- Extensive feature set
- Superb windshield mount
- Good audible alerts
- Hot K-band performance
- Dim display
- False alarms
The Passport Max 360 ($499 MSRP) was the first Escort with a rear radar antenna. It's been joined by a step-up model, the Passport 360C ($649), which has Wi-Fi and a restyled housing. The two otherwise are identical.
The Max 360 has a large footprint and with two metal antennae, it's also heavy. Housed in a black case, it's 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, 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 earlier 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.
With the addition of a rear radar antenna, the Escort Passport Max 360 and Max 360C illuminate an arrow to indicate the direction of a threat. On the Max 360 the four arrows are clustered on the right side of the front housing. The 360C moves these arrows to the outer edges of the housing, one on each side.
Both versions also sport a USB port for updates and a 3.5mm audio jack for stereo output.
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 dubious value.
For most drivers, the same information is available through occasional glances at the speedometer and speed limit signs. Devoting one third of an already cramped display to 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. We've noted the same tendency on many competing models with OLED displays.
The Max 360's LED directional arrows remain distinct in sunlight, but for everything else you'd better get used to depending on the voice alerts for information. The display makes the Max 360 best suited to drivers who prefer set-and-forget operation and minimal interaction with a detector.
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 automatically locked out most nuisance signals—automatic door openers in particular—after passing them on multiple occasions. Only Escorts automate this task; to avoid patent infringement, competiting models require the user to press a button to lock out a signal.
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
Performance on Ka band, the overwhelming favorite of state highway patrols, was somewhat less impressive. Although it only narrowly trailed three other Escorts tested at the time, the S55, X70 and Passport, it had 24 percent less range than the Redline. In view of its $499 tariff, we'd have expected more of an edge.
We also found that its stellar K-band sensitivity can work 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 roadside 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 (BSM) systems. These operate on the same K-band frequency used by police radar and have become a huge headache for detectors.
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 display, disappointing Ka-band performance, signal-processing hiccups and the incessant false alarms served to temper our enthusiasm.
In contrast, the Max 360 comes with features like an Overspeed Alert factory-set at 70 mph. Stray north of that and it shrieks Overspeed! on each occasion. The speed nanny can be disabled, but only by burrowing into the User Preferences menu and changing the settings.
Annoying features like this make us suspect the Max 360 design was driven by focus groups composed of people who get around exclusively by mass transit. Although fairly dripping with potential, much of that remains unrealized by unfortunate design choices and iffy execution.