Cobra Road Scout Review: Should You Buy or Skip This Radar … – Automoblog

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Affiliate Disclosure: Automoblog and its partners may be compensated when you purchase the products featured in this review. The Road Scout pictured in this review was supplied to Automoblog by Cobra Electronics at no charge. The opinions below are my own based on my personal experience with the product.
Radar detector or a dash camera? Decisions, decisions. How about both at the same time, integrated into one unit? That’s the idea behind the Cobra Road Scout, a two-in-one driving companion with a 1080p HD dash camera and a radar detector. With the radar detector portion of the Road Scout, you can adjust the sensitivity of the X and K bands, mute false alerts, and mark locations like speed traps and red light cameras. Meanwhile, the dash camera offers a g-sensor and an emergency recording feature.
We recently spent three weeks driving around metro Detroit with the Cobra Road Scout. Unfortunately, my overall opinion of this two-in-one combo is mixed at best. Having both a dash camera and a radar detector in one unit is an attractive proposition, but as far as the Road Scout is concerned, it’s an excellent idea with below-average execution. In this review, I will run through the Cobra Road Scout’s “spec sheet” and elaborate a little further.
Insurance providers and cable companies are always talking about the benefits of “bundling” your services. And in so many words, Cobra Electronics has done the same thing with the Road Scout. Opting for something like the Road Scout has three main benefits.
Depending on which radar detector and dash camera you are considering, buying a “bundle” like the Road Scout may save you a little money. Instead of buying two separate units, you purchase one and hopefully avoid spending extra cash (a good example of this type of savings is with the Escort MAX 360c & M1 Bundle).
The Road Scout retails for about $400 on Cobra’s official website. 
Another benefit of the Cobra Road Scout is not having to slap two individual units on your windshield. Since the Road Scout incorporates both a radar detector and a dash camera, you will look at only one screen instead of two while driving.
If you want or need a dash camera for your daily drive, it probably won’t hurt to have a radar detector as well, and vice versa. True, you can eat Oreos without milk, but it’s just not the same. It’s the combo of the two that’s really special, and it’s no different with a radar detector and a dash camera – at least in my view.
When I take my twice-yearly 900-mile drive from Michigan to South Dakota to visit family, I can make a case for mounting a dash camera to my windshield. Likewise, I can also make a case for wanting to have the protection and features afforded by a high-quality radar detector. The Road Scout gives you two desirable items in one package – a radar detector and a dash camera – for a long trip like this.
With the radar detector portion of the Road Scout, you can adjust the sensitivity of the X and K bands, mute false alerts, and mark locations like speed traps and red light cameras. Meanwhile, the dash camera offers a g-sensor and an emergency recording feature.
The Road Scout comes with a suction cup windshield mount (called the “EZ Mag Mount”), a 12-volt SmartCord USB power cord (so you can still charge your phone), and a 16GB SD card and micro USB cable for the dash camera. A handy travel case and a quick reference guide are also included.
Installation is easy with the windshield mount and USB adaptor cord. Once the Road Scout has power, both the radar detector and dash camera are active. Despite having dual functionality, the unit is surprisingly lightweight at just eight ounces. The EZ Mag Mount is more than capable of securing the Road Scout to the windshield. It stayed put the entire time during my three-week drive.
The Road Scout is compatible with Cobra’s iRadar app. With the app, you can either report or receive real-time alerts generated by an entire network of users. iRadar alerts include red light and speed camera locations, speed traps, air patrols, photo-enforced locations, and other caution areas. In addition to the iRadar app, the Road Scout can also connect to an in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot for software and database updates.
Outlined below are some key features of the Road Scout. We will start with the radar detector portion first, then cover the dash camera.
The Cobra Road Scout will alert you to X, K, and Ka radar bands and laser (LiDAR) guns from both the front and the rear.
Pressing the SEN button will allow you to adjust between three different sensitivity modes: Low, High, and Auto. During our three-week drive, we stayed in Auto mode most of the time, which is speed adjusted. In other words, the slower or faster you travel, the shorter or longer the X and K band detection will be. According to Cobra, at 50 mph and above, X and K bands default to the maximum range while Ka band detection range is always at its maximum, regardless of the sensitivity setting.
