- Hot K-band sensitivity
- Extensive feature set
- Superb windshield mount
- Hopelessly inept user interface
- More false alarms than Chicken Little
According to the marketing hype at least, with claimed attributes including directional arrows, extreme range and quick response the Escort Max 360 is elevated to top-dog status among radar detectors.
A tall claim, to be sure. Curious to see if reality matches hype, we tested two Max 360 units, one supplied by Escort, the other purchased anonymously at retail. Over five months we logged 5,700 miles with the pair: 2,600 miles on a mix of urban freeways, city streets and state highways, the remainder on Interstates. That done, we performance-tested the Max 360s and some other Escort models. Here's what we found.
The Max 360 is housed in a black case and controlled by six top-mounted buttons. The four primary buttons are faux-aluminum and reflect annoying mirror images into the windshield when the sun is out. The upper housing is also festooned with large white graphics of the model name and other trivia, all of which similarly cast reflections into the windshield.
The large GPS-style windshield mount features a release lever and angle adjustment thumbscrew. Installation or adjustment requires two hands but once in place, it stays put.
Unlike previous mounts, this one attaches to the detector magnetically, an effortless process and an idea so good it's likely the competition is doing some head-scratching, wondering why they didn't think of it first.
Internal Bluetooth allows the Max 360 to link to the Escort Live app on a cellphone. It also sports a USB port for updates and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The Max 360 is the first Escort model with a rear radar antenna, the centerpiece of its claimed 360-degree radar coverage. Accordingly, the business end of the housing is shared by the corporate OLED display and on the right, four LED arrows to depict radar location.
The value of the arrows is debatable—for most the universal reaction to a radar alert is to slow down, regardless of what point on the compass the beam might be coming from. And radar to the sides is harmless; the stuff only works accurately when the paths of target and radar are aligned. Regardless, the feature will likely generate some additional sales.
Advanced features targeting enthusiast drivers include radar signal identification. In Spec mode the Max 360 can be set to numerically display radar frequencies, in gigahertz, for both front and rear antennas. Instead of generic alphanumeric alerts it 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.
Delivery of this and other visual information, however, is compromised by the display. The small screen is densely packed with images and tiny text, much of the data being of questionable value. A big chunk of the limited real estate, for example, is dedicated to large displays of road speed and—at least when linked to the $99 Escort Live system—the posted limit.
For most drivers, the same information is available through occasional glances at the speedometer and speed limit signs. Devoting one third of an already small display to the duplicate information suggests an unfortunate triumph of marketing over utility.
The problem is compounded by the display's OLED technology. Although colorful and able to display graphics, the low-contrast OLED unfortunately lacks the visual punch of an LED. As a consequence, except on cloudy days the display generally remains unreadable, washed out by the sun. Donning sunglasses is guaranteed to make it disappear.
The Max 360's LED directional arrows remain distinct in sunlight, but for everything else you'd better get used to depending on the audio for information. Although claimed to be targeting enthusiasts, the hopeless display makes the Max 360 better suited to drivers favoring set-and-forget operation and minimal interaction. Learn more about OLED displays...
We found the directional arrows to be generally accurate; passing a radar signal usually resulted in the rear arrow lighting up as the rear antenna spotted it. In comparison to the other detector with a rear antenna, the Valentine One, we found that the Escort is more accurate in its reporting. Particularly in town, a single radar signal is generally reported as one threat. In contrast, the V1 not infrequently shrieks alerts of up to nine simultaneous threats, all generated by the same radar source.
Like its GPS-enabled siblings, the Max 360 reliably locked out most nuisance signals after passing them on multiple occasions. However, it showed a tendency to incorrectly interpret K-band signals as Ka-band and on those occasions, it inexplicably refused to lock out the offending signal.
It was also prone to alerting to phantom Ka-band signals in the regions of 33.40 and 33.55 GHz, bandwidth where police radar isn't found. It's likely that these were harmonics, multiples of a lower-frequency signal. This often can be a result of poor signal processing, but it was something we didn't expect to find in a pricey model being touted as the most advanced radar/laser detector on the market.
Tested at our Hill/Curve site, the Escort Max 360 exhibited above-average range on X band. And it led the pack in K-band range, trouncing even the hotrod Redline by a remarkable 23 percent
But performance on Ka band, the overwhelming favorite of state highway patrols, was disappointing. Although it only narrowly trailed three other Escorts tested, the S55, X70 and Passport, it had 24 percent less range than the Redline. In view of its $649 tariff, we'd have expected more of an edge, particularly over the X70, which costs less than half as much.
We also found that its stellar K-band sensitivity worked against the Max 360. For example, on a 1,280-mile freeway slog from Texas to Arizona we logged 72 K-band alerts. Seven were from the radar on highway department message trailers; the other 65 were false alarms.
It was similarly confused on Ka band. Of 16 alerts logged, only six were police radar. We also noticed that when linked to Escort Live, the Max 360 alerted to none of the 23 "Live Ka" radar threats being reported by the app. It similarly declined to alert to dozens of nearby Escort Live-reported X- and K-band radar threats, many of them announced only moments earlier.
Many of the K-band false alerts were triggered by the onboard radar used by vehicular blind spot monitoring systems. These operate on the same K-band frequency used by police radar and are a growing headache for detectors. But in head-to-head comparisons with the Escort Passport 9500ci and Escort Redline, we noted that neither of its siblings was similarly afflicted.
We also found that the most noticeable effect of the rear radar antenna was a doubling in the number of false alarms. It would alert, say, to a phantom K-band radar on the front antenna which, after an interminable wait, would stop as we passed the source. Then a new alert would sound, this time from the rear antenna.
Judged solely by its commendable array of features, the Escort Max 360 would seem to be unbeatable. But an inferior user interface, disappointing Ka-band performance, signal-processing hiccups and the incessant false alarms served to temper our enthusiasm. On the road, the Max 360 arguably offers less value than the $449 Escort Passport 9500ix, for example, and it lacks many of the attributes many find compelling in that model.
In all, we found the Escort Max 360 to be rather less than the sum of its parts. Although fairly dripping with potential, much of that theoretical superiority is nullified by unfortunate design choices and iffy execution.