Escort Passport 9500ci
I remember it like it was yesterday. I’m referring of course to my first two weeks in my Cayman S. As one of the few Americans that had checked the ‘European Delivery’ option box, I had the rare opportunity to explore the limits of my new Porsche without the fear of legal complications. That’s right…. I was on the German autobahn, the A-31 to be exact, and I had just passed one of those nifty ‘No Speed Limit’ signs. I leaned into the throttle and let the speedometer climb. My new Cayman S eagerly passed 200 km/h (125 mph), approximately twice the speed limit back home, and it had so much more to offer. Later the speed limit dropped to 100 km/h (~65 mph). It felt like we were crawling and I had to make a real conscious effort to obey law. I knew at that moment that my driving record would be in serious jeopardy once I got this car back home. Over the next two weeks, while tearing up the German countryside, it became painfully clear to me that I would have to buy and install the very best speeding ticket counter measures available. I spent a year researching this topic and found that there are many outstanding products. I ultimately had to choose the combination that I felt would best protect me, my wallet and my license. For a number of reasons, I believe the the new Passport 9500ci from Escort is the clear choice.
Why I chose the 9500ci:
The decision to buy a $1,599 defense system isn’t one anyone should make lightly. The list of reasons to do so is so long that I could easily write a ten page essay about them. For this review, I'll provide a brief outline of the most compelling reasons.
The 9500ci incorporates a long list of innovations that represent the most significant leap forward in radar detector design ever. All of those innovations center around the addition of GPS technology. By adding GPS technology to a radar detector, many new features become possible including:
True Lock Filtering* - By adding GPS location information to Escort's digital signal processor, the 9500ci can memorize the exact frequency and location of false radar sources when prompted by the user. Once memorized, the 9500ci will ignore those specific false alarms on subsequent passes though their location. This makes the 9500ci more selective and less intrusive than any detector ever made.
Adaptive Signal Processing* (Auto Mode) - By knowing your vehicle's actual speed, the sensitivity of the 9500ci can be attenuated when moving slowly. We don't really need 1 mile of range when moving across a parking lot at 15 mph. Below 45 mph, the 9500ci reacts with reduced sensitivity, further improving its selectivity.
Auto Learn / Unlearn* - A simple but brilliant companion to True Lock, Auto Learn and Auto Unlearn will watch for repeated false signals. When it sees the same frequency in the same place three times in a row, it automatically memorizes it as a false alarm and lets True Lock take over. Pass that location once with that signal absent and it automatically unlocks the combination. This makes the 9500ci the most intuitive and easy to use detector on the market. Set it, forget it and focus on the next set of turns.
*True Lock, Auto Mode and Auto Learn/Unlearn work only on X and K band because Ka band is almost always a speed trap and Ka radar guns represent the highest radar risk. Brilliant..!Auto Mute & Smart Mute - Auto Mute automatically reduces alert volume after 10 seconds. Smart Mute keeps the detector quiet by delivering only two alert tones followed by silence if you're moving at less than 20 mph. These two features make the few false signals that do get through easy to deal with.
Speed Alert - Because the 9500ci knows your speed, it can easily share this info in its display window when under attack, providing users with one central and easy place to look for all needed information under such conditions (mph or km/h).
Traffic Camera Defense - Knowing a vehicle's location makes yet another dimension of protection possible. By comparing your location with a database of registered traffic cameras, the 9500ci can warn you about nearby red light and speed cameras (coming to an intersection near you soon). These threats use sensors in the pavement to calculate your speed which makes them invisible to conventional radar detectors. The 9500ci comes with a 3 year subscription to database updates. They are easily downloaded from the internet and uploaded to the detector through a USB port.
Dual Horn M3 Antenna - Because of the 9500ci’s new found ability to limit false signals, the Escort engineers were allowed and encouraged to let the sensitivity genie out of the bottle. They created and equipped the 9500ci with a new hyper sensitive dual aperture antenna designated the 'M3'. This antenna provides the 9500ci with incredible sensitivity, sensitivity that surpasses that of every other radar detector on the market (according to my research and many side by side comparisons done by the members of www.RadarDetector.net, an online forum like this one dedicated to radar/laser technology). The M3 equipped detectors also happen to be the only detectors on the planet that are completely invisible to all available radar detector detectors.
Multifunction Pilot Display - Escort provides several different pilot display modes (what's displayed when not under attack). Beyond the expected radar detector status, the 9500ci can display your actual speed in mph or km/h, or it can display true vehicle voltage. Since our 987s don't have a voltage meter, the voltage option provides a nice bonus feature.
