2013 Ford Focus ST Long-Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2013 Ford Focus ST Long-Term Road Test

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Sync Happens

August 28, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

So, this happened (again) in our long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST during my San Francisco road trip. Apologies for the blurry pic.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Vegas Road Trip, Part 1

July 30, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

Recently, a group of Edmunds employees (including me) traveled to the Zappos.com offices in Henderson, Nevada. Zappos is renowned for its strong company culture and unorthodox office space, so we Edmundsians took a tour, hoping to gain some inspiration. Since I prefer driving to flying and Las Vegas is just a couple hundred miles away, I seized the opportunity to drive there.

After packing the night before, I got up before the sun and set off in our long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST for the Zappos headquarters, 273 miles away.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Teaching My Parents MyFord Touch

July 26, 2013

 Ford Focus ST

My parents recently bought a car with MyFord Touch and as luck would have it, I was visiting when they took delivery. This gave me the opportunity to give my folks, and especially my mom, an Intro to MyFord Touch lesson. It's the most likely feature to cause headaches and although they bought a 2013 Escape 2.0 SEL and not a Focus ST, the experience would've been the same.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Naughty Nav System

June 26, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

During a 120-mile round trip drive, I was intently following the route I had entered into our 2013 Ford Focus ST's navigation system. Going through five freeway interchanges in 30 miles, I was especially attentive to my location, lest I miss a change and subject myself to an inconvenient exit turnaround.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Still Really Like Sync

June 6, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

Earlier this year I wrote how I forced myself to use our 2013 Ford Focus ST's Sync voice-activation system for a week as a test. I wanted to find out what it was like controlling everything from activating navigation to adjusting the climate temperature. Overall, I was pretty impressed.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Gotta Keep 'em Separated

May 28, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

I know we've have a couple of issues with the MyFord Touch during our 2013 Focus ST's tour of duty. However, when I've had the car the system was thankfully glitch-free. I had it multi-tasking to the max here with the phone paired, the iPod providing tunes and the navi doing its thing, and there were no hiccups. More to the point, I'd like to give props to Ford for its well-designed "Home" screen.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Intelligent Access

April 9, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

Our Ford Focus ST includes keyless ignition/entry (a.k.a. Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start), meaning you can unlock the doors and turn on the car while keeping the key in your pocket. Note the little black pad on the front door handle, which indicates where you press to lock the door. Also, note the lack of said pad on the rear door handle.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Blank Media Interface Screen

March 22, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

We encountered another problem with the media interface on our 2013 Ford Focus ST. In the past, we've posted about issues with phone pairing and the fact that our Focus seems to think it has a rearview camera. Well, add these mystery radio buttons to our list of audio and technology woes.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Steering Wheel Audio Controls

March 19, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

The technology on our long-term 2013 Ford Focus ST has more than its fair share of issues. From the annoyances with MyFord Touch and pairing our phones, to the car thinking it should have a rear-view camera the audio and navigation controls and software seem to be the weak point on this car.

I'm not a big fan of the system, and this week I found myself putting another item on the well-this-isn't-intuitive-at-all list: the placement of the steering wheel volume controls. What the heck are they doing on the right-hand side of the wheel?

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Recaros. Are They Worth It?

February 22, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

These Recaro sport seats are part of the Focus ST's $4,840 202A equipment group which also includes a pile of other features (Sony audio with 10 speakers, 8.0-inch LCD touchscreen, nav, dual climate control and more). That's the only way to get them.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Angles and Edges

February 8, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

There's a hip-hop producer named Madlib. He deals in a heavily jazz-influenced sound, big beats with lots of swing. He put out a CD about 10 years ago called "Angles Without Edges," and I keep thinking of the title, not necessarily the music, when I drive the ST. Because the ST seems opposite the title: the ST is ALL angles and edges.

This is, of course, the case with most new Ford dashes and instrument panels. Ford is pursuing a high-tech machine-matrix Transformers motif, following its conviction that touchscreen/voice-activation everything is the future. Which it may well be, but if the future looks like present My Ford Touch, we're doomed (example: MFT crapped on me on my way out of the garage the other night. Eventually I pulled over, shut down, got out, did the reboot. Nothing. Even did it twice. Nothing. No audio, no Sync voice, no volume, nothing. Drove home listening to the 2.0-liter and some Pandora streaming from the phone speaker. Next morning, there was music and Sync Lady and voice activation, as if nothing had ever happened between us. But the trust in our relationship has soured).

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Could Use A Rearview Camera

January 29, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

Our 2013 Ford Focus is really cool and one of my favorite cars in the fleet right now. So when it comes down to negative impressions, it's really just nitpick stuff. But one thing I do wish the ST had was a rearview camera.

Because of its swooping beltline and smallish rear window, the Focus hatchback does not provide the driver the greatest of rearward visibility. It's not terrible in the sense of a mid-80s Italian supercar, mind you, but it can make backing out of driveways or parking spots a bit trickier than I'd expect for a small hatchback. A rearview camera would offer a little extra peace of mind, especially since I see the ST as a more practical, everyday use car than something like a Scion FR-S.

Curiously, Ford actually offers a rearview camera as standard equipment on the regular Focus Titanium model, and that's for both the sedan and hatchback. Yet a camera isn't available on the ST.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 6,002 miles

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

January 16, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

Ford has taken a lot of flak over its MyFord Touch electronics interface. As we noted in an earlier post, the latest, updated system in our 2013 Ford Focus ST is better but can still be finicky to use. After getting annoyed at MFT's virtual buttons yesterday, it occurred to me that our Focus ST still has Sync, Ford's original voice activation system that's earned plenty of praise.

