Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

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The Lowdown

The Escort MAX 360c MKII is an incredibly accurate radar/laser detector that gives plenty of warning before police or roadside radar devices are seen, and it will mute those events quickly. My only complaint with the MAX 360c MKII is the same issue I had when reviewing the Escort MAXcam 360c earlier this year: the Drive Smarter app provides a terrible user experience. While I understand what Escort was trying to do with the app and the value they wanted to add,  if you don’t have WiFi in your vehicle, you can save yourself some aggravation by just using the detector without the app.

Overall
4.5

Pros

  • Fewer false alerts than with most radar detectors
  • Depending on the terrain, it can detect radar from more than a mile away
  • Simple in-vehicle setup
  • The EZ Mag Mount is easy to operate
  • Voice and beep prompts to get your attention when there is a radar or laser event
  • Plenty of ways to customize the radar detector’s settings to your specifications, but they are only available through the Drive Smarter app which doesn’t always want to cooperate

Cons

  • The Drive Smarter app is still buggy, laggy, and prone to crashing
  • Without the Drive Smarter app or a vehicle hot spot, the radar detector can’t display the posted speed limit next to the speed you are currently driving

The Escort MAX 360c radar and laser detector were released five years ago. Made to integrate perfectly into vehicles with their own WiFi hotspots for real-time alerts and ticket threats, the Max 360c gave drivers 360º protection with intuitive onscreen arrows that displayed the direction of threats relative to the driver’s vehicle. It was a hit! The Escort MAX 360c MKII builds upon the original’s success with an all-new internal platform and more powerful components, including a new Blackfin DSP chip that provides faster response times and a 50% improvement on the original model’s detection range.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

The MAX 360c MKII offers dual-band WiFi-connected car capability with new false alert filtering software; it’s compatible with the Drive Smarter app that we discussed in the Escort MAXcam 360c review to offer users shared alerts with other detectors and drivers as well as software updates. But you’ll soon see, the app is still … lacking. Thankfully, it’s not a necessary component for an excellent experience with the detector.

So, let’s jump right in!

Inside the MAX 360c MKII’s box, you’ll find the radar/laser detector, a SmartCord USB with a Mute button, an EZ Mag Mount, a quick start guide, and a soft-sided carry case.

If you prefer a cleaner, more custom install that doesn’t require a coiled power cable running down the right side of your infotainment system, there’s an optional $24.95 direct wire available for purchase.

The Escort MAX 360c MKII measures approximately 5.2″ long by 3.25″ wide by 1.4″ thick. On top, there is a rear laser lens on the left with an EZ Mag Mount connection area in the center rear.

A cluster of buttons, including Sensitivity, Power, Mark Location, Brightness, Volume Down, Mute, and Volume Up, are located toward the front of the detector, with a speaker to the right.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

On the front, an LCD display with four arrow-shaped LEDs will light up to show when threats are in front of you, to the side, or behind your vehicle.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

On the right side, there is a miniUSB port that you’ll only need for updates if you don’t plan on connecting the device to your home or vehicle’s WiFi network.

Next, a modular jack connects to the SmartCord to power the device, followed by a rubber plug that covers a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

On the back of the detector (facing the road when mounted), there are radar and laser detectors.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

There are no buttons or ports on the left side.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

Before using the Escort MAX 360c MKII for the first time, you’ll want to install the Drive Smarter app, which is available for iOS and Android. I walked through all the setup screens in the MAXcam 360c review, so you can check them out there. Obviously, there’s no dashcam built into this radar and laser detector, but otherwise, the steps are exactly the same.

Like the MAXcam 360c, the MAX 360c MKII has both Bluetooth and WiFi; assuming that your home’s WiFi coverage can reach your vehicle or the vehicle has a built-in WiFi hotspot, you’ll use the Drive Smarter app to ensure that the MAX 360c MKII to receive over-the-air updates.

Updates come fairly regularly, and one will likely be waiting for you the first time you set up the detector. Utilizing WiFi and the OTA update option is much more convenient than regularly bringing the radar detector inside to connect with a computer via the miniUSB port.

Installing the radar detector in your vehicle is a simple matter of picking a windshield spot between the driver’s and passenger’s sides with a clear view of the road ahead, without heavy tint or windshield wipers.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

The EZ Mag Mount has a sticky suction ring that attaches to the glass and secures with a flip of the locking clamp.

The EZ MagMount makes it simple to attach or remove the MAX 360c MKII from the windshield; an intuitive tilting motion will lock everything in place or allow you to detach the detector.

The last thing to do is plug in the SmartCord USB, which has a 20″ long straight cable section with a 10″ coiled cable section. Power and Alert LEDs, a 2A USB Type-A port, and a Mute button are on the DC end of the plug.

If you have the MAX 360c MKII connected to the Drive Smarter app on your smartphone or the detector connected to your vehicle’s hot spot, when speed information is available for the road you are on, it should display next to your vehicle’s current speed both on the app and on the front of the radar detector. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work as intended.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

The Drive Smarter app’s map has always seemed superfluous because it’s only used to note any marked spots where you’ve come across a speed trap or other hazard or to show you locations that other users have marked.

Due to its refresh rate and the resulting heavy flickering, I couldn’t get good, clear photos of this particular detector’s full display; I’ll use a stock photo to give you an idea of the information that can be displayed.

