From the May 2021 issue of Car and Driver.
There’s no good answer when a police officer asks, “Do you know how fast you were going?” Better to make the effort and spend the money upfront to avoid that interaction in the first place, we say. While navigation apps such as Waze can reduce your chances of being caught in a speed trap, radar detectors have never been more effective at sniffing out Smokey.
We gathered three heavy hitters for this test. Valentine’s V1 Gen2 is the first major redesign since the V1 debuted in 1992, and at $499, it’s cheaper than the original when accounting for inflation. For a steep $650, the Escort Max 360c is loaded with features, including directional arrows and a GPS antenna. Radenso, a relative newcomer, has garnered a strong following with its top model, the $450 Pro M.
We kept our tests simple, measuring front and rear detection distance and how well each sensed radar around a corner. While police radar guns shoot X-, K-, and Ka-band frequencies, we stuck to Ka band, as it’s the most difficult to detect at a distance.
To see how well each weeds out false alerts, we then switched the detectors from their most sensitive mode to their most selective and rolled through Ann Arbor’s strip-mall gauntlet. Without filtering, this drive is essentially a continuous, nine-mile-long alert due to the motion detectors everywhere. Two of the three models offer GPS lockout for this kind of thing; it works by logging location and frequency. You have to push a button for the Pro M to remember irksome spots. But for the Escort, drive past a no-good automatic door three times, and in theory you’ll never hear that false alert again.
It’s easy to get mired in test results when all you want to know is, “If I stick this on my wind-shield, will I get a ticket?” Any of these detectors will greatly reduce your odds of a chat with the roadside tax collector. Which one you want depends on how you expect a radar detector to behave.
Highs: GPS lockout, slick magnetic mount, easy to mute with power-cord button.
Lows: Expensive, arrow function is less useful than Valentine’s.
Verdict: A balanced compromise of range and filtering comes at a price.
The Escort exists in the space between the Valentine’s high sensitivity and the Radenso’s adept filtering. With six false alerts on our suburban route, the Max 360c wasn’t much quieter than the V1 Gen2. Fortunately, it has GPS lockout and can learn to ignore fixed-location triggers.
The Max 360c gave ample warning in all three of our scenarios. Escort began parroting the V1’s hallmark arrows back in 2015, but they’re not as useful here. If the V1’s arrows point out the threat in real time, the Max 360c’s seem like they’re on a five-second delay. That lag makes it difficult to know exactly where—and what—the radar is coming from.
We like that you can slide the Max 360c on and off the EZ Mag mount with one hand, and the power-cord mute button can be handy, depending on where your car’s 12-volt outlet is located. You’ll pay a premium for the feature-packed Max 360c. Just know that not all of those bells and whistles work as well as the competition’s.
Highs: Excellent out-of-the-box filtering, GPS lockout, great price.
Lows: Little rearward protection, questionable mount durability, confusing menus and controls.
Verdict: A quiet radar detector with good threat detection.
The Pro M is significantly quieter than the others, but we trust it to pick up police radar. In our false-filtering test, the Radenso rang out just twice compared with six and seven times for the Escort and Valentine, respectively. All three detectors can be programmed to ignore whole radar bands, but only the Radenso allows the user to adjust the strength of filtering for each type. That lets you reduce sensitivity to, say, the rarely used X band without muting it entirely.
The Radenso has strong frontal range, and it matched the Escort in the 90-degree corner test. But its rear coverage is a relative weak point. The Pro M’s tiny size is a boon for driver visibility. Its lowest-in-test price is another selling point, but the Radenso does feel cheaper than the others. You adjust its angle on the windshield by bending the metal bracket it mounts to, and there’s no app to assist with adjusting settings. Pick the Pro M if you want a reliable detector that minimizes the number of false alerts.
Highs: Longest range in test, easy to update, simple display.
Lows: No GPS lockout, picks up more false alarms than the others.
Verdict: There’s no better companion for speeding in unfamiliar territory.
The fanatical customers who swear by the original V1 often prefer a noisy detector to a selective one. So when we say that the V1 Gen2 squawks more than the Max 360c and the Pro M, we recognize that some people will see that as a perk. Valentine often leaves it to the driver to use the directional-arrow display to home in on radar sources to determine what’s a threat and what isn’t.
Setup is easy with the phone app, which can also function as a covert display if you don’t want lights on your windshield. While the V1 Gen2 offers only a trivial advantage in frontal range, it picked up radar coming from the rear at 2.0 miles, more than half a mile farther than the next-best model, the Max 360c. And the V1 Gen2 gave a mile’s notice in our simulated police trap of a blind 90-degree corner, while both the Escort and the Radenso gave half-mile warnings. The V1 Gen2 is the radar detector for those who would rather have too much information than trust the filtering algorithms to get it right.
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