2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test - Audio & Technology

2008 Ford Focus Long Term Road Test

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2008 Ford Focus: How Many Bluetooth Devices Can Sync Store?

August 10, 2009


I LOVE being able to chat on the phone through our 2008 Ford Focus' Sync but since I hadn't driven it in awhile seemed someone deleted my phone from the list of Bluetooth devices stored. I didn't know this until I had gotten in the car and it didn't automatically connect to my phone like it did previous times. Aww, boo. This had always made me feel special as if the car remembered me out of the other bazillion editors who drive it more regularly.

So I tried to add it but the lady prompted me to first delete a device from the list since it was all filled up. Apparently Sync can store up to eight different devices at a time. More than enough for most families but not enough for our "family" of editors. Oh well, buh-bye "Motorola Phone," hello, CpW580i. It's not too hard to reconnect your phone anyway so I didn't feel too guilty. I was able to do it without cracking open the Sync supplemental guide once. Yay.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 25,396 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Why I Like Sync

August 01, 2009


...Because it saves me from having to find my way through this mess of buttons. Thanks, Sync.

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Let Go of My iPod

July 27, 2009

800 iPod release.jpg

What's wrong with this picture? From where I sit, I see an iPod and a persistent lack of 2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe.

Said iPod was unusable because it still thought it was synched to SYNC, a state that renders the iPod's own controls utterly useless. This is consistent with the screen reading "connected" at the top and "OK to disconnect" at the bottom.

"But it is disconnected," I stammered.

The only way to de-synch the SYNC was to plug the iPod back in to the cable in the Ford Focus and try again, and again...and again, until it finally let go.

Was this glitch an iPod/Apple problem or a Sync/Microsoft problem? Who knows? Personally, I'm hoping the iPod is innocent, 'cuz it's out of warranty.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 24,934 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Only I Didn't Say "Fudge"

July 27, 2009


When Sync works, it's fun and easy and cool. When it doesn't, it's infuriating.

Funny how the voice command system doesn't recognize #%$?%!

I've never had my iPod disconnect in any other car. You plug it in, you're good to go. But for some reason, when I use Sync in the Ford Focus, even though the cord doesn't come loose, Sync suddenly thinks I've disconnected my iPod. "USB" removed, it says, "Line In."

I press the media button. Sync says "Line In, please say a command."

I say, "USB."

Sync says, "Bluetooth"

I press the media button. Sync says "Line In, please say a command."

I say, "USB."

Sync, "USB." Then, nothing happens.

OK, I try again. I get a few seconds of music, then disconnect.

I press the media button. Sync says "Line In, please say a command."

You can imagine the rest.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Aim High

July 20, 2009

ford focus audiophile.jpg

You can knock this runabout all you like, but the more I drive our Focus, the more I appreciate how it aspires to be more car than it appears, or maybe is. The underrated dot-matrix display is actually a pretty powerful display tool, prodding and guiding you through the myriad of Sync functionality, sort of an early-80s face on new-century tech. Sure it's a bunch of dots, but it aims high (perhaps impossibly so) each time you start the car with this "Ford Focus Audiophile" message. You'd probably laugh all the way home until it automatically syncs with your phone then offers you Bluetooth audio streaming. "Jeezus Dottie, slow down there..."

For a daily commuter, Ford's got a tech ringer with a Sync equipped Focus, but little touches such as the fat outside mirrors, and meaty shifter sourced from Ford's ever more upscale parts bin also provide constant reminders that on some level, the Focus is at least trying. The bar is pretty low in this class, but Ford seems to be aware of critical touch points. What's the last feature that surprised you in the econobuck class?

Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 24,763 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: Plug-In for Non-Syncable Items

April 23, 2009

Ford Focus Sync Ports

Our Ford Focus has been praised quite rightly for its Sync system. I too, enjoy the easy connections made with my iPod and cell phone.

However, despite this advanced electronics system, Ford was nice enough to include a traditional auxiliary audio jack in addition to the fancier USB port. This allows me to plug in my Samsung Helix portable XM radio and MP3 player. Yes, the Focus has Sirius, however, I own my XM player solely for the MLB play-by-play channels -- the only feature that didn't transfer over to Sirius in the satellite radio merger. And in case you're wondering, Sync is capable of controlling my Helix's MP3 files, but its XM stream is beyond Sync's comprehension.

Many cars with USB ports and iPod interfaces leave out the traditional auxiliary audio jack (Mercedes for example). But some provide both (Hyundai), or leave the regular aux jack behind to boost sound quality and iPod control via a dedicated double iPod cord. BMW, Ford Sync and the Cadillac CTS would be examples of this.

