Not long ago, I was embedded in a miles-long ribbon
of vehicles gridlocked on I-10 in remote southeastern Arizona. For nearly an
hour we alternately stopped, inched forward, then stopped again interminably while
first responders struggled to clear a multi-vehicle crash ahead.
Although few cars were passing by in the opposite lanes,
every few minutes my Escort Max 360 would inexplicably bark a K-band alert. I
logged eight in the 54 minutes we sat there.
After studying the numeric frequency and signal strength of
each alert, finally a pattern emerged: it was alerting to the Blind Spot
Monitoring radar transmitters in nearby vehicles. As impatient drivers changed
lanes and jockeyed for position, a radar beam once blocked by other vehicles
would be unmasked momentarily, generating an alert.
These vehicular radar systems use a frequency shared with
police radar and to a detector, the two look identical. Still, the Max 360
seemed to be inordinately affected by these radar pests.
When we later performance-tested the Max 360 one
explanation for this behavior was revealed: it has stupendous range on K band.
Better even than the fabled Escort Redline. Not the advantage it might seem
since, unfortunately, state highway patrol agencies almost universally employ a
different frequency—Ka band.
A second reason for the chatty nature also emerged: its rear
antenna. The Max 360 is the first Escort to have a rear-facing antenna,
allowing it to indicate the direction of an incoming radar beam. But coupled
with hypersensitivity on K band, the most noticeable effect of the rear antenna
is to double the number of false alarms.
In a typical scenario let's say the Max 360 alerts to a
distant K-band radar. Signal strength climbs as the source is approached until
finally, it mercifully falls silent. But
not for long. After the radar is passed, the rear antenna spots it and another
alert begins. Instead of one alert lasting,
say, 15 seconds, now we get two that last a combined 30 seconds.
We noticed other behavioral oddities in the Max 360 during an
extended five-month, 5,700-mile evaluation. For the backstory on this complex—not to
mention pricey—model see the Escort Max 360 review.