SYNC: A Solid Infotainment System Available To The Masses
SYNC with MyFord Touch is a fantastic infotainment system, and Ford is doing an excellent job making it available to the masses by deploying it across the company's entire product portfolio. The way we see it, Ford integrated these new technologies, and is now telling everyone, "Hey, we have these cool new multimedia, networking, and driver-assist features, and you get them on everything from compact sedans to Lincoln luxury vehicles." That's a nice change from the typical segmentation that normally sees the best features enabled on the most expensive models and slowly extended down to more affordable products.
Frankly, we were bummed when it came time to return the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium. And although it took a couple of days to acclimate to SYNC with MyFord Touch, once we got the hang of the voice commands, the steering wheel's physical buttons, and the interface's overall layout, operating the car was easy.
Ford does a lot of things right with its SYNC system. The interface operates particularly smoothly, including fluid menu transitions and an intuitive menu layout. We are aware that there were complaints about crashes and poor responsiveness when the first software version of SYNC with MyFord Touch launched. These resulted in poor quality results form J.D. Power & Associates. But our test vehicle had v2.0 of the software installed, and we didn't encounter any problems (aside from the typical pitfalls of a resistive LCD touch-screen).
SYNC's capabilities tie together well, from the eight-inch LCD, the 4.2-inch auxiliary display, steering wheel controls, voice control, and the Media Hub. But despite our praises, there were a couple of aspects that left us puzzled, such as SYNC Destinations, which still dials your phone for connectivity, even though it can also connect to your wireless home network or share a 3G USB modem connection. The absence of SYNC AppLink support is also odd, especially since the previous generation of SYNC let you connect an iPhone to stream and control Pandora, iHeartRadio, Stitcher Radio, and a couple of other applications. That's a feature available on $100 aftermarket head units and the base SYNC system, but not on the most advanced SYNC with MyFord Touch.
Nevertheless, Ford’s asking price of $995 for this package is reasonable when you consider the features, capabilities, and level of integration with the car. In fact, that's actually more affordable than most high-end in-dash navigation systems (particularly if you don’t take DVD video playback into account).
As for Active Park Assist, it's also a very cool addition, and we're still amazed by how easy it is to use and how well it works. If you're simply not confident in your own parallel parking skills, paying $700 for guided help is almost assuredly less expensive than even one misjudged attempt (and subsequent fender bender).
Of course, our emphasis here isn't on the car itself. We didn't bother with 0-60 MPH, quarter-mile runs, or skidpad tests, but we did determine the 2012 Ford Focus Titanium to be quiet, nimble, and conducive to spirited driving. The car's electric-assisted steering rack is tuned to have variable levels of weight, depending on your speed, unlike some cars where steering is feather-light at all times. The interior materials are above average, featuring a lot of soft-touch surfaces.
Our test vehicle had Ford’s PowerShift automatic transmission. Despite the name, it has a dual-clutch gearbox, which is essentially an advanced manual with hydraulics strapped on so it can shift itself. We found that the transmission shifts smoothly, but stutters a bit when you're trying to creep forward in traffic, just like a car with a manual transmission. If you prefer to row your own gears, Ford offers the Titanium package: SYNC with MyFord Touch and Active Park Assist, along with a six-speed manual transmission. Or, more enthusiast-oriented drivers can look forward to the upcoming turbocharged Ford Focus ST, without Active Park Assist.