Among the top complaints from owners of radar detectors is the constant false alarms from random sources that aren't Crown Victorias. If you drive past the same grocery store on the way to work every morning, you're going to get the same false signal every morning. What if there were some way to make a smart radar detector that remembers these signals? But wait, let's not be ridiculous. For such a thing to exist, there would have to be some type of satellite network out in space capable of tracking signals anywhere around the globe. What? We have that? Oh.
Just like in-car navigation units, Escort's new Passport 9500i uses GPS to track a car's movement, allowing this radar detector to incorporate a number of new features. If you know that a signal is indeed not an officer pointing his radar gun at your grille, all you need to do is press a button three times, and that signal is locked out forever. But what if you lock out a position, and happen to cross paths with the sheriff in that same spot? Escort claims that the 9500i is smart enough to block one individual signal, but still recognize others in the same area. Conversely, you can press a "mark" button, saving the coordinates of an established speed trap, and regardless of whether a signal is picked up, the detector will display "SPEEDTRP," reminding you of what may lie ahead. The warning counts down ever 100 feet, starting for a mile away at over fifty miles per hour or a half-mile away at lower speeds.
The 9500i also has a few other speed-related features. While other detectors can be manually adjusted to different sensitivities, this one has a speed-based auto function that raises sensitivity as speed increases. At a stop, sensitivity is next to zero. At highway speeds, it's increased to the highest possible level. When a signal (X, K, Ka, or POP) is detected, GPS allows the 9500i to display your current speed right on the screen. Not only does it allow you to check the accuracy of your speedometer, it saves you the few precious seconds it takes to look back down to check your speed the old-fashioned way.
While the many new features of Escort's new flagship model are enticing, the overall package isn't quite enough to make the Valentine One less appealing. At $449.95, the Passport 9500i costs fifty dollars more than the Valentine, whose large red arrows assure you that protection is nearly omnidirectional. Still, we spent a few weeks with the 9500i and the GPS functions were indeed useful. It's a great package as it is, but if Escort could extend its detection capabilities to the sides and rear of the car, they'd have the ultimate radar detector.