Aug 3, 2011

2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid - The First 2000 Miles - Part II

I came for foliage. I stayed for mileage.
Okay, first of all, I had this entire post written. I had spent hours on it. But I lost it before I could click publish. I had selected all the text (to change the font) and inadvertently hit backspace. Then, faster than you could say “Ctrl+z”, Blogger politely 'autosaved' my draft thereby permanently obliterating my post. Hence, this one will probably be somewhat terse. Too bad too...I was pretty proud of what I had written. Stupid Blogger.

Anyway, here’s Part II of my review of the 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid. As I went on and on about in Part I, the mileage is the most amazing feature (for a car of its size) and was the primary reason I bought the car in the first place. But there are other things, both good and less than good, about this car that also deserve mention.

Microsoft Sync: By Your Command

Don't make me cut you man.
The Microsoft Sync system has been around for a few years now. Having never driven a Sync-enabled car before, I was not sure what to expect. I knew it did all that voice recognition stuff, but that was about it. Now that I have used Sync for a few thousand miles, I have to say, I am more than a little impressed. With merely my voice I can command an entire army of shiny, ray-gun toting, robot warriors.

And you know what else? They all carry swords. Swords. Do you know why robots with laser rifles, space fighters, and a clearly minimal range of movement need carry swords? Well, why did Darth Vader have a cape? Why do fighter planes have wings? I’ll tell you why, mister. Because it’s awesome. And with regard to Cylons, probably because Glen A. Larson had some kind of domination fetish. I have no proof of course, but why is nobody asking this question?

Anyway, after I was done playing ‘Adama and the Cylonauts’, I found Sync could even process commands given to non-fictional armies. What an age we live in! There’s this little button on the steering wheel and, when pressed, I was prompted by this sexy voice to “Say your command”. I have to admit that I was aroused intrigued by this. I found that I could control everything from my iPod to the cabin A/C with only voice commands. There are physical buttons, sure. But why would I want to reach all the way to the dashboard and push the “on” button for the heater, when I could just push the Sync button and enjoy some deft repartee with Samantha (seriously, that’s the name Microsoft gave her). Once you turn Samantha on (giggle), she begins:

Samantha: “Say your command”
Me: “Climate”
Samantha (confirming command): “Climate”
Me(uncertain): “Um, make it warmer?”
Samantha: “I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize the command"
Me: “Oh Samantha, you’re such a tease.”
Samantha: “Well, I aim to please.”
Me: “You have a gift for rhyme.”
Samantha: “Yes, yes, some of the time.”
My Wife (irritated): “Enough of that.”
Me(ignoring my wife): “Samantha, are there wrecks ahead?”
Samantha (with faux gravitas): “If there are, we all be dead.”
My Wife (clearly getting annoyed): “No more rhymes now, I mean it!”
Me: “Anybody want a peanut?

Then Samantha and I laugh and laugh. Ah, that reminds of that one summer on the beach. We really had some ‘peanuts’ back then, didn’t we Samantha? I’m sorry I never wrote. But I’m with someone else now, and well, you know how it is. I tried using Google Maps to send you letters a couple of times. But they were all returned in the form of Cease and Desist letters from the Google legal department. Speaking of odd bedfellows, here’s another Sync features I really like...

Google Maps Integration: Sponsored by Microsoft...wait, what?

Phil? Phil Connors? Google Maps!
For some reason (Bing sucks) Microsoft decided to use Google Maps for their online integration. The integration allows you to visit Google Maps, find a destination, and use the ‘send’ feature to upload the address to your Sync-enabled car. Once back in your car you connect to the Sync services via your paired phone and are immediately informed about the newly available destination. A warbled female voice (I assume Samantha’s grandmother, let’s call her Agatha) asks you if you would like this address set as your current destination or if you would like to keep it as a “saved point” for later use.

Assuming you choose the former, there is this weird silence (or you may hear Agatha tell you not to use your phone during the upload). A few seconds later your hear Samantha returns saying: “Download complete. You may now use your phone.”. Gee, thanks a lot your majesty. She is so bossy. But, the typical Samantha ‘tude notwithstanding, I think it’s a pretty cool feature.

