Ford has been riding high on its SYNC infotainment system for years now. But now, the platform it developed in partnership with Microsoft is starting to show its age. It's a good thing that SYNC2 is ready for launch: the new, practically buttonless infotainment system that relies almost entirely on your voice.
Right now, SYNC has a rudimentary voice control system. Play this, call them, drive here. Nothing special, right? SYNC2 is doubling down on voice, allowing you to control damn near every system on your car.
It breaks these systems into four different pages: Phone, Radio, Climate and Entertainment. Pretty much every setting in these four sub-systems can be controlled not just by your voice, but by natural voice commands.
Say you want a bite to eat on the road. Hit the voice button and say to your Ford, "I'm hungry". The car then asks if you want something to eat near you or at another destination. Either answer will see the car access the in-built Michelin travel guide to tell you where the best places are to eat.
Climate commands can also be inlaid using voice now too. "Set air-conditioning to 22-degrees" for example. "Increase fan speed". That sort of thing.
Plugging your phone in through the USB slot will also see the new SYNC2 system index the tunes from your phone's default Music app, so that you can call it up using your voice. You can now be purposely vague with your song selection. Instead of specifying both the song and the artist, now you can say either separately and the system knows what's up. The "Play Similar" command is hanging around too, so you can have iTunes Genius-like features in your car too. Unfortunately, there's no support for Windows Phone 8 devices. Yet.
Entering navigation options is now better with SYNC2, thanks to the ability to input the destination in one hit, rather than individually having to say the street, number and city.
Despite adding a bunch of new words that it understands, the voice recognition gear is all on-board with SYNC2 so you won't have to wait too long while the system thinks about what you said.
You're also got a dashboard now which aggregates everything from your calendar through to an alerts notification centre, as well as a handy "Do Not Disturb" feature which blocks off calls and texts when enabled so you can enjoy driving pleasure in peace.
Best of all, Ford is adding an option for an 8-inch touchscreen in many of its new vehicles, starting with the new Focus. It hits European markets in a few months, and hopefully the option rolls out into Australia also. A frustratingly tiny screen has been a consistent complaint of ours in regards to new Ford cars, including the Fiesta ST and the Kuga, so it's good to see it's being fixed up.
That big screen means that this button-happy head unit...
...is replaced with the aesthetically pleasing marvel we see here:
Buttons are dead. Long live voice.