Either way, this baseball fan is thankful.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 18,511 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: In Sync at the Car Wash

April 06, 2009


Just looking for an interesting picture to show you. I'm sure you're tired of seeing close-ups of the information screen.

I find myself choosing the Ford Focus a lot lately. I lost my Aux cable and until I get a new one, I can't play my iPod in all of the cars unless they have a direct connection. I can't stand listening to the radio, even satellite.

When you finally learn the words that Sync likes to hear, it's easy to operate, and the sound quality is pretty good. So I've finally learned to plug in the iPod, Sync tells me "Line In", I tell it "USB" and we're ready to go. I've had no problems with voice recognition lately. It even understood French names.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor @ 17,798 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: Whiner

March 02, 2009

2008 ford focus.jpg

I've spent a lot of time in our Focus -- so much so that I've pretty much tuned out its shortcomings. Poorly designed interior door handle? No problem -- I barely notice any more, since I've gotten used to nudging the door open with my elbow. Engine too whiny? No big deal -- I just crank up the stereo.

But the Focus was pretty new to the friends I ferried to the movies this weekend. One of them felt compelled to diss the car's rackety engine note as it struggled to pass an SUV on the freeway. Always nice to get a fresh perspective, I guess. And hmm -- guess the engine wasn't the only thing whining in the Focus that evening. On a more positive note, though, everyone was pretty impressed with SYNC.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor @ 16,940 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: A Little Bit of Jessica...

February 25, 2009


I don't usually carry my iPod with me, but happened to have it in my purse last night when I signed out the 2008 Ford Focus Coupe for the drive home.

Finally, I thought, a chance to check out the SYNC system while alone in the car.

Maybe it's the Focus' noisy cabin at speed, or perhaps it's my nasally Midwestern accent, I don't know, but no matter how many different "Play Artist" and "Play Track" commands I confidently issued, SYNC always provided Lou Bega's Mambo No. 5 as either my first or only option.

I've never been that fond of the song to begin with, but today I hit the delete button on both Lou Bega and SYNC.

Kelly Toepke, News Editor @ 16,639 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Less is More

December 22, 2008


I'll be the first to admit I love technology. As a self-admitted early adopter, I'm pretty fearless when it comes to embracing the latest, greatest whatever. If there's one thing I like most about our Focus, it's Ford's Sync. Seriously folks, it's not very often that the technology fantasies of our youth come true in a production car. But the one thing that really irked me from the get-go was the center stack control layout.

Too many buttons! Is there really a need for 40-plus buttons? The audio controls didn't really become an issue, thanks in large part to Sync, but the climate control area could use some simplification. I don't think I'm alone in saying that the traditional three-dial climate control layout is as intuitive as you'll find. One knob each for temperature, fan speed and direction. Maybe a button or two for A/C and recirculation. But 10 buttons and two dials?

The directional control for the air could've been wrapped into one simple dial. Instead, it's a bunch of small buttons that require the driver to take his/her eyes off the road in order to switch from defrost to vents. Was this layout designed just for the sake of being different, or was there a consensus that it actually simplifies the process?

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2008 Ford Focus: The Long-Awaited Sync Video

October 30, 2008

Sync Controls in the Focus -- Photoillustration by James Riswick

We basically bought the Focus to try out the Sync system and we've mostly been impressed with it. While we've blogged about using Sync a few times, no one has actually got around to demonstrating how to use it. Oh, Magrath and I had big plans of doing a fancy video done by our crack video staff, but we never got around it. So when I got the keys last night, I figured I'd finally do the long-awaited Sync how-to video. So here, enjoy.

And I only had one take with this and no way to edit, so don't give me any crap. But I think my few missteps show some of the system's limitations.

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2008 Ford Focus: Not Getting a Charge From It

September 08, 2008


This weekend, to enliven the boring errand-running I had to do in our 2008 Ford Focus, I hooked up my iPod to find the perfect soundtrack to picking up moving boxes five miles away. (Hmm, maybe '80s New Wave? Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf"?) Since my iPod basically lives in my purse and its "Hold" button doesn't work, I knew it would be dead by the time I pulled it out. And sure enough it was but I figured hooking it up to the Sync system would recharge the battery.

