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A look into the new 2011 Ford Explorer with My Touch

I’m not a car geek. Far from it. So let me tell you how I ended up test driving the new 2011 Ford Explorer. All 3.5L V6 of it.

I am an avid listener of a US-based tech podcast called This Week in Tech. Many of you may be familiar with this show hosted by Leo Laporte and other former hosts of The Screensavers, a popular live IT show that aired in the late 90’s to early 00’s on Tech TV. The spiritual successor of The Screensavers would be the current Attack of the Show, but it is a far successor, and whatever likeness it had to the original Screensavers long faded. That said, This Week in Tech or “TWiT” had a following like no other. It is easily the number one podcast in the world on technology. Since it is very close to talk radio, sponsors would get fantastic air time with Leo talking about new products and services. For the longest time, Ford was one of them. The car company needed an IT angle and the timing of the launch of the Ford Sync platform was just right.

Leo talked about Sync. He talked about how tech is making its way into cars. And he did it really passionately so the concept of the Sync system really stuck.

Fast forward to today.

One particular thing I enjoy about technology is how it helps consumer appliances and other goods evolve into platforms. By ‘platform’ I mean a space where new and amazing things can happen. Our computer is a platform. Before, the mobile phone — which could only call and send SMS has now evolved into an ecosystem for doing almost anything. You can surf the web. You can watch movies and listen to music. You can play games. The growing trend these days is that consumer IT is invading all aspects of your life, turning things that we use everyday into platforms of their own.

Two emerging platforms that come after smartphones and computers would be the living room and cars. The living room’s centerpiece are these new “SMART” television sets that allow you to do pretty much the same thing you can do on your phone as well as other things like watch movies on demand, download apps, surf the web, etc. And yes, it is also happening in cars. Cars are platforms now. You can use them to surf the web and download apps. Mostly to help you drive.

And this is where Ford comes in. I was extremely amazed with how the Ford Sync system — later renamed to My Touch is making waves in the automotive industry. The Sync system is developed by Microsoft.

Since I knew some people in Ford, I asked whether the Sync system was already here and true enough there was semblance of it in the Ford Fiesta which was launched last year. Voice commands, iPod support, music. They lent it to me and I had an amazing experience driving the damn thing and changing radio stations with my voice.

But still, this was not the My Touch system that the Internet was raving about. So a few months later, Anika sent me a message asking if I would like to try out the new Explorer — emphasizing that it already had the Microsoft My Touch system.

I shrieked like a little girl.

A few weeks later, a white V6 3.5L Limited Edition Ford Explorer was left in front of my driveway. It was beautiful. With keyless entry, I stepped into the driver’s seat — no, a cockpit would be more accurate to describe how much space there was inside and as I started the car, the driver seat moved me forward to the wheel. Epic.

As a car, the Explorer’s history speaks for itself. It defined a new class in the automotive industry with this particular 5th generation designed by Jim Holland, the genius behind the Land Rover. Touch controls, multiple HUDs, a sun roof add to the already amazing driving experience.

Ford My Touch Powered by Microsoft

My video summary of the Ford Explorer’s My Touch system

The My Touch system consists of two sets — flanking the speedometer are two 4 inch screens that display pertinent information such as fuel consumption, music, airconditioning, and the compass. Both screens are controlled by two 4-way directional pads on the steering wheel, one on each side, so you can really customize what you’re viewing. The second component is the 8-inch touch screen that controls everything on the dashboard including other things you don’t usually find in a car such as Bluetooth pairing of your phone for music, SMS and calls, and wireless Internet. You can choose to connect to the web using a Wi-Fi hotspot or through a compatible USB dongle. There are still some issues with tethering so not all phones are compatible. Also, the web features are all turned off for safety when the car is moving.

Voice commands are fun to use. I connected by Samsung Galaxy S II for most of the time I had the car and My Touch even contextually reads out a “=)” as “smiley face” when you ask it to read SMS for you. You have the option of storing your text messages in the dashboard but they can only be read when you pair the said device.

The My Touch system also gives access to other features such as the dimming and changing of colors of the ambient lighting — which was limited to the cup holders and door handle lights. This was perhaps one of my more favorite features

You can store a million things inside the trunk. There is a one button solution to pulling down the back seats into two different configurations — one of which removes the chairs completely to turn the entire third row into an extended flat trunk. It fits more than 3 pairs of SCUBA gear.

One of the things I love — the passenger row comes with a wall socket.

I’ve been reading other reviews online on Ford’s My Touch and it seems that the system is actually what prevents some people from buying the car. On my end, apart from having too many options on the touch screen (yes it can get confusing) the system didn’t crash at any one point in the one week that I had it. Despite this, everyone does agree that the new Explorer is a fantastic car and it’s definitely worth a second look if you’re in the market for a SUV.

At P2.35 million, this is one affordable car in i

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast and sitting Techbology Editor for The Philippine STAR.

He is also an EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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