If you have the MAX 360c MKII connected to the Drive Smarter app on your smartphone or to your vehicle’s hot spot, when speed information is available for the road you are on, it will be displayed next to your vehicle’s current speed.

When you aren’t connected to the Drive Smarter app or your vehicle’s hot spot, that spot on the far left of the display will show as an Over Speed (OSP) alert if you’ve set one through the app.

When you’re connected to the Drive Smarter app or your vehicle’s WiFi, and no speed limit is known for that particular road, that first display slot will show a pair of blank lines. The second speed shown on display is your current driving speed.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

It’s very rare to see all four arrows glowing unless you get popped by a police laser. In that case, the arrows will glow red, and the detector will use a jarring tone guaranteed to get your attention.

And finally, the right side of the display will show information regarding whether you’re being popped by radar or laser when that happens. There will also be audible and visual indications of the type of enforcement being used, with corresponding arrows showing which direction it is coming from.

If you have the Drive Smarter app open and it connects properly to your detector (which isn’t always a given), you will also get notifications onscreen.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

The exclamation point on the Drive Smarter app’s home screen also allows you to send alerts to the community that police, photo enforcement, caution areas, and traffic jams have been spotted. All of this information will be shared with paying Defender Database customers (you get three months free with the MAX 360c MKII purchase).

Even so, I’d ignore this particular distraction unless you have a willing co-pilot.

Escort MAX 360c MKII Radar Detector Review: Another Fantastic Radar Detector Hampered by the (Still) Buggy Drive Smarter App

Inside the app, a list of recent radar and laser incidents can be accessed under the Dash tab on the Home screen.

 

There are also plenty of settings that, with the MAX 360c MKII connected to the Drive Smarter app, can be adjusted directly from the app and then transferred to the radar detector.

 

If you get an X, K, or Laser alert that you know is false, pressing the mute button three times on either the detector itself or on the SmartCord will lock that signal out using the GPS location and frequency.

The Escort MAX 360c MKII is an incredibly accurate radar/laser detector that gives plenty of warning before police or roadside radar devices are spotted, and it will mute those events quickly if that’s what you prefer.

Depending on the terrain, it can alert the driver to events that are miles away, which provides enough time for the driver to check their speed and be assured that it’s in an acceptable range. In fact, it can provide such advance notice that the driver might think they’ve received a false alert only to spot the source of the alert — in another mile or so!

My only complaint with the MAX 360c MKII is the same issue that I had when reviewing the Escort MAXcam 360c earlier this year: the Drive Smarter app provides a terrible user experience. Unfortunately, nothing seems to have improved since my review of the Escort MAXcam 360c.

The Drive Smarter app is just as slow to connect to the MAX 360c MKII as it was to the MAXcam 360c, and sometimes that connection won’t happen at all. The Drive Smarter app will often say that the MAX 360c MKII is out of range — even when it is powered on, and my phone is just a foot or so away.

The Drive Smarter app is still laggy and buggy. While the app doesn’t crash quite as frequently as it does when I’m trying to use it with the MAXcam 360c, it’s still such a terrible experience that feels like something you might expect from an alpha release, not a retail product.

If you don’t have in-vehicle WiFi, Escort expects you to connect your MAX 360c MKII to the Drive Smarter smartphone app so the radar detector can show posted speed limits and so you can get the other Defender Database benefits. Most of the time, I don’t even bother with it.

Perhaps seven out of ten times, ensuring that I’m connected to the Drive Smarter app means I’ll have to sit in my car and fiddle with the app and radar detector before I can start driving. This usually entails a powering down/repowering of the radar detector, a closing/reopening of the app, and sometimes a soft reset of my phone before I can get a connection. Even that routine won’t always work, so I don’t fool with it most of the time.

Long story short, other than during the initial setup of the MAX 360c MKII through the app to ensure a WiFi connection at home for OTA updates, unless I need to tweak a particular setting, I don’t mess with the Drive Smarter app at all; it remains a frustrating experience for daily use.

With that said, I can’t say enough good about the Escort MAX 360c MKII. The radar and laser detection are extremely good, and I have zero complaints about those functions.

The Drive Smarter app? Again, I understand what Escort was trying to do there and the value they wanted to add with the Drive Smarter app. Even so, if you don’t have a hotspot in your vehicle, you can save some aggravation after the initial setup by using the detector without the app.

The Escort Max 360c MKII Radar Detector retails for $699.95; it is available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers, including Amazon.

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Fewer false alerts than with most radar detectors; Depending on the terrain, it can detect radar from more than a mile away; Simple in-vehicle setup; The EZ Mag Mount is easy to operate; Voice and beep prompts to get your attention when there is a radar or laser event; Plenty of ways to customize the radar detector’s settings to your specifications, but they are only available through the Drive Smarter app which doesn’t always want to cooperate

What Needs Improvement: The Drive Smarter app is still buggy, laggy, and prone to crashing; Without the Drive Smarter app or a vehicle hot spot, the radar detector can’t display the posted speed limit next to the speed you are currently driving

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
Editor in Chief of Gear Diary, Secular Humanist, techie, foodie, hoarder of Kindle eBooks, lover of live music, and collector of passport stamps.