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Apr 12, 2001
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One of the hottest electric vehicles at the moment is Ford's Mustang Mach-E, and I recently had a chance to spend some time in a 2021 model in First Edition trim to test out all of its features including the SYNC 4A infotainment system on a massive 15.5-inch portrait display with support for wireless CarPlay.

2021-mach-e.jpg

I went hands-on with the 2021 F-150 hybrid with SYNC 4 a few months ago, but the SYNC 4A infotainment system in the Mach-E offers a rather different experience.

The Mach-E offers very little in the way of hardware controls, certainly as far as the dash and center stack are concerned, with almost all of the vehicle's functions handled through the main infotainment screen that dominates the vehicle's interior. About the only hardware control in the traditional center stack area is a textured ring for controlling volume, and even that is mounted directly on the screen in a very neat touch.

SYNC 4A Infotainment

The SYNC 4A infotainment system is essentially divided vertically into four sections, with a narrow top bar at the top offering some high-level information on the vehicle and access to some shortcuts, a main app section, a card-based interface for changing between functions, and a climate control section at the bottom.

2021-mach-e-sync.jpg

SYNC 4A relies heavily on the card-based user interface, with the swipeable row of cards offering information on and access to features such as the radio, onboard navigation, phone, owner's manual, and more. Tapping any of them brings the corresponding full app to the main portion of the screen. If you're using CarPlay, that will take over this primary portion of the screen that offers a generous amount of space, but you'll still have access to the native infotainment functions on the rest of the screen.

2021-mach-e-sync-nav.jpg

I've repeatedly noted that I'm not a fan of screen-based climate controls, so that's a knock against the Mach-E. Automatic systems are, however, getting more and more sophisticated to allow you to mostly "set it and forget it" with only the occasional temperature adjustment or a temporary shift to defrost mode, for example. You can also use the built-in voice assistant to make changes to your settings without having to touch the screen.

2021-mach-e-sync-shortcuts.jpg

While the huge portrait display and the volume ring are very futuristic looking, I'm not a huge fan of the overall look of the SYNC 4A system, as it just feels bland to me. That blandness is even more noticeable when you've got CarPlay with its vibrant apps and icons displayed on a portion of the screen.

CarPlay

I still tell everyone who will listen that wireless CarPlay is a life-changing feature, even if you're coming from the wired version. Having CarPlay automatically pop up on the screen without having to take your phone out of your pocket just makes the whole experience so much smoother. So even for short drives where in the past I wouldn't have bothered digging out my phone and plugging it in, with wireless I've got CarPlay up and ready to go if I need it.

2021-mach-e-carplay-maps.jpg

Fortunately, wireless CarPlay comes standard with SYNC 4A and the Mach-E, something that's becoming more and more common as car manufacturers have accelerated development on their infotainment systems in response to customer demand and rapidly changing technology.

2021-mach-e-carplay-home.jpg

CarPlay is bright and vibrant on the Mach-E's display, and I like that it only takes up a portion of the screen so I still have access to information and controls from the native system. But while CarPlay is reasonably large on the screen, it's unfortunately not widescreen, which is a feature I've come to appreciate on many cars for the much more expansive view of navigation apps like Apple Maps. Still, CarPlay looks good and works well, and it's well-positioned to be visible while not being too far out of your line of sight while driving.

2021-mach-e-carplay-now-playing.jpg

Ford has also recently rolled out a software update that enables CarPlay to take over even more of the screen, shrinking the native card interface in the row below and offering a more square aspect ratio for CarPlay, although this functionality wasn't available on my vehicle at the time of testing. It seems to have appeared first in the new GT models before making its way into other versions of the vehicle.

Digital Cluster

Similar to the VW ID.4, the Mach-E doesn't have much directly in front of the driver, going for a minimal look that relies on a 10.2-inch display to provide all of the relevant information.

2021-mach-e-driver-display.jpg

The display shows battery level and range data, current gear, speed, vehicle safety data, navigation prompts, and more, dynamically adjusting as needed based on what's happening with the vehicle. Second-screen navigation prompts for Apple Maps in CarPlay are supported on the driver's display, offering another way to help keep you headed in the right direction.

Charging and Ports

As with most of the rest of the hardware in the vehicle, connectivity options in the Mach-E are a bit sparse, but you do get a set of USB ports (one USB-A and one USB-C) located prominently below the center display for wired connectivity. There's another set of USB-A and USB-C ports for second-row passengers.

2021-mach-e-rear-usb.jpg

There's also a wireless charging pad adjacent to the front ports, located under a portion of a rubber mat for keeping other items from sliding around too much. The mat has dividers to separate the main bin into sections, and the wireless charging area is JUST big enough to accommodate a Max-sized iPhone. If you have a bulky case on yours, it might not quite fit.

