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Vehicle has a few rough edges, but still arguably leads its class

Last week we had the privilege of taking the 2012 Ford Focus "5-door" hatchback (four passenger doors and a back hatch/door) for a spin.  We came away generally impressed by the vehicle itself, but pretty disappointed in the second generation SYNC system (but not necessarily for the same reasons others have stated).

Read on to find out what it's like to drive Ford Motor Company's (F) newest compact.

I. Looks, Feel, and Price

The 2012 Focus has a starting MSRP of $16,720 for a 4-door sedan or $18,065 for a 5-door hatchback sedan.  There are seven different price grades -- four four-door sedan trim levels, and three hatchback trim levels.

We received the 5-door Titanium trim model to test -- which happens to be the priciest base model at $22,765 MSRP.

How you feel about the vehicle's looks depends largely on how you feel about European design versus a more traditional American sedan styling.  Like the Ford Fiesta, the European styling is readily apparent with sweeping, aggressive curves.

We liked the look of the exterior, especially the front grill region and subtle side curves to the door panel.  It also looks pretty good from the back.

Inside, the doors, sports-style seats, and front console all looked and felt great.  The molding on the front console was superb.  The one weak point, we felt was the center stack, whose molding looked and felt somewhat like cheap plastic.

Our favorite part of the interior design was the steering wheel itself.  The turn signal and wiper blades stalks curve upwards and then down on subtle slope in the shape somewhat akin to a bird in flight. Combined with the design of the wheel itself the results are not only attractive, but offer easy hand access to the controls.

The driver and passenger's front seats were both spacious with an acceptable, but not overabundant amount of cargo room in the door compartments, center compartment, and glove box.  Additional front panel storage in the center section would be a nice touch, but for this class the storage seemed sufficient.

The rear was also relatively spacious for a compact, but the center console (which as we said, we weren't much of a fan of in the first place) rears its ugly head again, intruding in the rear passengers' legroom.  The effect seems subtle at first, but on long rides -- especially with adult passengers -- it's definitely noticeable.

Overall: A-

II. How Does it Drive?

I took the Ford Focus on several excursions including a highway trip where I tested speeds, a groceries trip, and a road trip out into the countryside.  In all cases the car performed admirably.

On the highway I briefly tested the Select Shift.  Basically Select Shift is an automated manual technology (which many carmakers have) that electronically shifts gears without user interaction from a clutch pedal.  The electronic clutching system is designed to give users a bit more of a "sporty" feel than they would in a traditional automatic, by giving them control of the electronic gear shifting.

Testing the system, it indeed seemed to give me more torque when revving the engine after shifting down to "fourth".  Throwing fuel efficiency to the wind I found that the car was more than capable of strongly accelerating if you play with it a bit via the select shifter.  

The SelectShift is definitely a welcome feature.  Aside from offering improved acceleration it also could come in handy when climbing steep slopes (shift down to a lower gear).  The only disappointment here is that Ford chose to implement it with flimsy seeming plastic buttons on the center stick, rather than paddles like some of its other models.

When ignoring the semi-manual capabilities, acceleration is a bit on the weak side, but the general power of 2.0 liter I-4 engine is sufficient given the lighter vehicle weight.

Handling is one of the car's real strengths.  It felt great rounding corners.  Ford uses a technology called "torque vectoring control" that changes the wheel speeds individually to optimally handle cornering.  Again, this technology isn't exactly brand new, but Ford does a solid job implementing it here in a mass-market vehicle.

The car also showed its colors in offering great dampening to noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).  As opposed to the Fiesta, which I tested last year, the NVH has been scaled down even more.  The result is that the car feels a little less sporty as you feel less of the road.  But it's hard to complain about a silky smooth ride.  Ford deserves a lot of credit for making a silent cabin and a strong suspension that can offer a relatively smooth trek down even the most pothole-laden city streets and dirt country roads.

Gas mileage is generally quite good.  It hits its sweet spot at around 50-60 mph.  Trying to stick largely to that speed band, we managed to average 31.2 mpg over the week.  This is nicely in line with the EPA rating of ratings of 27 mpg city/37 mpg highway, so no major surprises positive or negative here.