Even the Sync Web site's FAQ section notes that, with most music players, the battery will start charging up anytime it's connected to the system's USB port while the car is running. However, when I hooked up my iPod...nothing. I pressed buttons on my Preciousss and its screen remained blank. I fidgeted with the wires, making sure they were plugged in and still got no response. I have used Sync with my iPod before but since it's been awhile, I don't recall if it charged my player when I used it. So either this doesn't work for iPods or it's not working in general. Later when I got home, I plugged my iPod to a charger and it worked just fine, so at least that means my iPod isn't broken.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 12,066 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: Lady's Too Loud

August 19, 2008


As Karl and I have both stated in the past, we don't mind taking the Focus during the work week. When you're resigned to traveling 5-20 mph all the way home on L.A.'s infamous 10 "trapped-way" as I am (thankfully I'm only 6 miles from the office), things like the Focus' handy Sync system count for a lot more than class-leading 0-to-60 mph or slalom times.

Though I love Sync, it has one very annoying characteristic -- it greets you in a rather rude fashion.

After you hop in the car and then call it into action (via the steering wheel-mounted controls) it lets you know it's ready with a "ding"-like sound followed by a synthesized woman's voice. Fine, except the default volume for that is set at an AC/DC concert level. As that jarring blast of decibels hits my ears, I frantically thumb the volume button down. Makes me wonder if someone in Ford's vehicle electronics department has an evil sense of humor.

And yes, I've checked the manual and saw no way to change its default setting, though you can silence the voice prompts altogether.

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 11,585 miles.

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2008 Ford Focus: The Obligatory iPod Gripe Post

August 13, 2008

sync cable 555.jpg

Everyone in this office is fond of saying how great the Microsoft Sync system is in our 2008 Ford Focus, and they're mostly right. But I''ve got a new 80Gb iPod and I'm falling out synch with sync.

Just about every iPod-ist I know keeps their's in a protective case. So do I. Every case has a little slot designed to allow the standard white iPod sychronization cord to fit through and connect, so the case can stay on with the cable plugged into a PC.

So what's with the massive blob of plastic that is the Ford Sync's sync cable? It is so ginormous that I simply cannot get the cable properly seated--it won't fit through the port in my case. My iPod case isn't easy to remove and reinstall, and even if it was I shouldn't have to do that EVERY SINGLE TIME I get into a car.

The iPod came first. Cases came soon after. Those who build true iPod connections in their cars can't develop them in a vacuum. They need to make them work with the existing products out there. And the best way to do that is to make your in-car sync cable EXACTLY the same size and shape as the original Apple part--the white one on the right.

What did I do? I carry a plain-Jane Aux cable. I bypassed the iPod connection entirely and hooked-in old school.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 11,435 miles

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe: Sync Doesn't Know Its '80s Rock

August 01, 2008

Ford Focus Sync display.jpg

I like Ford's Sync so much it has me happily driving our long-term Ford Focus on days when I'm more concerned with hands-free phone operation and/or iPhone music libraries than I am with corner apexs and stoplight getaways.

But during my most recent Sync session I discovered a rather troubling trait -- Sync's voice recognition software can't tell the difference between "Tesla" and "Def Leppard." No matter how many times I asked for "Play Artist -- Tesla" in as clear of voice as I could muster I got the response, "Playing Artist -- Def Leppard."

It would be interesting to remove all the Def Leppard songs from my iPhone to see if it then recognized "Tesla" requests. But who knows, maybe it would just start playing "Jethro Tull" files instead.

I suppose the other fix would be to stop wanting to listen to Tesla, but at that point I might as well just get out and walk, right?

Karl Brauer, Edmunds.com Editor in Chief

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2008 Ford Focus: Her Hearing Not So Good

July 21, 2008


I admit that the reason I chose our 2008 Ford Focus as my car for this past weekend was that I wanted to play with its Sync system. It worked great with my phone and I had so much fun asking it to play certain songs and artists even if I didn't really want to hear those songs or artists. "Play this, play that" I said as I sat in the car in my driveway and then would giggle when the voice repeated back what I just said and then do what I told it to do. Neat!

But I noticed that when I was driving on the freeway, with windows up mind you, that its hearing wasn't so great. "Play artist Radiohead," I said. "Playing artist Madness," she replied. "Noooo," I whined. "Play artist RAY-DEE-OH-HED," I repeated. "Playing artist Madness," she replied again. Arrghh. I also tried yelling out my commands while annunciating but she'd still come back at me with something totally different or with four other possible options, none of which were close to what I requested. Finally, I just gave up and put on Sirius.

