Ford Taurus X Rental

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 

Rental car review

ford taurus x.jpg
This week i got a new Ford Taurus X, an interesting rental car. It’s an SUV type vehicle, oversized and overaccesorized, but a surprisingly pleasant vehicle that’s fairly easy to drive and comfortable.
Now the theory is that such a car would be good for off-road use or something since it has four wheel drive, but that’s really not happening. Better to think of it as a minivan with a nose and some extra weight in the drive train. Desipite the foolishness of SUVs in general, and especially given gas prices, the car had some neat features.
  • I used the backup sensor in a parking lot – a good thing as the car is long and has poor visibility out the back.
  • It has an outside temperature indicator which I like.
  • The seat moves all the way back when you take the key out, and then back to where it was for us old people.
  • The tailgate opens and closes itself, which is kind of absurd and overkill but fun in a gadgety way.
  • The engine is fairly powerful (Canadian rentals seem to be more powerful than US rentals – my .ca Grand Am would spin it’s wheels embarrassingly easily, whereas my .ca.us Grand Am in LA was kind of anemic).
  • It’s quiet and comfortable.
  • The rear seats fold into the floor of the car – just like a mini-van.
  • The stereo had an analog input and a 6 CD MP3 changer
  • It has Microsoft Sync – more on that below.

Microsoft Sync is an interesting thing. I’ve had rental cars with it before but this is the first time I’ve played with it. It pairs to your phone and does a pretty good job of recognizing spoken numbers. I opted not to download my address book to the rental car, so i don’t know how it handles that, but digit dialing worked much better than it does with my RAZR V3i.

That’s the good part. The bad part of Sync is that the menu system sucks. It is almost un-navigable. While I respect the idea of voice only navigation, the prompts are too long – a series of 10 or more commands spoken to you from the help system slowly in simplex mode (meaning it doesn’t listen until it is done). Because, I assume, they want you to look at the road and not at a display, the display on the radio is pretty much useless. I believe this is an error – it is more distracting having a system that is hard to use than one that gives you necessary information at a glance and lets you get back to the road, task complete.

An example is pairing the phone, which will not proceed while the vehicle is in motion. I don’t understand why – the menu navigation is, if anything, less complex than getting the phone to dial or (god forbid) choosing a song to play from your iPod. Also, bizarrely, the system generates a random 6 digit PIN to enter into your phone to pair the phone with the car. What up with the security? That seems like overkill in as much as you have to be in the car, stopped, with access to the radio to initiate pairing, at which point the high security PIN is displayed to you. It seems like a pointless hassle.

Getting the iPod to play is another hassle. Nobody has figured out how Apple’s interface works. And it does work, more or less (and better more recently). This one has a semi-random list of everything on your iPod when you plug it into the USB port, with no navigation aids at all. The voice prompts for playlists don’t work with an iPod (probably do with a Zune, but like everyone else I don’t have a Zune). So you basically can skip forward and back through the randomly calculated play list. Woo… The UI for music playback definitely needs some work – it is even worse than the Audi’s.

And it changed my ring settings on my cell phone!  It shouldn’t do that!

Posted at 23:00:30 UTC

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