The strong mileage is owed in part to several high-tech features.  The car closes its grille on the highway to improve its aerodynamics.  And the engine itself is equipped with direct injection technology.  Together, these and several other technologies mean that you'll get surprisingly far on a tank, considering your driving a vehicle with a pure gas engine.

In all the Ford Focus is a very comfortable drive.  It toes the line of being a bit sporty.  The new technologies it brings to the table (torque vectoring, SelectShift, etc.) offer the chance to have a bit more fun with the vehicle when you're in an experimental mood.  And when it comes to fuel economy -- an important concern in today's market of $4 gas, the Focus is a strong performer, hitting north of 30 mpg for the average driver.

Overall: A

III. Controls and Sync Gen 2.0

i. Voice Control?  What Voice Control?

(See the update at the end of this piece for an important clarification.)

I'll try to be brief on what I feel is the Ford Focus's greatest weakness/frustration, MyFord Touch (also known as Ford Sync Gen 2.0).  

I think that a lot of what has been reported about the system by other news agencies (Consumer Reports) is somewhat misleading.  Many have argued that the system is overly complex.  From a touch perspective I respectfully disagree -- the system is relatively intuitive, and everything is a couple clicks away at most.

So what's wrong with Sync Gen 2.0, then?  At the heart of the problem is a noticeably deteriorated voice recognition system.  "Deteriorated?" you ask.  Indeed, the voice recognition is noticeably worse than in the first generation.

The system failed to recognize approximately 40-50 percent of the voice commands that I gave it, in cases when I was giving it exactly the correct command.  I would estimate the failure rate for Sync Gen 1.0 to be closer to 10-20 percent, hence how noticeable this was.

It had an especially hard time dealing with short words.  For example requesting 88.3 (a radio station) took about five or six tries.  Requesting that my synced Bluetooth handset "call mom" simply did not work -- I tried about ten times.  I was only able to get it to call the number by manually punching it in the touch screen, at which point the voice command system announced "calling mom".  I called other people using the "call ___" command so it was clearly the voice recognition system that was flawed.

Along with the voice recognition came frustrating slowdown issues.  A busy signal became an all too familiar site when it was struggling to translate my voice commands.  Sometimes the system seemed to just crash, giving some sort of error about a command failing and no voice cue (the standard cue is to ask "Did you say, "____"?").

To me this slowdown was somewhat baffling.  After all, the Sync Gen 2.0 is equipped with a 600 MHz ARM processor that's 50 percent faster than the Gen 1.0's processor.  And the system has a 2D/3D graphics accelerator to handle the onscreen images, and is equipped with 512 MB of RAM.  In other words, the hardware seems sound.

ii. Our Ford Source Spills the Beans on What Went Wrong

Trying to get to the bottom of from whence the slowdown and voice control issues came, I spoke with one of my sources on the Sync team.  They said that the issues with the system were well known in the group and to bear in mind that the system I received was several updates since the original release so was actually significantly improved.

They told me that at the root of the problem was that Ford decided to largely scrap their own codebase and hire BSQUARE Corp (BSQR) to recode the next generation of Sync.  The move seemingly made sense.  Ford already had a close partnership with Microsoft Corp. and BSQUARE was a company founded by ex-Microsoft employees with close ties to their former employer.

But the results Ford received were poor.  Our source described BSQUARE's coding process as "Guy A sitting in room 1 writing code and guy B sitting in room 2 also writing code, with neither knowing what the other is doing."

Our source said that at the end of the day the resulting app was bloated and inefficient.  

"Who would you say is to blame?" I asked.  They replied, "I'd say 70 percent BSQUARE, but 30 percent Ford for choosing BSQUARE."

So that's the dirty little secret behind MyFord Touch and its issues.

Oh, and according to my source the recent rebooting problems (which I fortunately did not experience) were not nearly as "rare" as Ford's spokesperson described them as.  They said that the recent update did significantly decrease the rate of reboots, but that it still was occurring. 