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor @ 10,485 miles

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2008 Ford Focus: I Want the ZX3 Back

July 15, 2008


The more time I spend with our 2008 Ford Focus coupe, the more worried I feel about Ford's future. Not only is this refreshed Focus a far cry from the second-gen, European-market Focus TdCi I drove a couple years ago, I feel it's a couple steps back from the 1.0 version of the Focus sold from 2000-2007.

I'm not just talking about de-contenting (goodbye, telescoping steering wheel), nor the needless complexity Ford added to the interior (yes, there's Sync, but there are also about 3 times as many buttons and lights). I'm talking about the driving experience, and this one just doesn't measure up. The old car had a terrific freeway ride, yet despite its soft-tuned suspension, it felt light and tossable, and had great steering feel -- and you didn't have to take it on a back road to appreciate its athleticism. I feel almost none of that in this 2008 Focus SES. The highway ride is harsher, yet the old playfulness is gone. The car feels heavy and the steering has about half as much feedback as before.

I had fun with every single one of the old Focuses I drove, including a beater, Euro-spec ZX5 with a weakling 1.6-liter engine I rented once. But driving this one is only a step up from drudgery and I can't even work up the resolve to pair my cell phone and iPod with its Sync interface. Not even those ST knock-off wheels can change my mind.

I know this Focus is selling well right now, but I think it has little to do with the car itself. Instead, it's about Sync and a general feeling of desperation over high gas prices.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ about 10,500 miles

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2008 Ford Focus Coupe: Long Distance Drive

March 10, 2008

Out of curiosity and maybe a bit of masochism, I stuffed my wife and 8-month-old daughter into the Ford Focus coupe this weekend for a 600-mile roundtrip drive to visit the in-laws. It was a good opportunity to put some highway miles on the car and test out Sync.

In almost every aspect, the Focus was wholly adequate for the long-distance drive. The trunk held most of our stuff. I put our rear-facing child seat behind the driver seat and didn't need to make radical changes in driver positioning. For me, front seat comfort was average, and there was decent storage space for cell phone/MP3 player detritus.

We hooked up my iPod to the Ford Sync MP3/cellphone system for the first time; it's a very cool feature and better than most other factory iPod adapters, though its errors in voice recognition went from amusing to mild annoyance the more we used it. For more detail on Sync, I will defer to staffer Mike, who's rumored to have a detailed post about Sync waiting in the wings.

There were minor disappointments. The car lacks a telescoping steering wheel (the original Focus had one) so I wasn't able to get an ideal driving position. When tending the little one in back, my wife complained about the lack or rear head restraints. The car can be noisy at times in regards to wind and road noise, and the four-speed automatic transmission is a bit of a throwback in today's economy-car world of five-speeds and CVTs.

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2008 Ford Focus SES Coupe - Getting Sync-ed Up

February 19, 2008

When shopping for our 2008 Ford Focus Coupe SES I found a new wrinkle in the buying process.

A big part of the reason we bought the Focus was to test the new Sync system which ties together BlueTooth phone systems with MP3 players using a voice activation system. When I arrived at Santa Monica Ford to pickup the car I met Dean Schneider, the fleet manager. He told me I'd be getting a tour of the sync system from Todd Shak, their product consultant. Dean climbed in the back of the Focus while Shak took the driver's seat.

"Your phone?" Shak said, getting down to business right away. I handed over my Motorola Razor. "I'll get the Bluetooth working for you." When I hesitated he said, "You do have Bluetooth, right?"

I'm in and out of cars that are Bluetooth-enabled but, I'm sorry to admitt, I've never taken the time to learn how to use it.

"You do have Bluetooth?" he asked again, incredulous.

"I- I- I'm not sure," I stammered. His hands flew over the controls alternating between the phone and the car's Sync system. "Yeah, you have Bluetooth," he muttered, working intently.

"Want your phone book downloaded?" he asked, and before I could think it over I saw "Dad" "Home" "Pete" appearing on the headsup display. Finally, Shak relaxed. "Okay," he said. "Here's how it works." He went on to use the voice activation to call himself on his phone. Then he called and answered using voice activation and called himself using the car's Sync system. He even showed how text messages can be received on the heads up display. There are prewritten answers in the system to keep you from "chipmunking" (punching in text messages) while you're driving.

As I got out I shook my head in wonder. "How does he know all this?" I asked Dean as we walked in to sign the contract. "He's twenty three years old," Dean said, as if that answered everything.

Driving the new car home I tested it out. After one failed try my call went through and soon I had a disembodied voice in the car with me. Amazing. I think I'm going to like Syncing while I'm driving.

Philip Reed, Edmunds senior consumer advice editor @ 2,675 miles

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