It’s an iPhone with wheels and only a quarter of the cool factor

Credit: Katehartman/Flickr.com

Yesterday I picked up a car that I went into blind. Normally, I do a bit of research on my new vehicles (at least to look at pictures and determine if I want to be seen in said vehicle or not all week), but this time I decided to go in a blank slate. The last Lincoln I drove was nearly a year ago, and I wanted to go in fresh without prejudice and without another auto journalist’s opinions and comments swirling around my brain.

Well, I should have done my homework this time because I failed the test miserably as soon as I got behind the wheel.

This is, perhaps, one of the most tech-y cars I’ve ever been in. And I can’t make it work properly for the life of me, which in itself is a bit of a lark and a horrible realization all at once.

Am I getting too old? Have I reached that stage where I gripe about how loud a stereo is and how my lower back isn’t supported correctly in the latest model? Has it really come to that? Or is this car just so technology-packed that it’s unusable?

I’d like to think the latter is true, but I’m not too sure. I’m tempted to let my younger (by nearly 6 years) cousin have a go at the cockpit of this car and see if she can easily manipulate everything this vehicle has to offer without crashing into oncoming traffic.

First things first, the iPhone-esque vehicle is the 2011 Lincoln MKX. Shocked? I was. Now, I know Ford is all for the gadgetry in their cars with the SYNC system and the Ford MyTouch (unfortunate name, though not as unfortunate as the MyLincoln Touch) available on most models, but I did not expect the 2011 MKX to have made such a futuristic leap from the last time I drove it.

Let’s start with the fact that everything on the middle console and onboard comptuer screen is touchy feely. So, while it may look like the middle is loaded with buttons and things you can actually press, in fact all you have to do is delicately hover your finger over them (sometimes) and things will happen. The volume and fan “buttons”? Oh, they’re just fancy strips of plastic (that look like decoration at first) that you simply drag your finger across lightly to activate.

I feel anxious just looking at it all.

Now, for anyone who salivated at the bit for the iPhone, this all sounds absolutely brilliant.

Well, it’s not.

It’s downright dangerous when you’re driving and it’s impractical. The screen is so massive with so many options and things you can “touch” to activate that to understand what’s actually happening you’ll have plowed through at least 3 smart cars and an old woman with a cane before you realize you missed a red light somewhere back there. Add to that the fact that the touchy-feely buttons aren’t always as touchy-feely as you’d like them to be and you’ve got a recipe for pure automotive chaos.

Why can’t I just choose to have the fan blow on my feet? Why do I have to go through the “climate” folder in the onboard computer, then “touch” the word “driver” on the screen, then “touch” the picture with the foot air thingy and then lightly brush the temp + “button” to raise the degree a painstaking .5 degrees per brush?! Why can’t I just click the foot air button and turn the dial to hot which takes considerably less time and means I didn’t run over that dog and hit the sign post back there?

I love the idea of the iPhone, truly I do. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll roll their eyes and say that yes, indeed, Miranda desperately wants an iPhone (and will not shut up about it). And while the iPhone is a brilliant piece of technology as a phone, entertainment and organizational tool, transfer that technology to a car and it all seems a bit silly.

Now, I also know the beauty of the MyLincoln Touch (I feel dirty every time I say that) is the SYNC voice-activated system, but I fear it would take me a week or more of programming to get the car to do what I wanted without making me crash while I was doing it. Yes, you can preload music into SYNC and you can store 3 sets of 6 Sirius radio channels as well as FM and AM (3 lists of 6 each) as well as your phone book and car profiles (seat settings, climate when the car is remotely started, etc.), but I don’t want to be holed up in the Lincoln MKX for a month in my driveway while I ensure everything is properly loaded in the computer.

Maybe I am getting old, who knows, all I know is that I very nearly rear-ended the car in front of me when the Lincoln so kindly sent a “text” to my gauges to tell me my front-crash warning system was inactive because the front sensor was dirty and instead of pressing the right OK (there are two on either side of the steering wheel) I activated the radio which I tried to turn down with the slidey volume thing which only turned it up to a deafening level.

I’m sure there’s some irony in there somewhere, but I’m too befuddled and aggravated by this car’s futuristic outlook to find it.

Drive on,
– M.

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~ by drivingmsmiranda on February 8, 2011.

8 Responses to “It’s an iPhone with wheels and only a quarter of the cool factor”

  1. OMG! You are turning into your mother! I would be terrified to touch anything in that car incase it ejected me, or decided to park itself in the middle of the highway!
    Too funny.

  2. Yo Miranda!

    While touch screens are wonderful things (they give software designers infinite possibilities to design user interfaces without being locked in to a physical keypad), they do have numerous downsides. The biggest downside is that you have to actually LOOK at the device when using it, since there aren’t any physical buttons to push. I have this problem with my Android powered phone. With my old phone, I could just make a call without looking at it since I knew the physical location of every button. Not so with the Android. I was in a meeting once, and while fumbling to turn on the Calculator App, I looked away for a brief instant and wound up calling my barber shop by mistake, all due to several mistaken swipes of the touch screen.

    While I enjoy a techy car as much as the next person, I prefer to have a car with clearly marked knobs, buttons, etc. that can be operated by feel. All of this flashy tech just takes away from the #1 thing that your supposed to do with a a car… Drive it!

    Great post!

    Cheers!
    G-LO

    • Hey G-Lo,

      As always, appreciate the support!! 🙂

      While driving home the other night I accidently brushed the hazard button with my hand while adjusting the radio and then couldn’t turn it off for a few minutes as the button no longer responded to my frantic swipes, brushes and pushes. Hehehe

      Technology IS great, but all in moderation.

      Drive on,
      – M.

  3. Has everyone forgotten about Ergonomics?
    I hope these designers don’t do nuclear power stations, they’d probably put the “Shutdown” button in some obscure out of reach place ;(

  4. I looked at the photo and admired your cars amazing dashboard, with all it’s technological wizardry. And now I’d like to give you a little pat on the head and congratulate you for attaining a position in life where you can acquire this top of the range car. Because after all, isn’t that what your blog is so desperately asking for?

    Next I’ll put on a pair of studious spectacles and pose in a rather thoughtful and reflective manner, peering over the top of said spectacles like the literary giant I’d like people to consider me to be. A write a smug little blog which will actually be a big advert for me and my narcissistic self, telling the whole world how great I am.

    • Hey Andy,

      Wow, totally not the response I expected at all.

      First off; this is not a blog about my car. I do not own the MKX. Secondly, this is my job.

      I’m not looking for approval on my life status as I’m quite sure no one gives a hoot. I’m a measly little auto journalist who likes to write … hence the reason I have a blog. If you looked into the reasons behind this blog before immediately jumping to conclusions you may have realized that.

      I’m sorry if my blog comes off a bit self-centered, but then that’s what blogs really happen to be about, right? Blogs are written in a personal light (generally), so if I wrote from anyone else’s point of view, that would just seem weird, no? I write about my experiences in the cars I drive — like any auto journalist does. At least, last time I checked that’s how it worked …

      I’m sorry you seem to have gotten out of the wrong side of the bed this morning. May I suggest a cup of coffee and some sugar to lighten your mood?

      Drive on,
      – M.

  5. […] going to bed that night. Even Sunday I was a bit shaky and off-balance. The drive home in the MKX proved to be a bit nauseating as […]

  6. […] at, it’s also rolling gadget. I much prefer the middle console of the Explorer to that of the MKX as well, which is a definite […]

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