The Escort Passport Max Ci (and Max Ci 360) twins succeed the Passport 9500ci, the remote (built-in) model we considered the best ever. Like its forebear, the Escort Max Ci includes laser jammers, the only defense against light-based technology.
These are an upgraded design said to offer protection from variable-pulse laser guns able to outwit most laser jammers.
Otherwise identical, the Max Ci 360 ($3,495), comes with two rear laser jammers and a rear radar antenna. This lets it indicate whether a radar or laser threat is coming from the front or rear, a feature introduced on the Max 360 windshield-mounted model. The extra hardware also allows it to counter lasers targeting the back of the vehicle.
The Max Ci and Max Ci 360 feature sets are identical except for display options. With its rear radar antenna, the Max Ci 360 can offer seven settings for displaying alerts. Learn more about the advanced display options.
The Max Ci's thumb-sized control unit is backlit, making the buttons easy to locate at night. The module can be surface-mounted or concealed, often tucked away in the ash tray or console.
Information is shown in the same OLED color display used on the Max 360 and Escort iX. This can be replaced by the included multi-color LED for a cleaner look. It glows green to signify power-on, solid blue when connected to the Escort Live smartphone app and it flashes red during radar and laser alerts.
The OLED display offers a choice of four colors with blue the default; green, red or amber are options. Regardless of the choice, font color for speed and vehicle voltage remains white.
Users who prefer plug-and-play operation may opt for the factory-default Novice mode. This permits a choice of display colors; all other user preferences remain off limits.
Engaging Advanced mode allows access to the user settings. Meter mode offers the same options as the Escort Max 360—Standard, Spec, Expert and Simple. Standard mode displays the radar band (X, K or Ka, or laser) plus a bar graph depicting signal strength. If multiple signals are present only the highest in priority is shown (laser, Ka, K or X, in descending order of priority).
Expert mode simultaneously tracks up to four radar alerts, displaying each alert's band (or laser) plus a bar graph depicting signal strength. In Spec mode the Max Ci can be set to numerically display a radar frequency, in gigahertz (the Max Ci 360 will show two, one for each antenna). Instead of generic alphanumeric alerts the Max Ci 360 might display, for example, 24.216 in front and 34.709 in back. For the few able to interpret its significance, this information can be mildly entertaining.
Simple mode replaces the bar graphs and alphanumeric displays, showing only a rudimentary Caution or Slow Down warning instead. Strangely, it's accessible only to users willing to select Advanced mode and navigate through the Preferences menu.
Like other Escorts, the Passport Max Ci/Ci 360 has a good audible information-delivery system with a choice of voice alerts or two sets of tones. The latter includes the standard Escort tones or doorbell-like chimes.
Much of the Max Ci feature set is borrowed from the Max 360, including the Overspeed Alert. Factory-set at 70 mph, every trip north of that speed elicits a verbal admonishment—Overspeed!—and the speed display ominously turns red. When linked to Escort Live, the Overspeed Alert threshold speed is automatically set to the posted limit.
The speed nanny can be disabled but like with Simple mode, only by entering Advanced mode and tweaking the user preferences. Others will have to endure the meddling of this back-seat mother-in-law.
Built-in Bluetooth allows the Max Ci to pair quickly with Escort Live, during which time the posted limit is displayed alongside current speed.
The Max Ci receives an IVT filter, software to identify and ignore the nuisance signals generated by Blind Spot Monitoring systems. These systems use K-band radar transmitters mounted in the rear bumper and set off radar detectors up to 1,000 feet away.
IVT is intended to combat these without having to shut off K band, a risky move since 20,000-odd K-band radar guns are still in use nationwide, not to mention a growing number of radar-triggered red light cameras. Learn more about red light cameras.
A second software fix for the vehicle-borne radar problem is Auto LoK that lowers sensitivity on K band to reduce false alarms. We found that it cuts K-band range by up to 65 percent but the reduction in annoying false alarms was worth the tradeoff.
A feature called AutoLearn employs GPS to limit false alarms from roadside sources like radar-controlled door openers. Drive past one three times and the Max Ci automatically stores the signal to memory. Next time you drive past, it won't alert.
In our test of competing red light camera databases, Escort's Defender camera database proved significantly more accurate. It's also updated more frequently than the competitions'.
Due to Escort's control of the patents, other companies may tout GPS in radar detectors, but they can offer none of the technology's most valuable features. Learn more.
On the road we found the Max Ci likely best suited to drivers who prefer set-and-forget operation and rely on voice alerts for important news. These drivers may also like using the multi-color LED in lieu of the OLED display. It can be flush-mounted—in the speedometer or tach, for instance—and makes for an even cleaner installation.
For minimal false alarms, particularly on K band, we found the Auto LoK sensitivity setting to be optimal. With radar range to burn, we rarely found the need for maximum-sensitivity Highway mode and the attendant increase in false alarms.
The OLED display has the same shortcomings we've mentioned before—low contrast and too much data crammed into too little space. The Max Ci—and especially the Max Ci 360—can deliver a vast array of information to the enthusiast driver although, unfortunately, it's too often incomprehensible. Not infrequently we found the data either washed out by the sun or too tiny to be deciphered at a glance.
We'd like to see Simple Mode and its rudimentary warning messages become a Sensitivity mode option, available with a button-click, rather than buried deep in the menu options. The users most likely to prefer this setting are also the least likely to be amenable to switching to Advanced Mode and wading into User Preferences to select it.
The Max Ci clearly benefits from its new front radar antenna and revised signal processing. On the all-important Ka band, the Escort Passport Max Ci delivered better range than the 9500ci.
On the nearly-extinct X band the Escort Passport Max Ci was within a few feet of the 9500ci and it had 27 percent better K-band range. Higher sensitivity on K leads to more false alarms from vehicle-borne radar, an issue somewhat helped by using the Auto LoK mode.
The Max Ci is the best-performing remote radar detector we've seen. Whether that offsets its shortcomings and higher price compared to the 9500ci is open to debate.
Meter Displays (continued)
For the Max Ci 360 only, two more variations of Standard meter are available. Standard FR1 displays one threat for front and rear antennae along with a signal strength bar graph. If more than one signal is being received, that number is displayed.
Standard FR2 displays two signals, one each for front and rear antenna, plus signal-strength bar graphs for both. To aid in identification, the rear bar graph will be shown in a different color—red, if the other is blue, for example. A number representing the total number of signals appears between the bar graphs.