Escort Passport iQ Review: Trying out "The Ultimate Driving Companion"
That's Escort's tag line, not ours, and we hope they ran it by Legal at BMW. This windshield-mounted device combines the functions of a radar and laser detector with full-feature GPS navigation in a package that just looks like a slightly oversized version of a model-citizen's harmless Garmin. Nobody needs to know you're packing the revenuer countermeasures of a speeder/scofflaw. A single suction-cup mount connects it to the windshield, and the SmartCord's plug includes a mute button and warning lights. (We do wish that cord plugged into the mount rather than the detector to simplify temporary removal of the device for security.) It's certainly convenient and stealthy, but can a jack-of-all-gizmos do everything well?
NAVTEQ navigation features bird's-eye-view 3D or plan-view 2D display modes and boasts a lane-assist feature to keep you from missing an exit. There are zillions of points of interest and readouts to indicate both the posted speed limit (where available) and your current vehicle speed as calculated by the moving GPS (which can be way more accurate than a vintage car's cable-operated speedo). On the down side, the 5-inch screen's graphics are a bit low-res/jaggy; there's no live traffic info; the windshield-facing speaker makes turn-by-turn directions sound a bit muffled; and because it weighs as much as two devices, it jiggles disconcertingly if you mount it just below the rear-view mirror, where detectors usually go.
Naturally the detector uses GPS to memorize stationary motion-detector radar sources and to warn of known red-light and speed cameras, both from Escort's Defender database and those you enter yourself. The detector comes loaded with the latest Defender database, and a subscription for updates that must be renewed, along with the map database, at extra cost. (Some of the posted speed limit data was already incorrect for the freeways covering my suburban Detroit commute.) The unit gives an "over speed limit" warning when you exceed it by 10 mph, and it can display the numeric frequency of the radar it's receiving (X, K, Ka, and Ku bands are monitored). Mounting the hefty unit to rest on the dash cures the jiggling but can compromise the effectiveness of the laser lenses, especially the tiny rear-looking one on the face of the unit that needs to see past the seats out the rear window. It should be noted that some states, like California and Minnesota, don't allow windshield-mounted devices, but there are dash-mount accessories for those states.
We wish it powered up and found satellites a bit more quickly, but overall the unit seems to work as advertised. Over the course of several weeks it warned us of all bands of radar (save Ku) and laser. The price roughly equals three decent speeding tickets, or one plus a reasonably priced detector and a good nav unit. It won't make an inveterate speeder invincible (nothing can), but it buys convenience and some peace of mind. $650; http://www.escortradar.com/iq/