Ford Sync 4 brings smartphone control as standard to all new cars

Ford Sync 4
(Image credit: Ford)

Like the idea of using your smartphone to monitor features of your car from the comfort of your home or office? Well, if you pick a up new Ford in the future, you'll get exactly that at no extra cost.

Ford has taken the covers off its new in-car smart system – dubbed Ford Sync – which introduces a raft of new connectivity features including smartphone app support as standard.

The auto maker confirmed that all new models introduced in Europe will come with a Ford Pass modem as standard – which is the brains between the vehicle and the Ford Pass app on your smartphone.

Functionality will differ between models, with the company's brand new Ford Mustang Mach-E all electric SUV providing a wealth of options, while other cars – potentially those at the cheaper end of the range – will give you more limited control via your phone.

The Ford Pass app, alongside the new Ford Sync system, allows you to lock and unlock your car remotely, check its location (if you can't remember where you parked), keep an eye on your fuel level or battery charge (if it's a plug-in hybrid or fully electric car), set the climate control to a suitable level, and more.

In some cases, you'll be able to use the 'phone as a key' feature in the Ford Pass app, which means you won't need to carry a separate car key with you – your phone will double as one instead.

While many European countries will be able to enjoy the latter feature, owners in the UK and Ireland (with a compatible Ford car) won't be able to use it due to prohibitive legislation and insurance premiums.

There's a chance that legislation changes in the future which could allow Ford to enable the feature in the UK and Ireland later on, but for now, you'll miss out if you call either of these places home.

Ford Sync 4

(Image credit: Ford)

The new generation of Ford Sync

The original Ford Sync in-car connectivity system was launched more than a decade ago, and this latest iteration is the fourth generation of the smart software platform.

It focuses on offering owners more control and customization over their vehicle, with the ability to set up driver profiles which will remember driving styles, settings, frequent routes and locations, and more.

Ford's teamed up with TomTom and Garmin to provide real-time traffic updates (plus weather and terrain effects) and offline mapping to make sure you get the most accurate driving data, arrival times, energy consumption and security you'll be routed to your destination, even if it's in a connectivity black spot.

The interface is based around touchscreen operation, and Ford claims that nothing is more than one or two taps away, which should mean users can quickly access all their core settings.

It isn't a completely digital experience though, as Ford has also incorporated a physical volume dial into the design, as it claims drivers found the physical tactility easier to manage without looking – something which is obviously important when you're driving, as your eyes need to be on the road.

The distraction-free design continues with Ford Sync's new voice assist, which allows you to control many of the in-car features by barking commands at your vehicle (you'll need to say the 'hey Ford' wake phrase first, though).

It means you'll be able to adjust the climate, and skip music using your voice, but the system will also act as the smart assistants we've become familiar with on our smartphones and smart speakers. You'll be able to ask for weather updates, news bulletins and more – all without lifting a finger or shifting an eye off the road.

There's support for 15 European languages at launch, including English, French, Spanish, Italian and German, and Ford claims it will understand conversational voice commands, which should make it more natural to interact with.

Whether Ford's voice recognition is as good as the likes of Google's Assistant, Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri remains to be seen – but we'll be sure to put it to the test when we get behind the wheel of the Mustang Mach-E in the coming months.

Ford Sync 4

(Image credit: Ford)

New Ford Sync in the Mustang Mach-E

As we've mentioned, the Mustang Mach-E gets a few more smartphone tricks, like the ability to look for charging stations, get range estimates and send routing information directly to the vehicle.

The app integration starts before you even take delivery of the Mustang Mach-E, with the Ford Pass app allowing you to setup a driver profile and key destinations (such as home and work addresses), meaning the car is tailored to you as soon as you get the keys in your hand.

The new Ford Sync system will operate on the large 15.5-inch central display of the Mach-E, which is portrait in its orientation to mimic a smartphone.

As well as Ford's own navigation system and built-in apps from the likes of Accu Weather, Waze, Alexa and Pandora, Sync 4 also supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

It means you don't need to connect your handset to the car with a cable to use Google's and Apple's car-focused systems – putting popular apps such as Apple Maps, Google Maps, Spotify, WhatsApp and more onto the vehicle's infotainment system.

CarPlay and Auto will only take up half of the display as well, allowing you to access other car functions, like climate settings, simultaneously. This differs from many vehicles where CarPlay and Auto take up the whole screen and require you to exit them if you want to use other features on the touchscreen.

As the Mach-E is an all-electric car, Sync 4 will keep an eye on your charge level and provide notifications when it predicts you'll need to top-up, and give you routing directions to charging stations.

With Ford Pass Intelligent Charging, the Mustang Mach-E will learn your schedule and charge up at the most cost efficient time – instead of drip-charging throughout the night. Plus, you'll get emails telling you how much energy and money you've saved. 

Ford Sync 4 also supports seamless over-the-air (OTA) updates, which means more features can be added to the system in the future. 

Ford hasn't revealed what new features owners can expect in the future, but it has confirmed that it will be bringing more to the system.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.