Over the last two years, we've had abundant criticism for Ford's MyFord Touch (and the similar MyLincoln Touch) dashboard control design. But Ford deserves credit and compliments for this system's recent comprehensive update.
We've grown accustomed to a near-constant barrage of software updates on our computers. Cars are not so different, as modern automobiles are basically rolling computers and updates are to be expected. The current MyFord Touch update is essentially an extensive software update to bring improvements to current vehicles. Expect 2013 models to have the latest software straight from the factory. But rather than letting current owners suffer through problems, or making them go to the dealer (although they can do that if desired), Ford mailed flash drives to owner's homes with the new software. Consider this a DIY upgrade, and a much needed one, as there were a lot of bugs to fix.
Some owners had the system completely shut down and reboot while driving; this happened to me in our 2011 Ford Edge. But even day-to-day operations revealed glitches. Consumer Reports kept our tested 2011 Lincoln MKX, rather than selling it, so that we could see how the update performed. Immediately before conducting the update, I found several frustrations in our MKX:
- It took several seconds for an image to appear on the screen after start-up.
- Switching between pages, like the climate page and the audio page, had slow screen refresh times.
- Scrolling through songs with the USB connection was also slow.
We also had many basic human-factor design complaints about the system. For example, on-screen fonts and buttons were small. There was a lot of content packed into each screen, some of it in the form of tiny symbols. First-time users would discover that the system lacked strong visual clues to prompt them how to proceed with using the system.
All of these complaints are addressed in the new software.
Performing the update is simple. You start the car, turn the radio on to a low volume, and insert the drive into the same USB port you use for Sync control of portable devices. The car needs to stay running while the update loads. During that time you can drive the car but radio function is limited. If the car remains parked, make sure it's secure and doesn't pose a hazard. (For example, don't park it over dry grass or in a closed garage).
Ford says it takes about an hour for the update to take place. It took 50 minutes in our MKX and went off without a hitch. We also received a new map navigation SD card to update that database.
The result? On-screen fonts and buttons are larger. The home screen has more clearly labeled functions. Individual screens have fewer buttons. Start-up and response times are quicker, but there can still be a slight delay. (The operating instructions that came with the update say, "Be Patient." Yeah, right.) If you own a car with this system, get the update done.
We still have frustrations with this system's design. Certain applications of this system, like in our MKX and other Lincolns, eliminate almost every conventional dashboard button or knob with a fussy touch-sensitive button. (Other Ford applications, like the 2013 Super Duty trucks, retain dedicated hard keys and buttons.) Sometimes the screen can be a far reach away, too.
We think the larger Uconnect Touch screen in various Chrysler products, including our tested Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, and Dodge Journey, is better designed overall. The screen is larger and is an easy reach, moving around the screens is more intuitive, and there are large redundant buttons and knobs for common functions.
But overall, we applaud Ford for listening to customers and critics, like us. The updated MyFord Touch is a step in the right direction. We also appreciate that current owners benefit from the system improvements at no cost and with little hassle.
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Ford updates MyFord Touch - Customers speak, automaker listens