ZR-4 Lidar Detection & Shifting - The 9500i includes Escort's ZR-4 front & rear Lidar (Laser) Shifting (Jamming) technology that makes small cars like the Cayman completely invisible to lidar guns. This is the only truly effective way to buy time against the laser guns that are growing in popularity so quickly.
High performance radar detection, laser detection, laser shifting and traffic camera warning all in one package. The 9500ci is indisputably the most complete electronic counter measure package available. No other product even comes close. In fact, you'd have to mix three or more competing products and you'd still be missing many of the benefits that make the 9500ci great.
The 9500ci isn't cheap. But neither are speeding tickets. The way I see it, if this thing saves me from one ticket, it's worth the price of admission. I'm going to spend this money one way or the other. I'm either going to give it to Escort and get something of value for my money, or I'm going to give it to the Centralized Infractions Bureau and/or my insurance company and get nothing for my money. I chose the former.
So it's clear that the 9500ci is very sophisticated. In order to provide the protection it does, the system is made up of many pieces. The fact that the product has been broken into many pieces is good and bad. It’s bad from an installation stand point because each piece requires labor and installation considerations. It’s good from an installation stand point because it makes a more optimal installation possible. To understand that statement, I guess I have to define ‘Optimal Installation’.
An Optimal Installation is a very subjective term and one that is important for every detector buyer to think about. Every user and every installer will have a different set of installation requirements and/or goals. Those goals may include attributes like performance, cosmetic appearance, price, functionality and ease of use, profitability, invisibility of device, convenience of install, portability, etc…. Here is my list of priorities, in descending order of importance.
Performance – This detector is being installed to protect me. Performance is more important to me than install convenience, cost or appearance.
Functionality – I want a protection device that is easy to use. I do not want it to negatively impact my driving experience.
Appearance – My Cayman is a dream car to me. I am not willing to litter it with gaudy aftermarket devices. I'm willing to make minor sacrifices here if needed to gain performance and/or functionality.
Invisibility – I want this device to be as discrete as possible. I don’t want it to draw the attention of potential thieves or nosy law enforcement officers. A highly visible detector can result in a broken window or unwanted legal attention.
Sometimes these attributes will conflict with one another and/or require some compromise.
Radar and Lidar Receiver/Shifters:
Keeping my priority list in mind, I have decided to mount my radar receiver in the lower opening of the front bumper with clear line of sight forward. This mounting style will provide the absolute best radar detection performance, while sacrificing a little bit of cosmetic appeal because the radar receiver will be visible. In an attempt to make the visual impact of the radar receiver as minimal as possible, I sought to flush mount it into the opening trim cup.
Radar waves will pass through non metallic objects, but not without some reflection of the radios waves. The radar operated door opener at your local grocery store see enough of a reflection from your body to recognize your presences, and you're not made of metal. So placing the radar head behind an object, even if non metallic, will result in a muted signal. How much difference does it make, that's hard to say.
If you don’t mind slightly reduced performance, you may want to consider installing your radar receiver behind the nose. The radar receiver could easily be attached to the bottom of the aluminum bumper cross member, which is perfectly level and would require no mechanical fabrication.
The Lidar transceivers work completely differently. The lidar gun works by reflecting infrared light off of your car. It is imperative that the lidar receiver/transmitters be mounted with a clear view of the road ahead. To determine the optimal location for the lidar transceivers, the use of the lidar gun needs to be considered. Police are trained to shoot at the license plate, center mass or headlights because these areas are most likely to provide the needed reflection. So, the ideal location would be on a horizontal plane that is vertically centered between the headlights and center mass (license plate) location, horizontally centering each transceiver between the center of the headlight and the center of the car. Unfortunately, this location is not practical on the Cayman as it would put the shifters right in the middle of the painted nose panel.
Here's a picture of my car (gamma adjusted so you can see the black on black parts) showing the ideal lidar transceiver location (Yellow), where I mounted my lidar transceivers (Red) and where I mounted my radar receiver (Blue).
Though my Lidar Transceivers are not in the ideal location, I'm confident they will be very effective. The Cayman has a small frontal area, and it's nose is a constant curve with no straight reflective surfaces. The Cayman will be a tricky target for any lidar gun, even without electronic counter measures. With all of those curves, any reflection will be weak, making it easier for the shifters to do their thing.
