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Detroit Car Show: It’s in the Dash

Car pizzazz is increasingly seen in the dash as much as on the exterior or under the hood

Home Screen for the Third-Generation Ford Sync 3 Telematic and Infotainment System

Sometimes it seems that this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit is as much about dashboards as they are about design. When those dashboards contain the latest iteration of telematic and connected car systems as they do on America’s best-selling vehicle — the Ford F-150 pickup — they merit an up close and second look — even after announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Ford’s Sync 3 and Sync Connect provide a lot of information for the driver and passengers. With connection to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the center stack in the dash reminds one of a smartphone display. Those system connections are made with USB cables; the interface then displays apps from the connected smartphone appropriate for the dash (navigation and streaming apps on the phone, etc.) once it learns the type of phone connected. Some control interfaces are close to the old-school dash radio; menu diving is necessary to customize radio choices (AM/FM, HD, etc.) as part of the audio sourcing.

The North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year are similarly connected; Honda’s HondaLink is found in the 2016 Civic and the Sensus system (a standard feature on every Volvo since the 2015 1/2 model year) is found in Volvo’s XC90 crossover