I suspect a lot of our editors haven't used our Focus' Sync system much because either: A) they forget it's there; or 2) they just don't like talking to a car. Neither is going to stop my little experiment, however, so for the next week or so I'm going to use Sync as much as possible.

Anything that Sync lets me do with voice commands, such as controlling my iPhone, the radio and the climate and navigation systems, I'm going to do using Sync. The goal is to find how much I can use Sync in daily driving and whether I like it or find it drives me bonkers. At the very least, I'm hoping the experience will be interesting.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 5,725 miles

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Phone Pairing Cure. Bill Gates Style

January 11, 2013

2013 Ford Focus ST

It's possible that last week when I encountered our Focus's SYNC phone pairing failure I forgot the first and most import rule of dealing with a Microsoft product:

When all else fails, just restart the stupid thing.

I did this over the weekend and - after five or so minutes of waiting - it came back online.

Even paired with my phone on the first try.

Bill Gates would be so proud.

Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor @ about 5,400 miles

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Phone Pairing Fail

2013 Ford Focus ST

Ford's SYNC let me down last night in the Focus ST by refusing to pair with my iPhone. Oddly, I've paired my phone before and it was still in the system's memory, but SYNC refused to pair.

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Does MyFord Touch Work with Gloves?

December 21, 2012

2013 Ford Focus ST

I was driving a 2013 Ford Escape Titanium last week during a quasi-vacation up in Toronto. Its MyFord Touch system is virtually identical to the one we have in our Focus ST, so it provided me an opportunity to try out the controversial system with gloves. Simply put, it worked just fine. Obviously dexterity is hampered, but the touchscreen still responded without any incident. The larger touch buttons introduced by the MFT update help as well.

Now, MyFord Touch in the Explorer and Fusion also comes with touch-sensitive climate controls as well as other buttons. I'm not sure how they'd fair with gloves. The Chevy Volt had something similar and often failed to recognize a press.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Needs the HIDs

November 22, 2012


If you want HID headlights on your 2013 Ford Focus ST, you have to spring for the big-ticket Equipment Group 202A, which bundles them with the nav system, Sony audio and Recaro seats that our car already has as optional equipment.

Now, I'd never want to part with the Recaro seats, but if I could design my own, less expensive option package that included the HID headlights, I would so give up the Sony audio and nav system to have the HIDs, along with the extra-cost sunroof.

The standard halogen headlights don't throw much light in front of the car on the freeway (yeah, I know, this photo doesn't really illustrate that...it' here more just to show how dramatic the sky was while I was thinking about the underwhelming headlights). I haven't driven our Focus ST on a back road at night, yet, but I have a feeling the brights would be on the whole time if that ever comes to pass.

I will be glad for the day when the ability to see down the road clearly after dark ceases to be a luxury amenity. Who' with me?

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Making Peace with MyFord Touch

November 16, 2012


Much has been written on these webpages about MyFord Touch. Our experiences with it in our Explorer were nothing short of aggravating, and although it has been greatly improved in our Focus ST and other Fords (both in terms of usability and glitches), it is very imperfect. I'm sure these web pages will continue to highlight those imperfections.

However, I'd like to say that MFT would not prevent me from buying the Focus -- ST or otherwise. It wouldn't prevent me from buying the Fusion, Escape or Flex, either. Would I like it better if had Mercedes COMAND or whatever Chrysler calls its big new screen system? Yes I would. But that' not an option, and I'm willing to live with a few annoyances now and again given the rest of the car' excellence.

Besides, with the ability for software updates, Ford can in theory make improvements retroactively.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

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2013 Ford Focus ST: Well, This Is Familiar

November 16, 2012


I am sympathetic to technology. I understand that it' 2012 and that everything uses software. But with my iPhone, Google Nexus 7 and all of my PCs, I have some control over when I install pending software updates.

In our 2013 Ford Focus ST, which has the Sync-infused MyFord Touch navigation/audio system, it' not nearly so elegant. Earlier this week I started the car after a fuel stop and was just about to enter an address in the nav system. Then, a brief "navigation system unavailable" message flashed. Then, the screen went black and the radio turned off. And then, I saw this.

In all, the unplanned maintenance/OS update delayed my departure by 3 minutes, maybe a bit longer. Not a big deal. But why did the update have to happen then, right then? Why not tell me an update is available and give me a 24-hour window to initiate the install myself? If I don't take care of the update in that span of time, only then would it be necessary to run an auto-update.

(Then again, I'm forgetting that unlike my phone or computer, the MFT nav system doesn't have an internet connection with which to download updates, which is why you have to visit a dealer or get an updated SD card to do any kind of major update on this system... which is an obvious limiting factor on factory-installed nav systems. Undoubtedly, then, barich1 is correct in diagnosing "scheduled system maintenance" as an unavoidable reboot.)

Erin Riches, Senior Editor

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2013 Ford Focus ST: One of My Few Complaints

November 15, 2012


You see those gauges? Yeah, nothing special. Clear, usable, readable, but nothing special. It' one of the few things about this car that could use improvement. Other than that, I'm at a loss, 'cause the ST is nearly flawless otherwise. 

The power band is flat out perfect, with more mid-range than you think and power all the way to the redline. Sounds decent, too. 

The suspension is dead on as well. Firm, precise, predictable, everything you would want in a car like this without beating you up. And the seats rock. Worth every optional penny. 

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds @ 3,585 miles 

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