Note: This model has been discontinued.
There's no denying the attraction of a gadget that offers satellite navigation plus protection from radar, lasers and red light cameras. But there's no surfeit of candidates: that description fits a single device, the Escort Passport iQ
The Escort iQ features a 5-inch (measured diagonally) color LCD touch-screen and it looks similar to competing portable satnav systems. But its thicker profile conceals its integral radar/laser detector borrowed from the Escort Passport 9500ix, arguably the best windshield-mount GPS-enabled radar detector.
Finding room inside the compact housing for the radar detector electronics must have been a herculean task, but the payoff is a totally concealed radar detector. This will be particularly attractive to those who drive in no-detector areas and prefer not to advertise that they're packing an illicit device.
An internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery powers the nav system functions for a limited time in the absence of vehicle power. When running on its battery the iQ does not provide radar/laser detection; only the nav system portion will operate. Measures were taken to conserve and monitor battery life, among them a bicolored battery charge LED that glows green when fully charged and red when completely discharged; it flashes alternately red/green when nearing fully-charged status. A multi-mode power switch toggles between power settings. With power cord connected to an always-on 12-volt source, the switch must be used to power-off the iQ. Unplugging the cord will send the unit into Suspend Mode; this shuts off the power-hungry LCD screen while keeping the iQ on hot standby. Eventually it will deplete the battery, making it necessary to use the power switch to completely kill the power consumption.
When linked to the switched power source commonly found in most imported vehicles, turning off the ignition puts the iQ into Suspend Mode for two hours, after which it automatically shuts off to prevent vehicle battery rundown. A third switch position completely locks down the system. A touch-screen icon is used to shut off the detector circuitry and leave only the navigation functions operational.
The iQ comes with a SmartCord whose integral mute button silences the audio but can also be used to operate the Mark Location function. In the latter role we found it to be faster and easier than using the touch screen controls.
The iQ's radar detector feature set is very similar to that of the Escort Passport Max, as well as the BEL (Beltronics) Pro 500 and BEL STiR-Plus, all GPS-enabled models. Like those, the Escort Passport iQ employs Escort's Defender database of camera locations. This proprietary database is kept updated religiously and proved itself class-leading in accuracy, an issue of some importance since a GPS-enabled detector won't warn of a camera if nobody bothered to enter the data. In our 18-month test of this and competing databases, the Defender trounced the rival Cobra Aura database and laid waste to Trapster and similar apps. Learn more.
A user can add locations to the database by pressing a screen icon; the marked location can be tagged with one of two choices, red light or speed camera. Database updates are downloaded via the USB port, a quick process once the Escort Detector Tools application has been downloaded and installed on a PC. There's also an SD card port for future firmware and software updates.
Installing an Escort Passport iQ isn't unduly difficult but it must be sufficiently high to keep the radar antenna in its lower housing clear of obstructions. We tested the iQ in a variety of new vehicles and found that smaller cars with their more limited windshield real estate exact some compromises in mounting locations.
Upon vehicle start the iQ's startup screen offers three function options: Detector, Map or Go To. The last option leads to a six-item menu of standard nav system search options, e.g., favorites, address, recent or browse. The other options are self-explanatory: Map mode allocates most of the screen to navigation tasks while Detector mode uses it for the bespoke function, along with essential route guidance information.
As an expensive piece of windshield-mounted electronics, iQ owners would be advised to remove the unit when leaving the vehicle unattended. This is no different than with a high-end radar detector, but the iQ's size and weight make installation, removal and concealment more difficult.
We found the Escort iQ to be an accurate, user-friendly nav system. In navigation mode, radar alerts are displayed in the lower-left corner as X, K or Ka. (If set to Expert Mode, the same as Spec Mode in Escort radar detectors, it also shows the numeric radar frequency, an extremely useful tool, but only for involved drivers willing to act on that knowledge.)
The iQ displays up to four simultaneous radar signals, showing the relative signal strength of each. Compared to a radar detector, the iQ's larger screen allows it to display this information more comprehensively.
The 5-inch LCD display offers generally good readibility but suffers from the same limitations as the LCD screens on other mobile electronics: it's difficult to read with polarized sunglasses and it can wash out in sunlight. At night it directs a significant amount of light in the driver's direction and while the intensity is 10-step adjustable, even the lowest setting may strike some as intrusive on long trips.
In our field tests the Escort iQ's radar-detection performance proved to be excellent, a legacy of its M4-platform heritage. At our Hill/Curve test site it spotted every radar from over 2,500 feet away, a showing nearly identical to that of the Escort Passport 9500ix. In town, the Escort iQ exhibited the same alacrity as the Escort 9500ix in eliminating false alarms, quickly identifying and locking-out non-police radar signals.
During our eight-month-long evaluation there was much head-scratching over how best to characterize the Escort iQ's personality. The consensus: it's a good nav system for shoppers who also want radar detection. But expect a few compromises.