As expected, the 2015 Ford Falcon FG X and Territory SZ II will be the first models sold in Australia with the blue oval brand’s latest SYNC2 in-car connectivity system, replete with localised voice-control that understands the tough-to-grasp Okker accent.
With information about the final iterations of Ford’s Australian-made staples now coming thick and fast ahead of a mid-November launch, today’s news about the slick new infotainment system confirms what the company hinted at last month.
The single whole cabin shot above is of the SZ II Territory, which confirms that any significant stylistic changes to that vehicle were knocked on the head by Ford Australia’s small budget (though which included $103 million in government co-contributions for the Territory as well as Falcon).
The design appears no different to the existing version introduced in 2011, though the brown leather on the seats appears new.
Do not expect any wholesale changes for the FG X Falcon cabin beyond SYNC2 either. The FG X and SZ II redesigns will see both models through their their demise in October 2016, when Ford’s Victorian factories shutter.
UPDATE: See Ford's just-released Falcon specifications here.
SYNC2, which will be progressively rolled out across the imported Ford range from 2015 on models such as the new Mondeo, updated Focus and Mustang, brings the brand up to date against rivals in any area where it has lagged behind.
While the outgoing Falcon and Territory both already featured eight-inch screens, the new models get a new high-resolution unit. The SYNC2 system can be operated via a touchscreen and physical buttons, but the headline act is a significantly upgraded voice-recognition system called Karen.
Yes, Karen. That is the name for the female voice for SYNC2’s Australian English setting, fettled here at Ford’s Melbourne-based engineering centre. The system is said be more conversational and less stilted than most systems, in this way it is pitched as something like Apple’s Siri.
The system, developed by Nuance, is regionalised to handle the “three main varieties” of Australian accents, according to Ford Motor Co. SYNC product development head Mark Porter.
“Australian English pronunciation is determined less by region than by social, cultural and educational influences. It is sometimes claimed that there are variations in accent and pronunciation among people of different states and territories.
“Most linguists consider there to be three main varieties of Australian English: (a) Broad Australian English, (b) General Australian English and (c) Cultivated Australian English.”
Functions that can be controlled by voice are the navigation, into which addressed can be entered in one shot — so, saying “1735 Sydney rd Campbellfield” rather than entering each component piecemeal — and places of interest can be found by saying a phrase such as “find a car park”.
The navigation comes with a split-screen display with detailed intersections, spoken street names, 3D highway junction and landmark views, and piggybacks the Michelin guide and Michelin Green Guide.
So for instance, pushing the voice control button and saying “I’m hungry” will bring up a list of local restaurants, which you can then get directions to.
The voice function also controls the audio and Bluetooth telephone controls as usual and, in a nifty touch, control the car’s. Say a phrase such as “temperature 20 degrees” and hey presto…
The SYNC2 interface itself is split into four quadrants, including for example telephony, music, temperature and trip information. Each can be controlled via touchscreen if voice commands don’t float your boat.
Finally, the SYNC2 system also includes Emergency Assistance, which calls emergency services in the fuel shut-off system is engaged in the wake of a crash. It uses the Bluetooth connection to call 000 and feed through GPS coordinates.