Ford’s Escape the Room Drive-able Game Is Pretty Awesome
This weekend, 1,000 participants in New York City will have the opportunity to experience Ford Motor’s (F) latest creative marketing event for millennials. It’s a massive multi-room, automotive version of the game Escape the Room that’s meant to be a fun alternative to the typical test drive of its new 2017 Ford Escape SUV.
Yesterday, I joined three of my millennial-aged Fortune colleagues to experience it for the first time at a media day. Part team-building event, part problem-solving exercise, Escape the Room is an immersive group adventure puzzle that is popular across the U.S. In a typical game, teams are locked into a room and given clues to help determine a way out.
Ford’s take on the experience is to incorporate its newest Escape into, well, the escape. The transitions between each of the game’s five rooms are designed to show off the SUV’s high-tech features, such as remote start, the SYNC 3 dashboard OS with Apple CarPlay and Android auto connections, 360-degree sensors, rear-view camera, and its parking assist technology (more on that below). Players drive an actual 2017 Ford Escape in between rooms and must use the vehicle’s features to get through the 30-minute course—you’re only given six minutes to get out of each of the five rooms.
The course was designed by Escape the Room founder Victor Blake and constructed within a 35,000-square-foot space inside the former Farley Post Office, the landmark building in West Midtown Manhattan that is currently being renovated to create the new Moynihan Station transport hub. Ford says it took a team four days to build the course, which will be open to the public until Sunday. The 1,000 free slots have long since sold out, so if you’re not one of the lucky thousand, watch the video above to get an idea of what it’s like.
We’ve sworn to keep the details about the rooms a secret, but here’s what I can share. Players are required to clock in to start the timer as they begin to figure out how to escape each of five rooms: an apartment, a long corridor, an office, a “hip” Brooklyn neighborhood (Ford’s description, not mine), and a sandy beach scene. There’s a drive-up coffee shop along the way, and an opportunity to use the Escape’s automatic parking assist feature, which blew me away. As a native Detroiter and descendent of a very loyal Ford family, I consider myself a pro at parallel parking, and at first the idea of handing the wheel over to a computer to navigate a tight parking space put me on edge, but ultimately it took the stress out of worrying whether or not I’d scratch or damage the vehicle or others nearby.
In the end, we only escaped four out of the five rooms (the one configured as an office had an annoying actor in it who kept barking orders at us as we tried to piece together a 10-digit phone number). Ultimately the clock ran out and the actor “fired” us before kicking us out of the room. No disappointment here. We completed the timed sections of the course in just over 18 minutes, putting our team Soldiers of Fortune at 8th place as of Thursday afternoon. And of course, we’ll be checking Ford’s Escape the Room website on Sunday to see where we rank against other, more savvy millennials.
The Soldiers of Fortune team unanimously agreed that Ford’s Escape the Room is great fun, especially working together to solve the puzzles. As associate editor Anne VanderMey says, “If I were in the market for a car, I’d probably rather take a test drive than literally be trapped in a room. I might not feel this way if we had figured out all the clues in under six minutes.”
Fortune.com photo editor and fellow New Yorker Kacy Burette adds, “It has cool features but as a broke millennial, I need something that is cheap. But I did like how it parked by itself. If only I could afford a parking spot!”