Ford is such a connected company, with its fancy MyFord Touch infotainment system and myriad social-network marketing efforts (remember the "Fiesta Movement"?), that it is able to reach consumers whereever they may be. And thank goodness, as the back-cover advertisement on the April issue of Road & Track magazine shows, Ford can even field questions from Ford Explorer owners posted to Facebook. But should the infotainment center really be so complicated that the driver has to reach out for help?
We have shared our views on the MyFord Touch in the past. Essentially, it cleverly combines voice recognition, a touch screen, steering-wheel controls, and touch-sensitive buttons to enable multiple ways to access core audio and climate functions. However, no method is especially effective and in the end, it can be confusing and distracting to use, especially until the steep learning curve is crested.
I just spent several days commuting with our Ford Explorer. Voice recognition proved to be quite useful, but there were times when I wanted to make a quick change, such as adjusting the temperature or radio station, that proved especially frustrating. Sifting through menus to operate MyTouch by, well, touch, renders a quick two-second operation into a minor event requiring several long glances from the road to execute. When using the touch-sensitive center stack controls, often I didn't hold the button long enough or too long, skipping past the desired setting.
Perhaps Julie 'Aubry' LaPrise had the same frustrations, as illustrated in the ad. At least she appears to be in park when posting the question via her smart phone, but really, should the system be that complicated?
As has been the case with a couple high-end luxury cars that I have driven this past year, I often just motor on without making routine comfort and entertainment changes. In this over-subscribed world, I'm always on the go and do not have the time on a casual drive to learn how to change the fan speed or other truly mundane task if it isn't intuitive--unless I am specifically accessing that component. At stop lights, I was able to make the basic adjustments, but my time with the Ford had me pining for simpler days. And I suspect, many older buyers may feel strongly enough about that so as to resist some purchases solely based on the high-tech geegaws. And they are less likely to whip out their iPhones to ask for tips via text message.
Ford is evidently aware the system can be frustrating to owners, as evidenced by the ad. When was the last time you saw an automaker touting a new feature by showing how a customer can get help using it? And Ford has been conducting education clinics at dealerships, inviting owners of vehicles equipped with MyFord Touch back for a refresher course.
Should you buy a car with MyFord Touch, it is worth getting a full demonstration at the dealership and learning its control intricacies in the driveway, rather than on the road. Or via Facebook.