They also complained that because the updates could only be installed at the dealership, many people were still driving on the road with older versions (and would hence get more reboots).  They argued that it would have been wise to incorporate a 3G modem for over the air updates -- something Ford discussed, but decided was too expensive at present.

They did point out that the reboot issue wasn't entirely new -- Ford Sync Gen 1.0 in earlier versions also sometimes rebooted.  But rather than going black, the screen would simply throw up a message about that it was "re-indexing" files/assets.

iii. Final Thoughts on Sync Including a Bit of Good

So that's not my only gripes about Sync.  Aside from the underlying slowdown/voice recognition issues, I was also frustrated by certain commands that were seemingly missing.  For example you had to hard press the phone button (on the steering wheel) to hang up calls -- there was no voice command to do that (though there were commands to make a call, pause a call, join a call, etc.).  Also there was no way I could find to individually separately tweak the passenger and driver cabin temperatures using voice commands.

Other commands struck me as irritating such as "make it hotter" to increase the temperature.  Why the system could not just be designed to respond to "increase temperature" or "temperature up" for the life of me I don't know.

A final (negative) point to make is that while you could certainly use the steering button controls or touch screen to access most of the missing/problematic voice commands, doing so while driving is very unsafe.  In my experience the distraction of doing so eclipses that of making a call on a handset.  It's approximately as distracting as surfing the internet on a smartphone or texting while driving.

Ford's voice recognition system was designed to cut down on taking the driver’s hands and eyes off the road. However, the voice recognition is so bad that it fails at this mission.

There were a few aspects of Sync Gen 2.0 I liked.  When stopped, I found the new touch interface to be attractive, intuitive, and simple.  Also commands to play music actually seemed to be the one area where voice recognition had remained constant in quality or perhaps improved slightly.  And while the climate controlled had some frustrations (missing/frustratingly worded commands and voice recognition issues), I liked the overall ability to control the cabin climate by voice.

I also liked that the Ford Focus included the "European" style physical audio and climate control panel as a backup to the touch screen.  Once I familiarized myself with it, I regularly circumvented Sync and safely adjusted the radio and cabin climate (e.g. temperature and fan speed) by turning the traditional panel's knobs and pressing its buttons.  Compared to the frustrations/dangers of using the touch screen or voice driven climate control while driving, I came to develop a health appreciation of classic tactile controls.

Ford should definitely include a backup audio and climate controls set like it did with Focus for any model that comes with Sync Gen 2.0.  This was a terrific decision and mitigates the damage from the sloppy Sync Gen 2.0.

To summarize, when Sync Gen 2.0 worked, I really liked it.  But when it failed it drove me crazy.  Based on the perspective I gained from my discussion with one of my Sync Team sources it seems Ford has some internal issues that are derailing the quality of the project.  It seems like Ford sold the horse (voice control) to save the farm (add a pretty touch interface) and at the end of the day the results aren't pretty.  

That said, from what I've heard there's been significant progress from the updates to the system.  So there's still hope that Ford can "fix" the broken core code that BSQUARE delivered to the Sync team for integration.

Until then, I would expect the pickup rate to remain low.  According to a dealership source, the current pickup rate was internally stated to be around 20 percent.  That's much lower than Sync Gen 1.0.  You can get Sync Gen 1.0 in the Focus, according to my source.

Refer to my comments on Sync Gen 1.0 to make your impressions on that.  But to offer you a brief summary, I love Gen 1.0 and thought it offers a truly unprecedented experience.

Overall: C-

IV. Conclusions

For all my complaints about Sync Gen 2.0, it still is well ahead of the competition in what it can do in a single package.  It may be frustrating, but you can adjust to it with time (I had started to by the end of the week) or you can simply opt to go with Ford Sync Gen 1.0.

This single issue is not enough to seriously bring down what is a great car in my professional opinion.

For its class, the vehicle drives great, gets terrific gas mileage, and has a smooth ride.  It also looks great, both inside and out.