2021-mach-3-charger.jpg

Wrap-up

Given that this is an Apple site and not an EV site, I haven't focused on some of the main features of the Mach-E such as the driving experience, but I will say it was a joy to drive with the snappy performance you expect from an EV of this type. Acceleration off the line was excellent, thanks in significant part to my tester being a First Edition eAWD model with 346 horses and a 0–60 time of 4.8 seconds. It's not as quick as the new GT editions that can push that time down into the mid-3s, but it's a big step up from the lower-end RWD versions with times closer to six seconds.

As for the SYNC 4A infotainment system and CarPlay, I have mixed feelings about these. The large portrait display is certainly eye-catching, but I don't love the overall look and I wish more functions were still available as hardware controls. The portrait display pretty much precludes the possibility of a widescreen CarPlay layout, but aside from that, I thought it worked well with the SYNC 4A system.

The wireless connectivity was solid in my experience, and wireless phone charging worked well with the tight fit on the charging mat ensuring that my phone couldn't become misaligned while driving. And thankfully, both wireless CarPlay and wireless phone charging are standard across all trims.

I'm glad to see support for Apple Maps directions in the digital cluster coming to more and more vehicles, and Ford has done a good job making that information fit in with the overall look of the system.

Article Link: Review: 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Brings Wireless CarPlay to a Huge Infotainment Display
 
Last edited:

Menel

Suspended
Aug 4, 2011
6,351
1,356
How does it handle multiple devices paired? say you and your spouse using it. How does it know which phone if you are both in the car?

With the aftermarket dongle in my current car, it pops up a selection menu that takes 10-15s to time out. Does Ford have similar?
 
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lovehateapple

macrumors 6502a
Oct 15, 2015
617
954
USA
I think the car looks great on the outside. Will have to withhold judgment on the infotainment system and interior until I see it in person. At first glance, I don't think I like the design of the controls and screens.

Will have to do some research on what Ford wants for the vehicle.
 

Serban55

Suspended
Oct 18, 2020
2,153
4,343
A lot of car manufactures forget about whats important on a car...reliability and ergonomics
Now everyone is chasing this stuppid who get the larger displays in their car...probably in the future you will get a touchscreen steering wheel also
 

oldMacGenius

macrumors member
Feb 7, 2018
90
164
San Francisco, CA
With Electrify America charging included, EVgo already everywhere, and Tesla opening up their superchargers coast to coast with industry standard CCS, this is a great long range option for those who want carplay.

In fact, your Mustang at a Tesla supercharger will be the only vehicle supporting CarPlay, so there’s that.
 
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Gator5000e

macrumors 6502a
Jan 27, 2018
954
851
I think I'd prefer the screen in landscape position instead of portrait. It's like watching Justice League: Snyder Cut in IMAX on your TV. Huge black bars on the side of the screen.
 

jcshas

macrumors 65816
Oct 8, 2003
1,041
1,324
As these dashboard screens keep getting bigger, it makes me nervous to think someone is paying more attention to the laptop size screen on their dashboard, rather than keeping their eyes on the road. I’m sure autonomous features are helping reduce some of the risk, but distracted driving is still a huge problem with drivers.
 

chr1s60

macrumors 68020
Jul 24, 2007
2,062
1,857
California
An excellent car with the dumbest name in decades.
While this is not a Mustang by any stretch, it was actually a very smart move by Ford, in my opinion. Using the iconic name immediately drew interest to a vehicle, that if introduced by another name would likely not have received half of the attention it has. It was a marketing decision and my guess is that it has paid off well for the company and very likely drew customers into the EV market that did not necessarily intend to look there.
 

TechRunner

macrumors 65816
Oct 28, 2016
1,306
2,246
SW Florida, US
As these dashboard screens keep getting bigger, it makes me nervous to think someone is paying more attention to the laptop size screen on their dashboard, rather than keeping their eyes on the road. I’m sure autonomous features are helping reduce some of the risk, but distracted driving is still a huge problem with drivers.
Seriously. Hands-free phone use is the law pretty much everywhere here in the U.S., but what good is that if you're free to fiddle around with a 12" touchscreen strapped to your dash?
 

ckelley

macrumors regular
Aug 25, 2003
140
236
Austin, TX
How does it handle multiple devices paired? say you and your spouse using it. How does it know which phone if you are both in the car?

With the aftermarket dongle in my current car, it pops up a selection menu that takes 10-15s to time out. Does Ford have similar?
It will default to the last connected device if it's within range, but you can go into Settings > Connections and switch to the other phone.

Example: Girlfriend drove the car by herself, used wireless CarPlay, came home. When we both got in the car next, though I was driving and also had my iPhone in range, it connected to her phone since it was the last one connected.
 
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