The best thing about the new MyFord Touch interface for operating things like audio and climate controls is that thanks to voice command capability, you don't necessarily have to touch anything at all.
The latest update to the ever-expanding Ford Sync universe, MyFord Touch includes an eight-inch video touch screen that replaces hard keys for many functions. Other controls are replaced with touch-sensitive buttons. It also includes two 4.2-inch customizable dash displays that flank the speedometer and can be configured a number of ways.
Touch screens require you to take your eyes off the road to see where you're tapping, and it's easy to miss the right spot if you hit a bump. And touch-sensitive hard-key buttons tend to either not respond at all, or make bigger adjustments than you want. Thankfully, the voice commands generally work well. Feeling chilly? Ask for a warmer temperature. Want to listen to 101.7 FM? Ask for it. In fact, demand it.
I began using MyFord Speak, er, Touch right away, when I left the dealer's lot in the brand-spanking-new $37,625 Ford Edge SEL I bought the other day for our test program. I found the system easy enough to learn on the fly that I didn't have to break out the weighty owner's manual. Plus, the Edge still has traditional knobs for audio volume and fan speed, two of the most-common functions. Our recently purchased $50,235 Lincoln MKX has a more sophisticated version that does away with knobs altogether.
The customizable dash screens are an interesting idea. They are controlled using steering-wheel-mounted five-way switches, not unlike those found on a TV remote. The left side is used for vehicle information and lets drivers choose things like what the tachometer display looks like, or whether fuel economy or the trip odometer is displayed. You can also turn features like blind-spot warning and park assist on or off. The right side is for climate and infotainment, and it can display information also available on the eight-inch screen, like radio station or phone function. That way, the information you choose is closer to your line of sight.
System functions are color coded on the dash screens and eight-inch display. Climate is shown in blue, entertainment in red, telephone in yellow, and navigation in green. Like the small screens, drivers can choose what is displayed on the center screen.
While Ford insists MyFord Touch simplifies things, makes it easier to keep your eyes on the road, and will reduce driver distraction, we think the jury is still out.
Based on our initial experiences, the voice command feature works pretty well, but it is not perfect. The touch-sensitive buttons are flawed at best, and the changeable displays could easily be far more distracting than a simpler interface. Still, if you stick with using voice commands, the system might make it easier to keep your eyes on the road.
Just get used to talking to your car, a lot.
Once we rack up more miles on these vehicles, we'll share further insights and experiences.