It has plenty of nice features like physical climate controls and SelectShift that allow you to do pretty much anything you might want/need to do while driving.

Overall, I would heartily recommend the 2012 Ford Focus.  As a sum of its parts, it's a very likable car and would make the ideal grocery getter-cum-commuting vehicle.

Overall: A-

Updated: Monday May 2, 2011 1:10 p.m.

We just finished talking with Ford's spokesperson about our MyFord Touch difficulties.  He tells us that the vehicle had a pre-production software, which may be the source of some of the voice issues. 

As all the branches of the MyFord Touch code tree are at a bit different stages of updates, it's hard to equate exactly how far "outdated" the in-vehicle code was, but it sounds like it's received substantial tweaks since, which may have improved performance.

An upcoming update will unify all these development trees into a single homogeneous source, but until then it's easiest just to say the tested build was pre-production.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By chromal on 4/30/2011 1:48:53 PM , Rating: 3
It's a good car, no doubt, but a 2nd gen Mazda3 hatchback's 2.5l engine produces about 8 more horsepower, 21 more ft-lb of torque than the ford 2.0l, has a 6-speed manual transmission (Ford only offers a 5-spd), and cost me about $3000 less that the Focus. Plus it looks hawt.. Now, in fairness, the 2012 Focus engine does feature direct-injection, and so it's a little more modern/efficient, albeit less powerful. The Mazda also comes with rear disc brakes, standard. Focus has rear drums standard.

I can't wait to see some road reviews that compare their handling capabilities. Mazda has their Mazda3's suspension set up pretty aggressively for handling.

By JasonMick on 4/30/2011 2:25:10 PM , Rating: 3
It's a good car, no doubt, but a 2nd gen Mazda3 hatchback's 2.5l engine produces about 8 more horsepower, 21 more ft-lb of torque than the ford 2.0l, has a 6-speed manual transmission (Ford only offers a 5-spd), and cost me about $3000 less that the Focus.

I do like the Mazda3 as well... it's actually quite similar in looks/styling imho to the new focus.

The Mazda3 is more powerful, but its worth noting that it gets significantly worse mpg, though for its slim power lead. It gets 20/28 mpg (MT) or 20/29 mpg (AT).

Your price comparison is somewhat incomplete, though...

The Mazda starts at $20,045 v. $18,065 for the 5-Door 2012 Ford Focus SE. With Sync or MyFord Touch installed, the Ford will be narrowly cheaper (though with extra options the cost may be the same).

The SEL Focus which comes with SOME of the sports features is $21,065. It comes default with Sync, so that's only a $1K gap.

Granted, if you want the sportier Titanium trim package, your pricing statements seem accurate ($20,045 v. $22,765).

Here's links to check my #s:

My Thoughts:
Ford offers a bitter greater variety towards the low end, but in the premium sports package is a bit more expensive. Likewise it gets better MPGs but has less power. The Focus handles great, hopefully I get to do a prolonged test drive of the Mazda3 @ some point to contrast the pair fully.

By RussianSensation on 5/1/2011 7:07:55 PM , Rating: 2
For now the Mazda 3 does indeed have inferior fuel economy. The new SKYactive engine in the fall will be a 2.0-litre 163 hp / 155 lbs with fuel economy rated at 30 mpg city/40 highway.

Still, the new Focus and Mazda 3 will continue to remain the most sportiest/fun to drive cars in their class. Can't really lose with either of them. Compared to the bland Corolla and Civic offerings, Ford has a huge winner on their hands.

By Dr of crap on 5/2/2011 10:24:39 AM , Rating: 3
Sorry I can't get around that smiling face in the front!
I just hate it!

By omnicronx on 4/30/2011 2:25:41 PM , Rating: 2
While what most you say is true, you forget that the Focus comes with an optional 6 speed dct. This allows for great performance and great gas mileage.

By chromal on 4/30/2011 6:06:10 PM , Rating: 4
DCT 6-spd auto is definitely preferably to a more traditional auto torque converter setup. For many of us, if a car features an AT, it's automatically out of consideration. Every car I've ever owned has had a MT, and I'll keep it that way the rest of my life on general principle and overwhelming compulsion/preference. For most auto buyers, this is a non issue, but then, most auto buyers are more concerned a about cupholders than performance.

