Tested: Escort Passport Qi45 Remote Radar Detector
A remote detector/laser jammer for the masses?
The Escort Qi45 remote radar detector's versatile mounting system and quick-connect design were able to cope even with the detector-unfriendly mug of an Acura ZDX.
A custom-installed remote model may be the best radar detector for low-profile, discrete protection but traditionally, it's had a downside: price. In our last comparison of the two radar detectors occupying the high end of this market segment, neither could be had for less than two grand. The Escort Passport 9500ci is $1,999, excluding installation, and a similarly optioned K40 Calibre DL was $2,028, installed.
Until recently there has been no midpoint model, no remote radar detector available with laser jammers that's priced under a grand. But the Escort Passport Qi45 claims to fix that.
According to Escort, the Qi (Quick Install) appellation isn't mere puffery; the unit is a fresh-sheet design whose installation time is claimed to be a remarkably low 45 minutes. This contrasts with the 6.0 to 7.0 hours typically needed to install an Escort Passport 9500ci and 7.5 to 8.0 hours for a K40 Calibre DL with Laser Defuser EX jammers front and rear. (Installation times vary widely depending upon the vehicle and the customer's preferences.) Installation time may seem a small matter on its face, but with shop labor at $50 per hour and up, time matters.
The Escort Passport Qi45 doesn't compete with its big brother, the Escort Passport 9500ci, as it lacks GPS capability or a provision for rear laser protection. So although the similarly configured K40 Calibre SL model costs almost half again as much, with installation, it's the Escort Passport Qi45's only competitor.
For a comprehensive test and review, we acquired an Escort Passport Qi45 ($550) with companion [laser] Shifter Pack ($250) and also a K40 Calibre SL-P ($850) with a K40 Defuser EX-10 front laser jammer ($330). Testing these would identify the best midrange remote radar detector—with comprehensive protection from both radar and lasers. (For more about the K40 Calibre read the complete Escort Passport 9500ci vs. K40 Calibre review...)
We started with the Escort Passport Qi45, affixing its radar antenna to the lower air dam with industrial double-sided tape. Each laser jammer was clamped to the lower bumper cover using the Escort adjustable brackets. These clever articulated brackets swivel through a 360-degree arc and their jaws clamp onto a flat panel. Once in place, Allen screws are tightened to make them immovable. It also allows for alignment, critical to jammer performance.
The K40 Calibre SL-P installation was next. Although K40 says the Calibre benefits from "wire-free technology" by its use of Bluetooth, that's not entirely accurate. Connecting the interface box, amplified speaker, Defuser EX jammer and alert-lamp pod entailed connecting eight wires using butt connectors and ring terminals. Many of these circuits use wispy, 22-gauge stranded wire whose insulation is nigh impossible to strip using a professional wire stripper. Most veteran installers resort to using their teeth—at least if they've still got some of their own—or a razor blade, and the wires are prone to breaking if care isn't taken.
OPERATION and CONTROLS
There's a choice of pilot displays including full-word (Highway), single-letter (e.g., H for highway); a single letter with a left-to-right red scanning dot, or a digital readout of vehicle voltage. Meter options include Bar Graph (these increase progressively to depict signal strength); Spec Mode or Expert Meter. The latter will track up to nine simultaneous radar sources, displaying the band ID and relative signal strength for each.
The K40 Calibre SL is operated with a remote control that measures about 1.0 by 1.5 inches. A row of three multi-function switches controls city/highway mode selection, audio on/off/ and volume hi/lo settings; voice/tone mode selection and system manual-mode power on/off.
There are no backup controls and with dead batteries or without its remote, the Calibre is helpless. But permanently mounting the remote in an easily-reached spot can also make it visible to curious eyes, defeating the biggest advantage of a remote radar detector.
There's no visual indication of the Calibre's operating mode or volume level or whether it's set to voice or tone alerts. To gain that information you'll need to press a button on the remote to see which LED lights momentarily and then press the button again to change the setting. A voice alert confirms the selection. If it's in mute mode, the LED alone provides confirmation.
RADAR TEST RESULTS
The K40 Calibre also stumbled noticeably when faced with the most commonly used Ka-band radar, 35.5 GHz, delivering but 4,006 feet of range compared to the Escort Qi45's 28,064 feet. Although practical radar range is far less, it's worth noting that the K40 Calibre alerted to this Ka-band radar less than 600 feet before the radar had locked-in the speed. If our target vehicle had been larger and more radar-friendly, it's questionable whether the alert would have preceded target-speed lock.
LASER TEST RESULTS
The results were disappointing. Even under ideal conditions—no front plate and a small, dark and laser-unfriendly target vehicle—the Defuser EX struggled to cope with our laser guns. It did manage to fight off attacks from the Kustom Signals Pro Laser III down to 923 feet and the Stalker LZ1 down to 621 feet. But the Kustom Signals Pro Lite and Laser Atlanta Speed Laser (in Stealth Mode) nailed it almost instantly at 1,331 feet and 1,432 feet, respectively. The Laser Atlanta Speed Laser in non-Stealth Mode remained confused until the range had closed to 1,189 feet. The LTI Marksman got a speed at 1,147 feet and the LTI TruSpeed at 1,214 feet; all three locked-on almost immediately when our aim was shifted from the plate area to a headlight. Mindful that urban laser attacks often occur at ranges far closer than 1,000 feet, this level of protection would be of scant help.
Compared to the K40 Defuser, the Escort Passport Qi45 proved to be notably more adept at foiling lasers, defeating the Stalker LZ1 down to 399 feet and the LTI Marksman to only 245 feet. Significantly, it jammed all of the most commonly used lasers down to point-blank range, an achievement of some note.
Don't assume it can make any vehicle laser-proof, however. When we generously stacked the deck in favor of the K40 Defuser EX, giving it the best possible chance of success, the Escort Qi45 laser shifters benefited as well. When we installed a front plate and used a larger vehicle for another laser jammer test and review, a few gaps in the Escort's protection envelope were observed.
But that said, and particularly in light of its relatively modest price, the Escort Passport Qi45 with Shifter Pack showed impressive, class-leading talent in fending off police radar and laser guns. It's also the most easily-installed remote radar detector we've seen, reasons enough for many to take a closer look.
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