Rear Lidar Receiver/Shifter:
When shooting at the back of a car, the license plate is the only real reliable target. This makes the mounting of the rear Lidar Receiver/Shifter real easy. The device is created to screw right to the top edge of a US license plate. Oh thank God, a part that I won't have to customize....
Like a GPS navigation device, this antenna needs a clear view upward into the sky so it can see the global positioning satellites. This antenna can be mounted outside of the vehicle on an exterior panel, on the dash top, on the included windshield mount, or anywhere that its upward view is not obstructed by metal.
Keeping my goals in mind, I took it a step further and decided to hide my GPS sensor. I chose to install it under the plastic cowl between the windshield and hood, close to where Porsche themselves would have mounted their GPS antenna if my car was equipped with factory navigation.
This location worked out very nicely. My 9500ci gets a satellite lock very quickly and hangs on to it even deep into parking garages.
[hide]Mounting the GPS antenna here is easy, but a little time consuming. Start by removing the plastic cowl so you can work on it away from the car.
I sat in my car and experimented with many display locations. Finding one that I liked was a challenge. Part of me really wanted to get creative and make this thing invisible, but performance and functionality were more important.
For optimal functionality, this display should be easy to see without making a special trip with your eyes. When under a radar or laser attack, the first thing a driver will do is look at their speedometer, to determine if they’re at risk. So finding a location near the speedometer made the most sense. After many considerations, I chose to mount my display on top of the steering column, which places it nicely in line with the other instruments.
After some experimentation, I found that standing it off of the column cover by 0.175 inches provided the perfect height (for me). Depending on your height and preferred seating / steering wheel positions, your mileage may vary.
If you like your wheel all the way up, you may not like this location. I recommend that you test it with your favorite seat/steering wheel position before making any modifications. Place the dispaly on top of the column while sitting in the car and have a look.
Keep in mind that the 9500ci has a feature called 'Auto Speed'. If enabled, the 9500ci will display your actual speed in its display before switching to its signal strength meter. With this in mind, you can get more creative with your display location and still receive all of the needed info in one place.
When considering a location for my control module, functionality came first. As a long time detector user, I understand how important it is to be able to access the Mute button and other controls easily. I experimented with many locations. During this experimentation I realized that the Escort control head matches our interior very nicely. The control is black, like the buttons on our dash, and its buttons closely match the volcano grey trim.
The control head looks very nice against the dash panel of a 2006-2008 Cayman. I also couldn’t help but notice how nicely the control fits between my Sport and PSM buttons. If only I could flush the unit into that location… After a lot of hard thinking and some exploratory surgery, this is what I came up with:
Power Button & Amplified Speaker:
Because I flush mounted my control head, I made it impossible to push to the power button, which is located on top of the module. Access to the power button is necessary to apply product updates and to alter the power state. So I relocated the power button.
The speaker challenged me. I was surprised to find that the dash boards in our Caymans are packed tightly with components and offer very few 'Optimal' locations for something like this. I really don’t want to see the speaker, but I certainly need to hear it. The speaker has a small amplifier inside that's pretty potent, so you don't necessarily have to do what I did to be able to hear it. Once again, I took the custom route and mounted my speaker here:
I came pretty close to sacrificing my center speaker, but ultimately I was not willing to lose any factory functionality. If your car is not equipped with a center speaker (base level 987 w/standard sound package), I would recommend you buy a factory center speaker and wire it into the Escort amplifier. That would be very cool.
Remote USB Port:
The 9500ci kit includes a remote USB port. Easy access to this port is necessary for updating the 9500's traffic camera database and to apply any product updates that may come available.
I’ve seen a lot of folks mount these under the dashboard or in the fuse panel. I sort of suspect that if this system was a factory option, Porsche wouldn’t make us drop to our knees to find the update port, and if they did there would be no end to the complaining on web forums like the Cayman Club. So I refused to go under dash and tried to find a location that would be more consistent with what Porsche would have done. I mounted mine in the glove box. It’s easy to find, easy to access and out of sight when the door is closed:
This device acts as the brains of the detector. All of the devices plug into this central location. It does not have to be accessible or visible. Because this part needs power, and because many wires will enter the passenger compartment on the Driver’s side, I have decided to mount mine under the driver side dashboard, in front of the fuse panel where I can also easily access a power and ground source.
Once my detector was installed, I registered it on Escort's website. This is a simple process that takes only a few minutes. Once registered, I was able to download their 'Detector Tools' application. It was easy to find and easy to install. Once installed, I took my laptop out to my car and parked outside my window, where my wireless router is. As I proceeded through the update process for the first time, I learned that I didn't need to do this. You don't need a wireless connection. You can download the updates, then take the laptop to the car and load them.