By Spuke on 4/30/2011 7:02:33 PM , Rating: 2
The DCT in the Focus was fun and I would get it if I were buying that car. Funny to hear me say that considering I always buy the manual if the option is available.

By chromal on 4/30/2011 9:07:38 PM , Rating: 3
The dual-clutch auto trannies are some of the nicest automatics out there. If I *had* to drive an auto, that'd be the one for me, too, I think. I've heard some complaints about how Ford implemented DCT in the 2011 Fiesta, but expect the next-step-up 2012 Focus should satisfy drivers a lot more, but I'm not sure it offers the +/- 'manumatic' mode available with other cars in this class. Possibly will be offered on Focus ST?

By Spuke on 4/30/2011 10:14:06 PM , Rating: 2
but I'm not sure it offers the +/- 'manumatic' mode available with other cars in this class
It does when you put it in S mode. Although in order to shift you have to hit an up/down rocker button on the shifter. No paddles but I only drove a SE model. Don't know if the SEL or Titanium has paddle shifters or not. Throttle response changes in S mode too. It was pretty nice. I was impressed.

By Targon on 5/1/2011 8:48:48 AM , Rating: 2
Nope, no paddle shifters on the 2012 Focus SEL or Titanium. Ford calls their semi-automatic mode SelectShift since you can select which gear it will be in, and that is what the S stands for on the gear shift. SelectShift is NOT "sport mode" where the engine is more aggressive when it comes to shifting/acceleration, and really is for those who want to manually change gears. To that end, the car will NOT automatically upshift until the car hits redline, and will not downshift until you are in danger of stalling the car.

The buttons on the gear shift take a bit of getting used to, compared to pushing the shift lever up or down to change gears, but are not quite as flimsy as some make them out to be. If you drive a manual, you generally have your hand on the gear shift, so having the buttons on the gear shift instead of on the steering wheel isn't THAT different from driving a stick, and it is only the popularity of paddle shifters that make people question the button method on the gear shift lever.

Now, to answer some unasked questions, there is a "sport package" on the Focus SE that adds the SelectShift, plus adds a sport "handling" package for the suspension. The Titanium includes these things standard. The SelectShift is standard in the SEL and Titanium, but here in the USA, you can ONLY get a manual transmission in the Focus SE, so for those who want the sport suspension plus manual transmission, you need the SE plus sport package.

The MyFord Touch is an option on the SEL, and is not available in the S or SE trims, and standard on Titanium. Since the cost of adding the MyFord Touch to the SEL is pretty high, if you want that feature, just go with the Titanium since you get extras that are not available on the SEL at all.

By Spuke on 5/1/2011 1:14:33 PM , Rating: 2
Actually MyFord is an option on the SE's just not the navigation or Sony stereo parts. I had always thought MyFord was ONLY with the navigation but apparently that's not necessarily the case. If you choose Rapid Spec 202A it specifies "MyFord & Sync" as part of that package. If you want the complete MyFord with Nav, you need to spec the SEL trim at the minimum.

By Spuke on 5/1/2011 1:15:34 PM , Rating: 2
And there's no S trim, at least not in the US. SE is the base trim.

By Lord 666 on 5/1/2011 4:02:57 PM , Rating: 2
Paired with the TDI, the VW DSG has few competitors south of $30,000.

By Targon on 5/1/2011 6:01:00 PM , Rating: 2
The 4-door Sedan has a S-trim available, SE is the lowest trim for the 5-door.

By Targon on 5/1/2011 6:02:13 PM , Rating: 2
MyFord TOUCH is not available on the S or SE...the base MyFord & SYNC package is an option on the SE(standard on SEL). 4-door Sedan S trim does not have MyFord as an option.

