Heads up, geeks -- Ford is set to upgrade its Focus range with next-gen cabin tech that lets you surf the Internet as you drive.
Surfing the Web will be possible thanks to the magic of the Ford Sync infotainment system, which comprises some fancy Windows Embedded Automotive gubbins, an on-board Wi-Fi adaptor and a pair of USB ports nestling in the centre console.
To take advantage of the feature, users will simply have to slot a 3G wireless dongle into an empty USB port and tweak a few settings on the car's in-dash display. Then the 3G data signal from the dongle will fill the cabin for passengers to share on their wireless devices.
The signal's pretty strong, too. We were able to pick up the network from well over 30m away, so, if you're the caring, sharing type, you can allow others in your convoy to get online, too.
Anyone that doesn't have a Wi-Fi dongle needn't fret. The Focus also supports tethering, which means it'll share the 3G data connection on your mobile phone so that you can use other external devices over Wi-Fi. All you need is a mobile that supports Bluetooth, a mobile-data contract, and some sort of gadget to surf on.
Those without external gadgets can get involved, too. The Focus will let you surf the Web on its integrated 8-inch display without the help of a 3G dongle or mobile phone. To use it, simply pull up to a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot (Starbucks, your mate's house, or whatever), fire up the in-car browser and you're good to go.
Sadly, the browser wasn't available on the European model we tested. But it does exist on US cars, and Ford expects it to be available on European models when, or soon after, the car launches in March or April 2011.
According to Ford, its browser, which has been developed in-house, will feature tabbed page navigation, Flash support and bookmark browsing that lets users easily revisit pages. Ford says it'll be easy to operate, too, as it recognises 'drag' gestures that trigger vertical or horizontal scrolling.
The 2012 Focus' Internet connectivity offers users a wealth of new entertainment possibilities. In addition to listening to CDs, iPods and music stored on USB keys, users will also be able to access streaming music services, such as Spotify, and watch streaming video services, such as YouTube or iPlayer, in the car, although these services can only be accessed on the car's integrated display while the vehicle is parked. Passengers who wish to enjoy these services on the move will have to do so on an external device.
We can't begin to tell you how excited we are about this feature and Ford Sync in general. Americans have been enjoying it for months now, so it's about time us Europeans got some loving, too. If you want to learn more, take a gander through our photo gallery above, and then have a read of our full 2012 Ford Focus ST preview.