Sync is state-of-the-art voice-recognition technology, a fully integrated in-car communications and entertainment system for mobile phones and media players.
Ford is the only place to get the system so sophisticated that it hints vehicles will bow at consumer electronics confabs rather than auto shows.
Besides accessing the old cell phone or MP3--by genre, album, artist or and song title--Sync also teams up with Bluetooth technology to call up names and numbers stored in your phone.
Sync can host nearly any media player, from the Apple iPod to MP3s with "plays for sure" technology to most USB storage drives.
It relays incoming text messages verbally; transfers a call from your cell to a Bluetooth phone in the car; and provides caller ID, call waiting and conference calling.
If overwhelmed by all the sophisticated electronics, simply utter "Play Elvis," and the King will entertain.
Elvis must have left the building when we tested the system, however, because try as we might, the Microsoft designed Sync couldn't find him in the 2008 Ford Focus. We would have gotten Sync in sync if granddaughter Haylie was available, but her 2nd-grade teacher wouldn't let her call us from class.
Sync is standard on the redesigned 2008 Focus SES as well as high-end versions of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers. It will be available on nearly all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury products--standard or as a $395 option--within two years.
Sync is to Ford as OnStar is to General Motors, a means of adapting high-tech electronics to your car. While OnStar unlocks doors, summons help if an airbag deploys and can find the car via satellite, Sync ensures you never have to miss a text message or your favorite tune. Why attach an earpiece to your melon or slip an iPod into your pocket, when you can simply wrap yourself in an automobile?
While Sync is magical and mystical, the Focus it's in is hardly the most technologically advanced vehicle in the Ford stable, much less in the industry.
In fairness, you have to remember that Ford has been bleeding money the last few years and hasn't had the funds to remake its lineup as it would have liked.
Focus is offered in S, SE and SES versions as a two-door coupe or four-door sedan. We tested the SES coupe.
This Focus represents a redesign of the current generation, not the next-generation world car that will be shared by Ford and its partners around the globe. Maybe that one will be able to summon Elvis.
The European Focus as well as the Volvo S40 sedan and Mazda3 share a small-car platform. The U.S. Focus will get with that program in a couple of years.
The old Focus leaned toward bland. The new one adopts the look of the mid-size Ford Fusion with its dual, aluminum-bar grille. It stands out rather than getting lost in a crowd like the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla with which it competes.
The 2-liter, 136-horsepower 4- cylinder has been replaced by a 2-liter, 140-h.p. Duratec 4 with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. Fuel economy is 24 m.p.g. city/35 m.p.g. highway with manual, 24/33 with automatic.
It's no speed merchant. Gets you going, keeps you going, but you'll follow, not lead. Focus's forte? Its membership in the 30 m.p.g. club.
Suspension is strictly econocar, as well. The rougher the road, the rougher the ride. The car tends to swing a little wide in corners. Seats are flat, so you sit on them rather than sinking into them. Side bolsters are narrow with little lateral support.
The front seats slide forward to open a wide aisle to the rear, which offers surprisingly good head and arm room for two adults. Knee room, however, is at a premium.
Trunk space is large, though the optional audiophile speakers take a major chunk out of luggage or grocery room. Rearseat backs fold, but not flat.
The SES coupe starts at $16,075 with air conditioning, AM/FM stereo and single-disc CD player and MP3 capability, side-curtain air bag, remote keyless entry, body-colored deck-lid spoiler, fog lamps, 16- inch radial tires and power windows/ locks/mirrors. No power seats.
Options included automatic transmission at $815, anti-lock brakes and traction control for $385, heated seats at $115, leather buckets at $695, Sirius satellite radio at $195, that audiophile sound-system upgrade with a six-disc CD changer and Sony speakers for $645 and ambient lighting for the front footwells that changes colors-- green, red, yellow and a soothing silver blue--at the touch of a button for $295. It would be more soothing at $25.
No power moonroof on the tester, which would have added $625.
A low-price, high-mileage commuter for those hooked on the lastest wonders in music and communication?without regard to tight cabin room and comfort, a sleepy 4-cylinder and an unforgiving suspension.
Focus sales in the first nine months of this year totaled 145,977 units, down 4.1 percent, as some buyers awaited this redesigned version.
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2008 FORD FOCUS SES
Price as tested: $19,220
Add $620 for freight
Wheelbase: 102.9 inches
Length: 175.7 inches
Engine: 2-liter, 140-h.p. 4 cylinder
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
MPG: 24 city/33 highway
$815 Automatic transmission
$695 Leather bucket seats
$645 Audiophile sound system with six-disc CD player and Sony speakers
$385 ABS with traction control
$295 Ambient lighting
$195 Sirius satellite radio
$115 Heated seats
Redesign that borrows aluminum-bar grille from Fusion.
Side-curtain air bags standard.
More punch from 4.
Sync voice-activated communication system.
New sheet metal for old platform.
Learning the nuances of Sync.
Read Jim Mateja Sunday in Transportation. Contact him at email@example.com.