By cruisin3style on 4/30/2011 11:12:40 PM , Rating: 2
seconded, love my 3 and can't wait to see how these two compare

By cruisin3style on 5/4/2011 11:28:31 PM , Rating: 2
Glad to see the 3 holds up against newer models in performance, easily the biggest part of my car buying choice following by fuel economy (which was decent in 2009 for a 2010 model)

By ChuckDriver on 5/1/2011 3:17:17 AM , Rating: 2
The Mazda also comes with rear disc brakes, standard. Focus has rear drums standard.

I really had no idea that anyone was putting drum brakes on cars anymore.

By Targon on 5/1/2011 8:51:43 AM , Rating: 2
The Focus SEL and Titanium come with 4-wheel disc brakes standard. The SE sport package adds the sport suspension plus SelectShift(if you have the automatic transmission). Lower cost cars tend to cut some corners, and if you are looking at a Mazda, you are already looking at prices a bit higher than the lower end of the Focus line. The old line about "you get what you pay for" does hold true in most cases.

By Spuke on 5/1/2011 1:17:51 PM , Rating: 2
The SE sport package adds the sport suspension plus SelectShift(if you have the automatic transmission).
There are only two transmissions available in the US, the SelectShift and the manual. Are there more available in other countries?

By Targon on 5/1/2011 6:04:10 PM , Rating: 2
PowerShift and Manual are the two transmission options. SelectShift is the option to manually change gears, and that is standard on the automatic for SEL and Titanium, and also available on the SE with Sport Package.

SelectShift is just an option for the regular PowerShift dual-clutch automatic.

By RussianSensation on 5/1/2011 7:13:32 PM , Rating: 2
2012 Honda Civic still ships with rear drum breaks for both of their DX and LX versions:

Even the base 2012 Jetta has rear drums:

Of course the MSRP is lower than the Focus.

Apple sync?
By vailr on 4/30/11, Rating: 0
RE: Apple sync?
By Targon on 5/1/2011 8:57:54 AM , Rating: 2
It isn't the hardware, the problems are software bugs. There have been a number of updates for the system already, and a number of improvements. Even at the time of this review, it is possible there was an update that had not been applied. Think about it like any .0 software release, it can take some time for the updates to come out to fix ALL the bugs. The problems with the voice recognition system may also be related to the problems that have caused reboots or slowdowns in the system, so fixes to that might solve problems.

Problems with SYNC, or MyFord CAN be fixed by bringing it in to a dealer to be updated. I have not checked if a user can do the software update or not, but I will find out in the next few weeks.

RE: Apple sync?
By Spuke on 5/1/2011 1:20:20 PM , Rating: 2
I have not checked if a user can do the software update or not, but I will find out in the next few weeks.
You bought one? How do you like it? My wife and I are very interested. Would like to know your experiences.

RE: Apple sync?
By Targon on 5/1/2011 6:07:54 PM , Rating: 2
I have test driven the 2012 in both the SE and SEL trims, and have a 5-door SEL on order which will hopefully arrive in the next two weeks.

I will say this, the SEL feels wider inside than the SE...I am still not sure exactly WHY, but that is how it feels. I won't have the MyFord Touch, so once I have my car in, I will be able to say how good the "regular" controls are.

RE: Apple sync?
By Spuke on 5/2/2011 10:11:25 AM , Rating: 2
I have test driven the 2012 in both the SE and SEL trims, and have a 5-door SEL on order which will hopefully arrive in the next two weeks.
My wife tells me we drove both a SE and SEL. Both were hatchbacks, none had MyFord Touch (thanks for the correction) installed.

RE: Apple sync?
By Targon on 5/1/2011 6:19:07 PM , Rating: 2
Spuke, message sent on the forums if you have any questions.

RE: Apple sync?
By Spuke on 5/2/2011 10:11:58 AM , Rating: 2
Spuke, message sent on the forums if you have any questions.
Thanks, I'll PM you.

RE: Apple sync?
By Targon on 5/2/2011 4:08:51 PM , Rating: 2
It looks like my account is having problems(PMs are not showing up and sending does not result in anything in my sent directory).