The sensitivity mode appears on the bottom middle portion of the Road Scout’s display. The colorful display is complete with several important “indicators” (as Cobra calls them). These indicators include GPS, signal band and strength, camera and microphone, a scanning bar, and speed alerts (when connected to the iRadar app). You can switch the frequency display feature on via the settings menu if you like. If so, the GHz measurement will appear below the signal band and strength indicator.
To access the menu, hold the SEN and BRT buttons at the same time. BRT is short for brightness, of which there are several settings.
One potential (if not significant) drawback is the Road Scout’s detection range. Based on my experience, it’s best to slow down immediately when you receive an alert, especially a Ka band notification.
On two separate occasions, I received Ka alerts to find the patrol cars were nearly on top of us. The first was a Michigan State Police car on M-10 through Southfield near Telegraph Road and the 696 interchange. The Road Scout picked up the officer’s Ka band from the rear, but only a few car lengths back. The second alert was from a Wayne County Sheriff deputy on Telegraph Road (also a Ka band). It was a similar situation: the deputy’s Chevy Tahoe patrol vehicle was only a short distance away. Even when picking up false alerts, like road construction signage, the Cobra Road Scout can feel like it’s late to the party.
Unfortunately, the Road Scout leaves a lot on the table in terms of long-range detection. I would hazard to guess this is because of the dash camera. It seems one of the compromises for such two-in-one functionality is detection range. If detection range is more important than having a dash camera, I recommend going with either the Uniden R3 or Uniden R7 over the Road Scout. 
Although detection range is an issue, the Road Scout makes up for it by offering a solid false alert filtering system – at least at first glance anyway. The IVT Filter (or in-vehicle technology filter) prevents any potential false alerts that could be triggered by the advanced safety features on other vehicles around you. This includes radar-sensor-dependant systems like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. Even in heavy Detroit traffic, the IVT filter works flawlessly.
Most impressive was how the Road Scout is impervious to malls, shopping plazas, grocery stores, and other similar fixed location false alerts. While driving through a Kroger or Meijer parking lot on my evening snack runs, the Road Scout never makes a sound. If you do receive a false alert, you can silence it via the MUTE button on either the USB power cord or the unit itself. The only issue is when you go to lockout false alerts . . .
This feature never thoroughly worked for me, and it became one of the most frustrating things about the Cobra Road Scout during my three-week drive around Detroit.
In the owner’s manual, under the “GPS Filter” section on page 11, Cobra says the feature enables you to store and lockout fixed location false alerts in the Road Scout’s memory. To store a false alert location, press MUTE three times during said alert, either on the unit itself or the USB power cord. If you are connected to the iRadar app, you can also lock out these false alerts via your smartphone. Subsequent alerts to this signal will be muted and displayed in gray.
As of late, I have been making a daily trip to the Grosse Pointe area of Detroit. On my way, I encounter a pocket of ongoing road construction on I-94 with digital speed limit warning signage (the Road Scout flags it as a K band alert). No matter how many times I lock that false alert out, it never works. I have hit the MUTE button (three times as the owner’s manual says) on the USB cord and the unit itself. I also tried locking it out with my phone through the iRadar app. No luck.
Granted, the false alert did turn gray, just as Cobra says in the owner’s manual, but when I drive through the road construction zone again, the Road Scout alerts as normal. For whatever reason, the lockouts don’t stick.
Based on my experience, the Cobra Road Scout struggles with digital signage. The gallery below includes three photos of the John C. Lodge Service Drive in Detroit, a one-way street that runs north and south above the faster-moving M-10. The first photo is an aerial shot from Google Maps, with the red arrows representing where two different digital speed limit signs are located (approximately). The other two photos, also from Google Maps, show the signs up close.
In this particular area, you can turn a perpetual circle on John C. Lodge if you drive up to Forest Avenue, then back down to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. By doing so, you will encounter both the digital speed limit signs in the photo gallery above. And that’s precisely what I did.
