Ford’s new SYNC 4 infotainment system has begun rolling out with its next generation of vehicles, starting with the Mustang Mach-E and new Ford F-150.
The newest version of SYNC includes improved hardware and software, but there are also lots of new features and settings. Learn more about these two infotainment options to find out if an upgrade is in your future.
What Is the Difference Between SYNC 3 and SYNC 4?
SYNC 4 has many added or improved features compared to SYNC 3. The interface looks better and runs more smoothly due to enhanced graphics and faster processing. The new “skin” of the system makes the visuals look sleek and modern, plus they’re more customizable. Here's a comparison of similar features between SYNC 3 and 4.
SYNC 3 vs SYNC 4 Features
|SYNC 3 Feature||SYNC 4 Feature
|Enhanced Voice Control
||Natural Voice Control
||Cloud-Based Navigation with Real-Time Traffic and Weather
|6.5-Inch or 8-Inch Touchscreen
||8-Inch, 12-Inch, or 15.5-Inch Touchscreen
|Wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
||Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
|Wi-Fi or USB Updates
Improved Voice Control
SYNC 3's voice recognition software is pretty good at understanding your requests. However, SYNC 4 aims to take that understanding a step further. Its natural voice controls do away with unnatural or confusing commands and phrases. Instead, you can simply ask the system to do whatever you want and it will accomodate your request if it can. Over time it will learn your preferences and custom-tailor results to you.
Real-Time Information in Navigation
Ford partnered with Inrix and Garmin to provide real-time data in their built-in SYNC 4 navigation system. You can see information for the nearest parking spots and garages, as well as their costs. You'll also get live weather and traffic updates. With SYNC 3, you have to pay extra for this kind of data from SiriusXM's Travel Link service.
Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
You can use apps like Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa without having to plug in your mobile device. It may sound small, but wireless CarPlay and Android Auto is one of the biggest upgrades from SYNC 3 to SYNC 4.
Greater Emphasis on Touchscreen Controls
SYNC 4 also relies more heavily on the touchscreen interface than SYNC 3 does. On SYNC 4A, which is in the Mach E, there’s only one scroll wheel for volume control. Climate control, audio, and other core functions are adjusted with the touchscreen. A digital owner’s manual is included as well.
Beyond these new features, one of the most talked-about aspects of SYNC 4 is its over-the-air updates. While SYNC 3 offers wireless update capability, the new system offers updates that are seamless, fast, and generally not even noticed by the owner.
Like Tesla, these OTA updates allow new features to be added to the vehicle after it’s left the dealer lot. It also allows Ford to fix any bugs that are found in the software after release. This is how most smartphone operating systems work.
The comparisons to Tesla can grow tiresome, but they’re the only automaker with a robust, established OTA system. This puts Ford at the forefront of adoption. GM already sends out OTA map updates for its Super Cruise software, but that doesn’t affect the rest of the infotainment system. Ford would be the second manufacturer (behind Tesla) to release OTA updates for the entire system.
Which Ford Models Will Get SYNC 4?
Ford is slowly rolling out SYNC 4 to its vehicle lineup as its models undergo major redesigns. So far, the only models that have, or will have, SYNC 4 are the Mustang Mach-E, the 2021 F-150, the 2021 Ford Bronco, and the 2021 Lincoln Nautilus. More vehicles will likely get the new system in the coming years, or as they go through redesigns.
Can SYNC 3 Be Upgraded to SYNC 4?
Unfortunately, the SYNC 3 system cannot be upgraded to SYNC 4. This is because the hardware is different and the software isn’t backward-compatible. Those with SYNC 3 will have to upgrade to a newer model if they want to take advantage of the new features.
How Does SYNC 4 Change the Infotainment Landscape?
SYNC 4 is one of the most advanced tech units in non-luxury cars. It also embodies the shift towards cloud-based computing and machine learning in vehicles. For better or worse, people have the capability to operate more and more technology in their cars.
The big question is whether low-end models will still get a version of base SYNC or if they’ll get upgraded to SYNC 3. Looking at the new Bronco and Bronco Sport gives us a good baseline. The Bronco Sport comes standard with SYNC 3, and no option for SYNC 4. The more expensive Bronco has SYNC 4 standard.
With consumer demand for smart infotainment, especially Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there doesn’t seem to be a role for base SYNC in future models. It seems likely that the Escape, redesigned for 2020, will be the last new model to use the tiny 4.2-inch base SYNC system.
Check Out Our Other Ford SYNC Resources
If you’re lucky enough to have a vehicle with SYNC 4 already, don’t miss out on our ultimate guide. You’ll learn how to set up and use all the features to get the most out of this awesome infotainment system.
Read the Ultimate Guide to SYNC 4 and 4A
If your vehicle's got a slightly older version of SYNC, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered, too. Check out our Ford SYNC Versions guide if you’re unsure which system your car has. Otherwise, head over to the ultimate guide for your SYNC version to make sure you’re taking advantage of all it has to offer.
Sources: Ford SYNC 4 Brings New Levels of Connectivity, Voice Recognition and Fewer Cords to Make Life on the Go Easy, Ford
This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.