RE: Apple sync?
By Spuke on 5/4/2011 2:27:31 PM , Rating: 2
Mine is not showing that PM's are sent either but I got your PM's though.

Parking/emergency brake...ugh...
By MadMan007 on 5/1/2011 12:23:27 PM , Rating: 2
So it looks like the same ergonomic moron who put the parking brake handle right at the knee starting in the Civic is working at Ford now. Last year I was looking at cars in this class and that was a complete deal-breaker for the Civic for me. When down the tip is exactly where I rest my right knee and I don't know how that ever passed a simple sit-test, I'm pretty average in stature so I can't be the only one. I'd have to sit in this vehicle to know for sure but just looking at it there seems to be the same horrible ergonomic failure, I just can't understand how this simple failure makes it in to production.

By Flunk on 5/1/2011 11:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
You should try driving a GM car, have you ever seen the text "push to set" written on a tiny level on the left-side of driver?

By Pessimism on 5/5/2011 11:59:43 AM , Rating: 2
The ergonomic moron plague is everywhere. I walked out of a Toyota dealership because *EVERY* one of their vehicles including a $40,000 Avalon had some sort of ergnonomic issue with head or leg clearance or badly placed controls. Granted I am 6'3 making me an edge case but I found it very frustrating. I ended up getting a Cobalt from GM but even that has a seat that gives me a backache within 30 minutes without a lumbar cushion, less than an inch of head clearance and a horrible centre console with an armrest that hangs overtop of the ebrake handle, making it awkward and slow to reach in an emergency.

By Alchemy69 on 5/2/2011 6:17:29 AM , Rating: 3
Former Microsoft employees producing bloated and inefficient code? Imagine my surprise.

European Design
By tim851 on 5/2/2011 7:01:46 AM , Rating: 2
It could be noted, that most European view the "European Designs" of the last 15-odd years as rather Asian and two of the people largely responsible for those were the American designers Chris Bangle (for BMW) and Jack Telnack (for Ford).

By ElFenix on 5/3/2011 1:47:20 PM , Rating: 2
dampening would be to get something just a tiny bit wet. damping is absorbing noise/vibration/etc.

By Pessimism on 5/5/2011 11:52:03 AM , Rating: 2
I am curious to know more about the update experience. How much of a hassle, time investment and cost is associated with repeat dealer visits for software upgrades? Being a media rep reviewing a car would likely get you a streamlined experience over the "worst case scenario" - A driver with a several years old, second hand Ford purchased elsewhere with no service history at that dealership walking in off the street with no appointment requesting their car receive all pending updates.

By Pneumothorax on 5/1/2011 11:37:07 AM , Rating: 1
As a previously proud owner of 3 prior Civics, I really hope the Focus outsells Honda's cost-cutting, mid-cycle refresh that is the disappointing 9th gen Civic.

Anything that Microsucks is involved in...
By Beenthere on 4/30/11, Rating: -1
By ForeverStudent on 4/30/2011 4:14:43 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, perhaps I read the article wrong, but it sounds like Sync 2.0 isn't microsoft. So, whether or not anything "Microsucks" is involved in is terrible is totally irrelevant, because they're not involved. Actually, it sounds like when they WERE involved, it was much much better. Which would actually refute your claim. Interesting . . .

RE: Anything that Microsucks is involved in...
By JasonMick on 4/30/2011 4:38:16 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, perhaps I read the article wrong, but it sounds like Sync 2.0 isn't microsoft. So, whether or not anything "Microsucks" is involved in is terrible is totally irrelevant, because they're not involved. Actually, it sounds like when they WERE involved, it was much much better. Which would actually refute your claim. Interesting . . .

Not exactly, but you were closer to the truth that the original op.

Microsoft made the underlying OS for Sync Gen 1 and 2. From all my sources I've spoken to that OS is terrific for the job and worked well for both versions.

The real success or failure of the system boiled down to the quality of the APPLICATION running on the OS.

In gen. 1 Ford coded this app and integrated it into the final hardware/os/app package. For gen. 2 Ford ditched its old codebase and hired BSQUARE (a company founded by ex-Microsofters) to make the app. Ford provided the overall design direction and part of the integration duties.

