the Focus. Talking to the Enterprise might have been fine for Captain Picard, but here it never quite seemed normal. I'd be quietly listening to something, but then pushing the voice button and saying a command would disrupt that calmness. It's really bad if there are other people in the car with you.

There are two other issues. One is you have to learn all of the voice commands. So that takes some time. And yes, Sync still wouldn't always understand what I said, and I'd get frustrated with it. But that was pretty rare.

One can argue that what I've described is just a Band-Aid for what is still a finicky touchscreen interface, or that a soundly designed set of physical buttons would be preferable to all of this. And those would be pretty good arguments. But from a hands-free and therefore eyes-on-the-road and safety standpoint, Sync works quite well.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,895 miles

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