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We tried out Escort’s latest 360c radar detector on a road trip to the mountains.
Radar detectors have been commercially available for more than half a century now, helping countless drivers save serious money by avoiding speeding tickets. While we don’t endorse exceeding the limit on public roads, it’s not a bad idea to have a little heads-up about cops running radar under the next overpass; that’s exactly what the Escort Max 360c MKII is designed to do, so we wanted to give it a try.
We planned out a road trip from our Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters to the New River Gorge area of West Virginia, with the Escort hooked up the whole way. To be clear, this is NOT an instrumented test of the MKII—rather, a demonstration of typical use by a consumer. We set it up, stuck it on the windshield, and drove to the mountains and back, taking notes on the MKII’s performance.
For our last instrumented radar-detector test comparison, check out this article.
Police radar uses primarily K- and Ka-band frequencies. X-bands might pop up, but they’re very rarely used these days. You’ll hear the term "laser" thrown around too, which is essentially a laser beam that is extremely difficult to pick up unless it’s already pointed at your vehicle. You don’t want to come across a police officer using laser—better prepare for the ticket then and there.
Now, not every alert your radar detector displays is a cop. We had plenty of false alarms on our cross-country road trip, and these can be set off by anything from other vehicles’ blind-spot monitors to strip-mall motion-detecting front doors—even other radar detectors. Higher-end detectors can filter these out, and with GPS lockout like the Escort has, the detector can "remember" where faulty alerts originate from.
This is the second generation of Escort’s Max 360c, and the first improvement touted by the brand is a 50 percent increase in range from the previous generation. This is important because in our test of the Escort Max 360c MKI, we noted the distance ranges were a bit less than those of the competitors. This next generation improves on that nicely. In addition, a new DSP chip promises lightning-fast performance, dual-band Wi-Fi allows connected-car capability, and new filtering software reduces false alerts.
The thing looks cool, too, perched sleekly on its magnetic mount. Blue directional arrows are designed to point to the source of the alert, but we found this didn’t work occasionally or had a delay, just like with the MKI. Escort allows drivers to simply plug and play right into the 12-volt outlet. The power cord isn’t terribly long, so if your outlet is far from the mounting location, it could be an issue.
The brightness of the display screen is adjustable, and you can set the sensitivity setting to a variety of driving situations—we kept it on either Auto or Highway. There’s also a handy mute button on the power cord base for when it gets real noisy.
For even more info and insight on your cruise, you can download the Drive Smarter app. With the MKII, you can access community-based alerts for speed traps, police-spotted locations, and more via the companion app or directly through Wi-Fi. We tried it out and found connecting with the radar was quite easy, and the in-app experience was simple and informative. The only issue is that often user-based alerts from, say, an hour ago mean the officer is already long gone.
Our destination was the New River Gorge area of West Virginia, which, if you haven’t been, is one of the most stunning areas east of the Rockies. We knew some mountain roads were in our future, so we snagged a Ford Bronco Everglades and hit the road.
The Bronco might not be a cop magnet like a Lambo is, but the brute still garnered plenty of attention. The radar detector was planted on the windshield, but only just. The 12-volt socket is deep in the center console, and the detector’s power cord was at its length limit. However, it worked, and we think the elevated position gave us a slight radar-detecting advantage.
Logging nearly 1000 miles on our road trip, we took plenty of notes on the performance of the Escort. Setup was simple—plug and play, just like Escort said.
The MKII picked up plenty of K- and Ka-band readings, blaring obnoxiously enough to make us jump a little in our seat. We turned the volume down quickly. We’d say there was roughly a 60:40 ratio of visible police presence to either an unseen cop or false alarm with the K- and Ka-band alerts. We came across three true speed traps, which the Escort alerted us to with plenty of advanced notice. So far, the Escort seemed to be doing its job.
But we weren’t blinded by a false sense of security. We started noticing cops that the detector missed. This might not be the Escort’s fault, but it’s something to keep in mind with ownership of any radar detector.
The thing isn’t cheap, with prices typically around $700. However, you do get plenty of bells and whistles with this radar detector, and Escort is a trusted brand. Heck, Escort offers a trade-in program so you can earn a credit on your old radar detector when upgrading and even a Limited Ticket Guarantee, which means Escort will pay your speeding ticket in certain situations.
Yep, it’s a steep price, but the money is going toward preventing you from spending on tickets. Depending on how often you get pulled over, this thing will pay for itself in time.
Overall, the Escort Max 360c MKII is a pricey yet technologically advanced radar detector. Using one isn’t an excuse to speed, but rather an early-alert system for you to check your speedometer. It also doesn’t provide a bubble of invincibility but can save you from otherwise hidden speed traps.
Our recommendation? If you get one, pair its use with a crowd-sourced app like Waze, which can alert you to even more speed traps. We like to use both the detector and Waze during the day, but you’ll definitely want to rely on the detector more at night.
So to reiterate, if this is your first time buying a radar detector, don’t expect a shield of speeding-ticket invincibility. It just sniffs out Smokey running radar so you can double-check your speed and adjust accordingly. If you can stomach the cost, the Escort Max 360c MKII is a solid choice.
Collin Morgan is an Associate Commerce Editor at Hearst Autos, where the former Rust Belt mechanic and gadget enthusiast presents the best gear for your automotive endeavors.
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