Like my source said, the problem mostly lies with BSQUARE, who did a poor job in coding the APP (note this is NOT the same as the operating system).

According to my source Microsoft is entirely NOT to blame for the issues. My primary Sync team source actually told me they felt bad for Microsoft as this is reflecting negatively on them when they made a solid OS and did nothing wrong.

The source said the same is true for Nuance -- who made the speech recognition APIs (they also make the Dragon speech-to-text software for PCs).

Basically the blame here belongs 70 percent to BSQUARE and 30 percent on Ford for picking BSQUARE.

In other words, the original op couldn't be farther from reality...

BSQUARE's half-baked effort bred a mediocre experience that's extremely frustrating when you first use it (but which you'll eventually likely grow accustomed to and learn to deal with the quirks of).

(Again, bear in mind, this is a first hand account, I don't work on the Sync team, though the known facts do seem to line up with the picture my source painted.)

I'd recommend Sync Gen 1.0 without hesitation (it was a great experience).

Sync Gen 2.0 (MyFord Touch) I wouldn't say "don't buy it", but I would say that I think you're getting a worse product for your money (at present) than you would be if you "downgraded" to Gen 1.0.

As I said, there's still hope that Ford will optimize the app/improve the experience and make it worthwhile in later versions.

RE: Anything that Microsucks is involved in...
By Chadder007 on 4/30/2011 5:10:05 PM , Rating: 3
Soooo....they Outsourced the Application and expected BETTER results. LOL

By Spuke on 4/30/2011 7:00:38 PM , Rating: 2
As I said, there's still hope that Ford will optimize the app/improve the experience and make it worthwhile in later versions.
Interesting, I've used the MyFord in the Edge and last weekend when I tested the Focus. Loved it in both vehicles! I did not experience any reboots or problems with the voice recognition but the test drive was limited (about an hour on each vehicle). Regardless, I'm still a year out on purchasing so hopefully Ford gets the problems fixed in the next year.

By Solandri on 5/1/2011 4:03:08 AM , Rating: 2
Under the right conditions, outsourcing can work. Mainly when your company is substantially less experienced in the task than the company you're outsourcing to.

Where Ford goofed here was in outsourcing something that was critical to them, but not to the company doing the work. When Boeing outsources the manufacture of a wing, the contract is big enough that the company they outsource to is highly committed to getting that wing made to spec and delivered on time in the interest of future business. If BSquare only had two programmers working on this, clearly they considered it to be a nonessential, even negligible contract.

The quality of work will reflect how important it is to the company doing it. Something all managers should keep in mind when making decisions about outsourcing, particularly when choosing between big or little companies to do the outsourced work. Apple ran into this with the PowerPC architecture. Since Apple represented a minority of IBM's PowerPC sales, their desires and concerns about its power consumption in their laptops fell on deaf ears at IBM. Going with the big name is not always the safer decision.

By jah1subs on 5/1/2011 5:54:42 PM , Rating: 2

Thank you for the insights. I sold Fords from 2006-2008. Ford had voice response for the navigation system in some Expeditions even before 2006 (IIRC). As a salesperson, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experiment with one of those early systems after I had been trained on Sync 1. From the experiences it seemed to me that Ford had continued with that code, which is consistent with what you said.

I also had the opportunity to briefly test the voice response in an early, 2009 model Chrysler Routan (Chrysler Town and Country with VW modified suspension and other features). It was pathetic. The voice recognition and response was totally useless. If you are going to buy a vehicle for voice response, you should test the voice recognition and response thoroughly first.

I am in no position to buy a vehicle now. I would like it to have a voice response system at least as good and functional as Sync 1. When driving, I would really like to keep my eyes on the road while I listen to SMS and short emails and compose responses.

Please keep updating this information so we can learn when Sync 2 equals and then surpasses Sync 1.

Sync is more like sink!
By Dailyrant on 4/30/11, Rating: -1
"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser

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