The Escort iX succeeds the best-selling Passport 9500ix. In exchange for a higher price, the newcomer is claimed to offer greater sophistication, more features and better performance.
The iX is housed in a restyled case that's the same width but 10mm shorter than the Passport 9500ix's. A new windshield bracket attaches to the detector magnetically and is the only mounting option. The visor mounts and windshield brackets from previous Escorts don't fit.
Aside from the new haberdashery, the most noticeable difference is an OLED display that replaces the 9500ix's LED display. Borrowed from the Escort Max family (Max, Max2, Max 360), it has the same drawbacks we've noted before. Among them: too much data crammed into too little space, tiny fonts and low contrast. The last point is noteworthy as the display washes out badly in sunlight and can't be read through sunglasses.
Most of the iX feature set comes from the Max family. This includes the ability to lock out nuisance signals like radar-controlled automatic door openers. It will do this automatically after passing them on multiple occasions.
It also inherits software that varies sensitivity according to speed, dialing it back automatically at low speeds to help limit false alarms.
Also inherited from the Max family is the annoying 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.
The speed nanny can be disabled, but only by those willing to change the user mode to Advanced and navigate through the Preferences menu. Others will have to endure the meddling of this back-seat mother-in-law.
The iX is controlled by six top-mounted buttons. Similar in size to those of the 9500ix, for this application they've been shoehorned into a space that's 27 percent smaller. This was accomplished by decreasing the space between buttons from 4.5 mm to less than 1 mm.
The difference sounds insignificant, but 4.5 mm equals the depth of a stack of 11 business cards. The iX buttons are nearly touching each other.
An average-sized finger can easily depress four of the six Escort iX buttons simultaneously. Hunting for one of these controls requires deliberation and except when using the oversized Mute button, the safest way to operate the iX is while the vehicle is parked.
This unfortunate ergonomic miscue suggests that the stylist likely is someone unfamiliar with radar detectors.
An Auto LoK setting chops K-band sensitivity by 65 percent to help reduce false alarms. A new IVT filter helps it to identify and ignore vehicular Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) systems. These operate on the same K-band frequency as police radar and have become a huge headache for detectors.
Auto NoX shuts off X band to cut false alarms, a worthwhile move except in Ohio, whose highway patrol is the only one that still uses this ancient radar band.
Auto NoX and Auto LoK can't be used simultaneously, however. This gives drivers a choice between fewer X-band false alarms or fewer K-band false alarms, but not both.
The competition has a wider array of anti-false-alarm measures. For instance, some allow the user to set speed thresholds for the onset of audible alerts. Some also offer narrow-K-band settings to further cut down on false alarms. Both strategies require user interaction, however.
We verified the claimed performance improvement at our Hill/Curve test site. Here the Escort iX delivered 25 percent better range against 34.7 GHz radar. The gap narrowed on 35.5 GHz where the iX eked out an insignificant three percent lead over its forebear.
The Escort iX delivered nearly double the K-band range of its predecessor. Unfortunately, that's the last thing needed by a radar detector today. Some police radar guns still operate on K band but nationwide, they number perhaps 30,000 and make up less than a third of all radar in service.
In comparison there at least 10 million BSM radar and maybe half a million door openers in service, with more on the way. For every K-band police radar the Passport iX spots, it will alert countless times in reaction to BSM radar and door openers.
The Escort iX is a step backward from its predecessor in utility and user-friendliness. Clunky controls, an inferior display and some annoying features make it a less enjoyable traveling companion.
The iX is best suited to drivers who prefer set-and-forget operation with minimal involvement in the driving process. But at $500, it's hardly a bargain and alternatives are available. Two models with equivalent feature sets and performance are the Radenso Pro M and Radenso XP. Both also have superior displays and additional radar filtering strategies, making them quieter and ultimately, more effective at dodging tickets.