The 'Detector Tools' software is intuitive. There are several pages. The first page/tab presents two options to you.
I downloaded a new firmware, version 1.3, and a new camera database, dated 3/16/2009 (the day before) and used Detector Tools to apply each. I found the updating process took longer than I expected, but hardly anything to complain about. Same for the firmware. The 'Detector Tools' reads the detector, then merges the new data with your True Lock and Marked locations, then writes the new data file to the detector, and then verifies the new file. I'd say applying the new database took about 2-3 minutes.
There are other tab pages that allow the user to erase True Lock and Marker locations, and another page that allows you to set the detectors options with a simple graphic user interface. They're all pretty easy to figure out.
I would like to see Escort improve the 'Detector Tools' a little. I wasn't able to find the current version of firmware or database that were already in my 9500ci. It's very possible that my detector already had firmware version 1.3. I would also like to see some improved compatibility for my Mac using friends. Fortunately, now that Escort has taken this technology to cyber space, these two upgrades are not only possible but probable.
Driving Impressions (0-100 miles):
Once I made that final connection, I anxiously ventured out into the world to test this new setup. Along my first ride there are several false radar sources. The first is an X-band traffic monitor on the highway. As suspected, but still somewhat to my surprise, the 9500ci warned me at least twice as far away as my SRX would have, so much earlier that I actually slowed down because I literally thought it was a different source.
Later in the ride, I was passing a CVS pharmacy that has two K-band door openers. Once again, the 9500ci blew my SRX out of the water alerting me at least 2, maybe 3 times as far away. I had to double back past this point, during which I used the True Lock for the first time. It's super easy to use. You press the mute button once, the detector goes quiet and 'MUTE' is temporarily displayed. Press it again and the 9500ci say, "Lockout this location?" and the word 'Lockout?' is displayed. Press it again and it says, "Stored". It's as easy as that. On the way back home, when I had to pass this location for the third time, the detector remained quiet, but I could see the little satellite spinning as it acquired the signal. This was very cool.
The next day I took the car out again, this time on a pretty long ride. I found the 9500ci to be more noisy than my SRX, simply because I rarely drive with X-band on with my SRX. I've left X-band on in the 9500ci because I want to be exposed to as many signals as possible right now, so I can learn the detector and become one with it. This is an important step that should be done with any new detector. Because the 9500ci can learn the X-band false signals, I am going to try to leave it on and let it learn its way into silence.
The voice prompts and audio tones of the 9500ci are well thought out. Each band has a very distinct tone, brap, double brap etc.. that helps identify the attack. Escort has also provided the 9500ci with a pleasant female voice that loves to talk (typical female
) and her vocabulary is vast. While driving you may hear, "brap - K Band - brap - brap", or " brap/brap - Ka Band - brap/brap - brap/brap...." I entered a parking garage and as I hit the 3rd level I heard, "GPS signal is lost". As I approached the top level, "GPS signal acquired". The voice prompts have been significantly improved compared to the 9500ci's predecessor, the Passport SRX. Still, if you don't like them they can easily be disabled in the preferences menu.
I was a little worried about the Automatic Display Brightness. I didn't feel that it worked well when I was bench testing the 9500ci. But in the car, in natural light, it's spot on. It uses a light sensor to measure the ambient light and it adjusts the brightness of the display accordingly. I also like the fact that there is a manual brightness control. You can chose one of 4 different brightnesses, ranging from dark to bright, or put it back in auto mode. In retrospect, I realize that the because the 9500ci has such communicative audio and such vast brightness control, I could have considered other options with my display (in the rear view mirror, hidden, low, etc..).
Driving Impressions (100-500 miles):
It's become clear to me that this thing is incredibly sensitive. On X band, it's sensitivity is borderline ridiculous. It's finding X band sources that my SRX never knew about. In fact, the 9500ci has found so many X band sources that I'm amazed that we don't glow in the dark from radiation exposure.
I've made a cool discovery. If you drive in 'AutoNoX' mode, the detector will not alert you to X band sources (obviously), but it's still watching for them and automatically learning them as false signals. I keep seeing, "STORED", as I pass each X band source for the third time. This is great for a new owners. Once it's had some time to learn my routes, then I'll switch back to 'Highway' mode and let True Lock do it's thing.
