One of the things I loved most about my ‘66 Mustang was the dashboard controls. There were eight of them as I recall and two were dedicated to music.
The radio had only an AM band--but that thing was a beast. It pulled in 50,000 watt stations from Nashville, New Orleans, Wheeling, West Virginia and all over, which virtually guaranteed there’d be tunes on tap for cruising on Friday nights.
Dashboards, even in skinny little econo-boxes are a lot more sophisticated today and require a lot more user savvy than that Mustang’s radio did. But beyond the addition of the FM band you don’t get much more than the old Mustang, which is why the SYNC system Ford and Microsoft have developed is so intriguing.
If you spend any time at all in a daily commute, SYNC is an excellent reason to buy a Ford product. It’s standard on most of the high spec models and a $395 option otherwise. Like any piece of new technology there’s a learning curve but it’s worth the trouble if you talk on the phone, listen to music, or ever need directions.
You need a Bluetooth enabled phone and a media player (or flash drive) to use the system but you probably already have both. You also need to create an account at the SYNC website to take advantage of special features like your car’s fitness reports.
Most pre-teens won’t have a problem setting up the Bluetooth link between your phone and your car. Once it’s set and your account established, your audio life takes a great leap forward.
You now have access to all the contacts in your phone book. It’s all voice commands from there on. “Call Mom” dials the phone for Mom that’s in your phone’s directory. Or you can simply say “Dial 203 222 3944”. But there are 15 other mobile voice commands in the system and the Quick Start Guide comes in handy. The system lets you make and receive telephone calls without your hands ever leaving the wheel or eyes leaving the road. You may have found a work-around for hands free calling, but not without some extra cables, chargers and such--SYNC is the no-fuss option.
When you ask for directions to a destination, a nice lady pipes up with turn-by-turn directions in a clear, pleasant voice. This seems safer and more sensible than asking you to squint at a map on a GPS screen while driving--especially if you’re part of the bi-focal generation). There may be phone charges associated with getting these directions but GPS directions can save you all kinds of pain getting to the restaurant you’ve never been to before. They’re priceless when you need them
Should you suffer an airbag incident (heaven forbid) SYNC makes the 911 call automatically.
And the part you’ve been waiting for: Virtually any digital music player plugs into the USB port in the console compartment. You don’t even need the player--a flash drive works too. When you’re plugged in you can simply ask the device to Play All or choose from 27 other voice commands like Play Album (name) etc. Now that you can store gigs of music on a flash drive for less than $25, road music takes on a whole new dimension.
There’s so much about SYNC that’s so interesting I wonder why it hasn’t loomed larger in Fords marketing program. There is a website and it’s well worth looking at for details and demos (www.syncmyride.com).
All this goodness is available on Lincoln and Mercury cars, too--and by the way, don't forget that you get an AM/FM radio in the bargain.