Racing against the clock in the traffic-congested streets of Manila in the rain (during rush hour!) sounds like one of my worst nightmares. Especially in a scenario where I don’t own the vehicle and have just signed a waiver stating I will be liable for damages. The cryptic invitation for the Ford EcoSport Mystery Case had media racing around the city following clues ala Amazing Race. Though I drive a motorcycle and a (very old manual) car, I’m not exactly the racing type when it comes to SUVs.
I’ve had a chance to test-drive the Ford Focus around Binondo and the Ford Explorer on a leisurely road trip to Laguna before, but I was hesitant to drive the Ford EcoSport since there was a time pressure element involved. Thankfully, I ended up in the team of veteran race & rally champion / Motoring Editor of Speed Magazine Mike Potenciano. From the comforts of the backseat, I got to see the features of the compact sport-utility vehicle, as we navigated our way through tiny streets of Intramuros and Escolta flanked by kalesas and pedicabs. It seemed like the event organizers picked the most congested streets to show us the vehicle’s capabilities. But one-way streets riddled with potholes, floods from the sudden downpour, and the general chaos of Manila’s traffic were no match for the Ford EcoSport and Mike’s mad driving skills.
The media participants first met up in Ford Global City, where we were oriented on the race proper and put into teams. The first part of the Mystery Case took us to Breakout Philippines, a real life escape room game in Paragon Plaza in Ortigas. The concept (from the same people behind the zombie fun run Outbreak Manila) forces you to plan as a team and solve puzzles in order to escape a room before the time expires.
Our scenario was “Adarna’s Lair,” where we played detectives searching a crazed doctor’s house for solid evidence to stop the infection of a zombie virus. The other team was assigned to the “Prison Room,” where they had to use items to escape from a locked cell. Both teams had 45 minutes to make it out of the rooms. I don’t want to give any spoilers for those who want to try it out for themselves, but I can say it’s frustratingly fun! And we were really *THAT* close!
As a big fan of the the Survivor Horror games like Silent Hill and Resident Evil, I really enjoyed this part of the event. If you are a fan of point-and-click or puzzle solving in video games, you have try Breakout! To prepare yourself mentally, try playing some of these games featuring haunted houses recommended by online real-estate marketplace Lamudi. (Click here for the article).
Since none of the teams made it out (apparently only 17 teams have escaped the room out of 600+ teams that have tried it so far), we were just handed the clues to the next destination – lunch at The Bayleaf Intramuros!
On the way to the hotel, I asked the expert drivers in the car about the different features of the EcoSport. They told me that though it looks like a bad-ass SUV, the size is compact, making it ideal for city driving and urban explorations. Its high driving position, rugged capability and superior fuel economy also makes it a great vehicle for driving on mountain roads.
The car was designed to have ample headroom and knee room for all occupants (good news for tall drivers!) and is spacious enough for five adults with room to spare for gear. The cabin has lots of practical storage spaces including a glove box that can keep up to six beverage cans cool, which can come in handy for long road trips. I thought the sun roof feature was pretty cool too. Like other Ford vehicles with FordSYNC Technology, you can sync your mobile phones to make calls or play music by voice command. You can also connect media players via USB and the 3.5 mm audio jack.
I tried not to fill up too much during the lunch buffet at Bayleaf, so as not to slow down my team in case there would be physical challenges. That was probably the hardest task of the day since there was crispy chopped bagnet on the carving station, complete with a layer of gold crackling skin. I loaded up on the salad instead. (Yes, it still counts as salad even if you’ve topped it with bagnet. Salads are healthy!)
After lunch, it was off to our first task to search for a graffiti wall in Intramuros. Here, we got to test the EcoSport’s clearance on a ramp right next to the wall. The EcoSport has a high ground clearance of 200 millimeters (about 7.87 inches) means that drivers don’t have to worry about speed bumps and potholes, usually the bane of urban driving. After clearing the ramp, one teammate had to match adjectives to colors, which were actually some of the colors of the EcoSport, including: Mars Red, Chili Orange, Winning Blue, Panther Black and Frozen White.
Aside from the high ground clearance, the EcoSport also has the superior water-wading capabilities and can wade through 550 millimeters (almost 2 feet!) of water. This feature came in handy later, because it suddenly poured while we were doing this leg of the race.
Then, it was off to Escolta Museum in Calvo Building (a place I never knew existed), where we had to search for vintage Ford Advertisements in a gallery of old ads. For some reason, Googlemaps was not working properly, so we used the social traffic and navigation app Waze to find the way. The app was really helpful, but for some reason, it directed us to the back of the building at the riverside and we had to circle around because of the one way streets.
After finding two vintage ads in the museum, there was another puzzle about the different Ford models, and then we had to search the street for a coin vendor using the price of the original Ford Model T (did you know that it originally cost only P795 pesos?) to get our next clue. I lucked out because while most of the guys headed to the right side of the street looking out at building numbers, I just crossed the street to the left to ask the security guard there where coins were being sold in the area and found the coin vendor right next to him. Henri immediately spotted the 2 coins with Ford stickers on the tray.
Our next clue directed us to make our way to the Ford Manila Bay Showroom. At this point, traffic was getting pretty bad. Good thing Mike & Henri were familiar with all the shortcuts and streets. From Roxas Blvd., they decided to pass the side road through Star City and leading to the Mall of Asia. The streets here were clearer, so we got to experience the full power of the EcoSport’s acceleration and braking. They noted that the car has great suspension. 🙂
At the showroom, we assembled a large jigsaw puzzle in the cargo storage area at the back of the car. The puzzle showed a picture of a washing machine with the rear seats folded down. Apparently the EcoSport’s boot space can increase to 705 liters, for additional cargo space and can really fit a washing machine! Nice.
The last clue card directed us to a culinary school in McKinley Hill (Enderun Colleges). The last task was to take a creative selfie showcasing the EcoSport’s sunroof and piece together all the clue cards for a word scramble (which we had already deciphered in the car). We ended up the first team in!
Since I scrimped on lunch, the buffet dinner at Enderun Colleges during the awarding ceremony was a treat. I really loved the roast lamb, seared tuna, antipasti platter, Vietnamese spring rolls and potato au gratin. I think I ended up taking more photos of the food than the actual event :p
All in all, going around the metro in those conditions was a great way to test out the features of the Ford EcoSport. If you’re looking for a stylish, fuel-efficient, compact car for urban exploration that’s rugged enough to be taken on out of town trips, then the mystery’s been solved!
Thanks very much to Ford Philippines and Ogilvy for this fun-filled race around the metro aboard the Ford EcoSport. For more information and specs on the car, check out www.ford.com.ph. Additional photos courtesy of Ford Philippines. [More event photos here]