While testing a section of an upcoming Cayman Club ride, I came upon a K band speed limit/reminder sign. The range at which the 9500ci warned me was astounding. I didn't reset the odometer, but it had to be more than a mile, around a turn, over a hill. (I'll be on that road again this weekend and I'll get a more accurate distance measurement.) The ramp up was excellent, smooth, slow and predictable, which confirmed right away that I was dealing with a real threat.
I've also found a local police car with his Ka gun on. I came off an exit ramp, stopped at the light and the 9500ci started squawking. I didn't see the officer, which is often the case with this thing, because it's so sensitive. I proceeded with my ride home and took the next left. As I did, the ramp up started to fall, telling me the source was the other way. I was so curious, I took the next right. Ina asked, "Where are you going..?!?". I told her that I wanted to find that source to see how far away it was. She thought I was nuts, hunting police cars. I found that the officer wasn't that far away. He was at the police station, which was just about 1/4 mile away from where the 9500ci alerted me. But it was around a turn, over a concrete wall, down in a valley, and behind a brick building. These were very poor circumstances for radar waves to travel, but the 9500ci sniffed them out in ways my SRX simply couldn't.
True Lock is learning and the detector is getting very quiet. I absolutely love the fact that I can go to my local grocery store / bank / gas station without hearing an alert about their door openers. Honestly, this is one of the reasons I didn't want a detector in my Cayman, because I didn't want to have to deal with the constants false signals. It's going to be painful to drive my other car with the SRX in it (the SRX has saved me so many times, I actually feel guilty writing this).
The Bad and Ugly:
No product is perfect, not even our beloved Porsches, and no product review is complete without discussing a product's weaknesses. So here's where I think the 9500ci can be improved, where other users think it falls short and what I think any potential buyer should know before purchase.
It's not easy to criticize the 9500ci. If Escort asked me how they could improve this thing, I think the first recommendation that I'd make is for them to smooth out the audio ramp up. It seems slightly non linear to me. When I talk about ramp up, I am referring to the speed of the signal strength tones. They increase in speed as the signal strength increases. To me, and to several other users out there, it seems like the 9500ci ramps up its audio nicely from signal strength 1 to 6, but once it steps past 6 it seems to go right to 10. I'd like to see them smooth this out a little. It's important to understand that the visual signal strength meter does not share this behavior. It seems very linear.
Another very minor annoyance that I've noticed is that once you're receiving a signal, you cannot change the sensitivity mode until that signal is gone. It would be nice to be able to activate 'AutoNoX' when you find yourself in the middle of a pile of X band sources. As it is, you need to press Mute, wait until you're away from the signals, then change the sensitivity.
My last suggestion would be to make Detector Tools able to identify the firmware revision that is already in our detectors and to make it easier to delete Marked locations.
I'd like to point out that True Lock has received some pretty strong criticism. There are those out there that insist that it's junk because it could potentially lock out a legitimate law enforcement officer. I simply can't agree. I think this is a fan boy statement coming from those that are so in love with their lesser detector that they simply can't see that True Lock is the most brilliant innovation to ever find its way into radar detectors. Can True Lock lock out a real LEO? Sure it can. But I see the risk associated with this as microscopic compared to the monumental benefits that True Lock delivers. I do believe that it is very important for every user to fully understand how True Lock works, and to use common sense when manually locking out sources and/or when driving in areas where sources have been locked out. If you can do that, in my opinion, there is no risk.
The science of speed measurement and traffic citations is changing fast. Police are popping up all over with lidar guns and profit driven companies are pushing the sale of red light and speed cameras all over the USA. These new technologies make the radar detectors of yesterday dangerously incomplete. An incomplete detector can be worse than no detector at all because it can provide its owners with a false sense of security that may lead them blazing right into an ambush.
The 9500ci is Escort's greatest achievement, and at this point in time the most sensitive radar detector on the planet. Beyond being the most sensitive, it's also the most selective. This is very important because sensitivity without selectivity is also dangerous (The boy who cried wolf). True lock makes the 9500ci a detector you can trust. When it speaks up, you know you'd better listen.
Auto Learn and Adaptive Sensitivity make it so easy to use and so accurate that you can take a 9500ci for a ride without sacrificing your driving experience. This is important because a detector that requires constant fiddling ends up in the glove box. The 9500ci is simply the very best detector I've ever seen. It's not perfect, but it's so damn close that I think every Porsche should come with one as standard equipment. Until that day, thank God we've got the engineers at Escort looking out for us.