A closer look at Ford Ranger’s new SYNC 4 infotainment system

The new Ford Ranger has brought a number of new technologies, such as a semi-automatic driver assistance system and much richer connectivity options, but while that inclusion was welcome in many circles, it was the SYNC 4 touchscreen that dominated the look of the new car. faces have been met with mixed reactions.

How durable is this unit and why did Ford choose to inject the technology into a vehicle that doubles as a workhorse for many customers? At the recent Ford Ranger ride and in-the-metal encounter with the new Raptor, we spoke with the T6’s chief platform engineer and global chief program engineer for Ranger, Ian Foston, to find out more about Ranger’s new interface.

Why did Ford decide to install this screen in all of its new Ranger models?

Going forward, connectivity is a key area of ​​development for the automotive industry as a whole. Where previously such features were typically reserved for high-end models, our increasing reliance on connected technologies like smartphones means all of our cars need to be able to accommodate those features. Take, for example, the hardworking bakkie. Previously, these models were kept as simple as possible to keep costs under control and because there was little need for such functionality in vehicles working in fields such as fleets and agriculture. Now, with the advent of connected fleet management services and the need for better communication between these vehicle drivers, it made sense to integrate the feature from the start rather than trying to implement it later in the product lifecycle. It is a means to democratize connectivity for every type of user, from those who use their vehicles as hard workers to lifestyles and family networks.

Are there no worries about screen durability?

Both the 10.1 and 12-inch displays have gone through the same rigorous testing schedule as the Rangers they were installed in. This means testing for vibration, heat and ingress of things like moisture and dust has been factored into its development. The screen has a laminated composite construction similar to the Gorilla Glass you find on your smartphone screen, which provides protection against bumps and scratches. This construction also means that in the event of an accident, the screen will not break into shards which could further injure passengers.

What about interface reliability?

You have to remember that whether you’re talking about a touchscreen or a physical switch, both rely on relays and solenoids to transfer signals from the user (switch is flicked or screen menu pressed) to the system in question. In the case of a physical switch, things like repeated use over a long period of time or the entry of dirt and moisture can affect its functionality can cause material fatigue, or interference with relay motion or connection – things that are less likely to affect a touch screen like SYNC 4.

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Are there any other benefits to adopting SYNC 4?

Of course. First, it allowed us to accommodate greater functionality into the vehicle’s cab without resorting to the dozens of switches at the front – something that was often criticized by previous Ford models. Migrating those functions to a central hub such as the SYNC 4 not only provides access to richer connectivity features but also proves useful as a clear display and large enough for off-road functions such as the 360-degree camera feed mounted on the model. It also contributes to a much cleaner cabin aesthetic that allows other design cues to really shine through.

Would it be as intuitive as physical controls?

I believe it will happen. While we’ve opted to use a touchscreen for many of the cab’s additional controls – an approach more car manufacturers are adopting going forward – we’ve tried to balance that with a physical interface for systems that are frequently used on the fly. For example, we’ve retained the buttons and buttons for the broader features of the HVAC system, as well as the drivetrain selection interface (buttons for low/high terrain and range management) and gearshift. Our approach caters to both those who are more technologically savvy and those who want more practicality in controlling their auxiliary vehicle. Even the SYNCH 4 interface, with features such as HVAC tuning tethered close to a physical switch panel and a card-driven graphic interface with levels of customization for regularly used features, is clear and straightforward, and users don’t have to take long to adjust to system.

Article written by Gareth Dean

Possessing a sharp tongue and amber eye for most things automotive, Gareth is a CAR running anomaly. Schooled in Bristol, England, trained as a ranger and with an unhealthy Wikipedia addiction, he is an inexhaustible source of fun, interesting facts…

Follow @GarethD_CARmag in twitter.

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