Text Messages: On the Read Again

If you driving and get a phone call, no problem. You can just answer it (hopefully) with your hands-free device. But what if you get a text message? I can’t speak for all smartphones, but most won’t read the text message to you. At least not without you having to physically grab your phone and tell it to do so. But my sweetheart Samantha will. She’s so thoughtful. When I get a text on the road I hear a little ‘ding!’ and a envelope icon appears on the cars display. Then a dialog box comes up with a button saying ‘read message’. And what’s even more awesomer? I can just tell Samantha, with my mouth, to read it to me without having to do anything (other than push the Sync button on the steering wheel)! The Sync system can also recognize many lolspeak abbreviations. It will read “LOL” as “laughing out loud”, “sry” as “sorry”, etc. But it won’t read any “forbidden” words. It will just read those terms phonetically. This can provide you countless hours of entertainment (assuming you regularly get texts from 14 year old boys who play a lot of Halo). Check it out..

If your “friend” sends you a text like this:
OMG yer Masters thesis sux! I was like WTF STFU! LMAO LOLOLOL

Samantha would say something like:
Omega your Masters thesis soo-ex. I was like waatiff stoofoo. Lammaow laughing out loud out loud out loud

I know, right? How can not be the funnest thing on Earth. I was lammaowing for like an hour. So that's what happens when you get a text message. But what about sending texts? Yep, Sync can do that too. But it would fall into the “Limitations & Annoyances” category. More on that later. Speaking of morons...

Limitations & Annoyances: Pobody’s Nerfect

While the above features are only three of the many I like about my Ford’s Sync system, there are many others I could certainly live without. In addition to some unfortunate user-interface abbreviations, there are other things that are more than a little hokey. Case(s) in point...

I am actually afraid to push this button.
Sync and its inconsistent nanny settings really chap my lips. Most things can be done either with your voice or via the touchscreen. While voice commands are fine, there are many times you may not want to shout commands at your car (like when you’re are on a road trip and all the passengers are asleep). In that case, you may find yourself befuddled by how the Ford and/or Microsoft legal department engineering team implemented Sync’s behavioral controls safety features. Do you want to use the touchscreen to browse through every single one of the 3000 songs on your iPod, one at a time, while flying down the road at 65mph? No problem! But what’s that? You want to use the GPS database to search for the nearest Drive-Thru Tree (seriously, California...does the world really need more than one?). Oh, silly human, you have to be absolutely motionless to do that! So does Sync want to protect me from myself or do they want me to sue them because I wasn’t sure exactly which version of “Wicked Game” I wanted to listen to and drove into oncoming traffic whilst making up my mind? It’s a simple question Samantha. Would you eat the Moon is it was made of ribs?

With regard to the Google Maps integration, there more than one ball dropped. Or would that be ‘more than one dropped balls’? Either way it sounds weird. So anyway, Sync can only receive a destination, not an entire route. What’s more, Sync can only accept a single ‘sent’ destination at a time. So you can’t send several locations to your car and then build a route manually. When I tried to do that, only the most recently sent address was received. So if you want to take the scenic route, you apparently have only two options. You can 1) listen to Samantha constantly nag you with useless directions because you are not taking the “right” road, or 2) take your WLAN-enabled laptop to your car and spend an hour or so going through the process of sending one location, then connecting to Sync to receive it, then having it downloaded to your car, then saving that location to the GPS “address book”, then disconnecting, and doing to all again...and again...and again -- until your have all your waypoints. Oh, and then your would have to spend another chunk of time using said waypoints to build a route. In short, the Google Maps integration is great for directions to somewhere. But kind of useless for route planning. The word on the street is there are ways around this problem....keep it on the D/L.

And remember that ‘sending text messages’ thing I mentioned earlier? Well, here’s the deal: you can only send (or reply with) one of several canned statements. And each message you send is tagged with the oh-so-classy “Sent From My Ford” at the end. Some of the more cerebral canned messages are:

    We have a list of approved statements....
    • Where R U?
    • Be there in 10 minutes
    • Stuck in Traffic
    • Yes
    • No
    • War is Peace
    • Freedom is Slavery
    • Ignorance is Strength


     And that’s about it. All in all, I really like the car. Since writing this post I have racked up an additional 5000 miles and I still think the car is great. As is the case with any hybrid car these days, you will pay a premium price. For most folks I doubt the fuel savings will offset the higher price. But if you do a lot of low-speed, stop and go driving like I do it just might be worth a look. Just make sure to do the math. :)

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