I lost count of how many loops I did trying to get the Cobra Road Scout to lockout both of these signs. I believe it took about four or five passes to get the northbound sign to lockout and nearly 10 to finally lockout the southbound sign. Each time, the alert would turn gray as I locked it out. However, it would be back again on the next pass, lighting up in blue as if nothing happened.
Eventually, I was able to lockout both of the digital signs in the gallery above. For additional context, the loop I am talking about I made on a Friday afternoon. I waited until the following Monday to drive the area again to see if the lockouts stuck. To my surprise and disappointment, the Cobra Road Scout alerted to both of the signs, despite me locking them out the previous Friday.
The dash camera portion of the Road Scout includes a handful of useful features. Here is a rundown.
The Cobra Road Scout comes with a 16GB SD card to store footage as you drive. Via the settings menu, you can change the length of the recording loop between one, three, or five minutes (three is the default). Transferring video files from the Road Scout to your laptop is easy with the micro USB cord.
The dash camera portion of the Cobra Road Scout includes a g-sensor with three different sensitivity levels (level two is the default setting). During an accident, the Road Scout uses the g-sensor to automatically lock and store the recording. Holding the MARK button also initiates an Emergency Recording Mode.
With the Drive HD by Cobra app, you can see what you are recording in real-time on your phone. If you also want to use the iRadar app, you can switch back and forth between that and the Drive HD app. On the Road Scout, hold BRT until either “CAMERA” or “iRADAR” appears. However, it’s not necessary to download the Drive HD app. Although you won’t see it in real-time, the Cobra Road Scout is still recording to the SD card as long as the unit is on.
As the Road Scout records, it will include a date and time stamp along with a Cobra logo watermark. You can remove them both via the settings menu.
The dash camera portion of the Cobra Road Scout is truly separate from the radar detector, meaning it does not record or log any alerts to the SD card. Admittedly, I would like to see this functionality on a future version of the Road Scout. It would be nice to have the option to turn a feature like this on through the settings menu. I think it would be neat to see the radar band, frequency, and signal strength displayed near the date/time stamp on the video recording.
This is where my opinion and viewpoint on the Cobra Road Scout is mixed. Based on my experience, my answer is somewhere between “possibly, maybe” and a hard no. I don’t have a heavy right foot, so the Road Scout’s detection range, short though it may be, is probably enough for me. And I really like how the dash camera is integrated into the unit for the two-in-one functionality. Still, I have a hard time getting past the dismal GPS lockout capability of the Cobra Road Scout.
At the end of my three-week drive, I believe the dash camera is more than satisfactory. However, I am not entirely sold on the radar detector portion of the Cobra Road Scout. For a retail price of nearly $400, the limited detection range and lackluster GPS lockout performance leave me scratching my head. That’s a lot of money to spend for a radar detector that doesn’t cut the mustard.
If you don’t need a dash camera, then look elsewhere for a radar detector (this helpful video will point you in the right direction). Based on my experience, I would not rely solely on the Road Scout for radar detection duty. Other units on the market do a better job, and your money is best spent there. Having the dash camera is nice, but not at the expense of a dependable radar detector. Even within Cobra’s product line, the RAD 480i is a better radar detector than the Road Scout (and it’s much less at $150).    
When it comes to having both, the more I drive with my Escort MAX 360c and M1 dash camera, the more I like it. Granted, it’s a good deal more expensive, but the MAX 360c is head and shoulders above the Road Scout in terms of performance. While I was unable to use the GPS lockouts of the Road Scout, the MAX 360c with its AutoLearn Technology takes care of false alerts without being prompted. And the MAX 360c smokes the Road Scout when it comes to detection range. 
However, there are redeeming qualities to the Cobra Road Scout, especially with its compact and lightweight, two-in-one design. If you are sold on the Road Scout, you can grab it on Cobra’s official website for $379.95.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.
With the radar detector portion of the Road Scout, you can adjust the sensitivity of the X and K bands, mute false alerts, and mark locations like speed traps and red light cameras. Meanwhile, the dash camera offers a g-sensor and an emergency recording feature.


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