Ford Sync on the road in an Escape.

The Ford Sync 3 infotainment system hopes to remedy the woes that affected its predecessor, MyFord/MyLincoln Touch. After driving with the Ford Sync 3 for more than a week, it's clear that Ford learned much from their previous mistakes. (Read "Ford Sync 3 Infotainment System Is Coming Soon to a Car Near You.")

There's always a risk in being an industry leader. Arguably, Ford did more to push touch-screen-based infotainment systems into the mainstream with the 2011 introduction of MyFord Touch than any other company. But this system suffered major teething pains, with both consumer and expert complaints about the interface design, slow system response, and buggy reliability. Despite updates, MyFord Touch never measured up to industry benchmarks like Chrysler's Uconnect 8.4 system.

New From the Ground Up

Ford Sync 3 is being introduced on many of the company's products for the 2016 model year. Unlike MyFord Touch's Microsoft-based platform, Ford Sync 3 features QNX, a well-regarded operating system used by many other car companies. Upgraded processors contribute to an immediately noticeable improvement in response time. (Cars with MyFord Touch can not be upgraded to Ford Sync 3.)

You also immediately notice the new touch-screen layout. Cosmetically, Ford Sync 3 lacks the glossy high-tech look of MyFord Touch. It's more straightforward and earnest, almost like it emerged from elementary school rather than a design college. But forget about static showroom or brochure appeal; Sync 3's resulting big fonts and huge onscreen buttons are just what you want when driving.

Ford Sync 3 shows the value in the "less is more" strategy of interface design. It felt like MyFord Touch had no editor during its initial design; seemingly no conceivable feature was left on the cutting-room floor. In stark contrast, Sync 3 sticks to the essentials, and it proves to be far better for that discipline.

Ford Sync 3 can display multiple functions onscreen at a time.

Nowhere is this philosophy more apparent than Sync 3's navigation system. Programming a destination is stripped to the bare necessities. Much like Tesla's class-leading navigation system, searching for points of interest by typing out the name is impressively quick. Arcane navigation settings are hidden unless you really need them.

A literal cornerstone of MyFord Touch was its color-coded corners for each major function, like navigation, phone, audio, and climate. That took some getting used to, and it was never as clear as Sync 3's large onscreen buttons running across the bottom screen. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Chrysler's Uconnect 8.4 must be feeling especially honored by this particular feature.

All high praise indeed. But since Sync 3 is moving into existing dashboard designs across the Ford lineup, some legacy issues still remain. For instance, on the Ford Escape that we drove, the dashboard design blocks some view of the corners of the screen, and the screen is a far reach away. Ford's screen size is also smaller than that of some competitors. Happily, Ford's fascination with banning knobs in favor of capacitive buttons is almost fully eradicated across the lineup; those flush touch-sensitive controls were frustrating in their unpredictability and couldn't really be used without looking away from the road.

Finally, we don't know if Sync 3 will be more reliable than MyFord Touch. Time will tell, as will our annual reliability survey results. But we do know now that Sync 3 is considerably easier to use, making it a welcome addition across the Ford line-up.