Escort 9500ci vs K40, what’s the better installed radar detector with laser shifting?

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Find out what the better radar detector with laser shifting is.  This post is for the consumer who is looking for the best performing installed radar detector and laser shifter.  Find out the pros and cons of the Escort 9500ci with laser diffusing vs the K40 RL360 with laser from a retailer that sells and installs both.

Escort 9500ci Display Installed Inside Rear View Mirror

Escort 9500ci Display Installed Inside Rear View Mirror

Estimated read time: 10 minutes 56 seconds.  Want to read later?

As a successful independent mobile electronics retailer (voted Top 50 mobile electronics retailer in the country in 2011) that sells and installs both the Escort 9500ci and the K40 RL360 with laser shifters, I will give you an unbiased overview of each system.  This post will go over the benefits of each radar detector/laser diffuser system assisting you in making the right decision for your unique application.  Customers look to me for advice over which is the best installed radar detection system.  I simply lay out the facts allowing my customers to make the decision as to which one is the better option for them and I am going to do the same for you.

UPDATE 2014 – Escort now has the 9500CI Pro which features their latest technology in laser shifting.  Aside from updating the laser shifters (rumored to be supplied by Blinder), Escort also dropped the rear shifter so it is now packaged as a front only system.  They also raised the retail price to $1999.95 plus installation.  Escort also has the added benefit of Escort Live (additional part and subscription required) which allows users to connect to a live database of other Escort Radar users to receive up the minute alerts based on drivers connected to the network. 

K40 has also updated their system from the RL360 to the RL360i (for front and rear radar protection) and the RL200 to the RL200i (front only radar protection).  The remote is more user friendly and there are more options as far as settings go compared to their previous version (volume adjustment, quiet ride, turning select bands on/off).  K40 still utilizes the Defuser G5 Laser Shifter.  They still sell their products and package their system in an a la cart fashion to suite your driving needs and they still utilize the minimalistic and discreet LED indicator lights and a wireless remote to control the system.   K40 also still offers their speeding ticket guarantee.  They have excellent customer service, a very dedicated staff and committed network of dealers (more like small business customer service than big corporation customer service).

Despite these key updates mentioned above, the overall points and description in this post still accurately reflect the key differences, pros and cons of each system.

What’s the difference between an installed radar detector vs a windshield mounted radar detector?

For those of you that are not familiar with installed radar and laser detectors, let me give you a brief overview of the benefits of an installed radar and laser detector over the more common windshield mounted variety.  A windshield mounted radar/laser detector is just that.  It detects radar and laser emission and it’s mounted on your windshield for all to see.  It will detect different bands of radar and laser that are used in the radar and laser (AKA lidar) guns commonly used by law enforcement officers.

Think you’re protected by laser with this dash mounted detector? Think again.

There are a few weaknesses and downsides to the dash mounted radar detectors.  For one, they’re not very attractive sitting on your windshield with a curly cord hanging down and swinging about while you drive.  You can easily buy a hard wire kit which will allow you hard wire the power for the unit for a cleaner look on your dash.  The second problem with these units is mounting it on your windshield, for ideal performance, you want to mount your portable radar detector in the center of your windshield.  Nearly every state has a law regarding windshield obstruction which prohibits mounting anything to your windshield that could obstruct your field of vision.  How well this law is enforced varies from state to state.  The biggest and most important weakness to note with the dash mounted radar and laser detection systems is the laser detection feature.

The thing about laser, commonly known as lidar, is that it’s instantaneous.  Just like a real gun, the officer points then shoots.  If your dash mounted detector alerts you for laser, most likely it’s too late.  He’s either got you or the guy right next to you.  With little to no warning, the laser detection feature is kind of a moot point with these units.  You have a lot more notice with radar.  When law enforcement is using a radar gun, it is typically left on and emitting a much larger wave that is easier to detect.  In Connecticut, I find that radar is much more commonly used on rural roads by local law enforcement.  On highways it is much more common to see laser being used.  So depending on your driving habits and location, your dash mounted radar detector may suit your needs.

If you are looking for better performance, a cleaner installation and true laser protection, you need an installed radar detector with laser shifting like the Escort 9500ci or the K40 RL series with laser diffusing.  Both products offer laser sensors/diffusers that are installed in a stealth manner on the front and/or rear bumper which is where law enforcement are typically aiming their laser guns.  The diffuser, will not only detect laser, but it will emit a signal back confusing and shifting the signal being received at the laser gun.  Basically the officer will get an inaccurate reading giving you time to slow down and avoid a ticket.

Is laser shifting or diffusing legal?

Yes.  In almost all of the United States, use of these detectors, in non commercial vehicles, is legal.  However, where it is illegal, I recommend following the law.  In Washington DC and Virginia it is illegal to use radar detectors and they are very serious about enforcing this law.  If you happen to be driving through one of these areas, remove your dash mounted radar detector and hide it; turn off your installed detector.  I’ve known people who have had their radar detectors confiscated and they have received court dates for simply having the detector in the car (not even powered on!).  They mean business there, so don’t risk it.

Escort 9500ci vs K40 RL 360

So now that you know the basics, let’s get to the details.  The Escort 9500ci is a complete system consisting of 5 sensors: a single front radar, dual front laser shifters and rear laser shifters.  Inside the car you have an LED display panel and a separate control pad.  The Escort 9500ci also includes their Defender GPS database which includes thousands of known locations for speed traps, speed cameras and red light cameras.  If you know of a location not in the database you can mark it using your control pad.

The Escort 9500ci also includes a cool feature called Auto-learn which is designed to reduce the number of false alerts that you receive.  For example, every time I drive by my local grocery store, their automatic door sensors set off my radar detector.  The Escort 9500ci pays attention to repetitive alerts and will lockout a signal if it receives the same signal more than 3 times in the same location.  For $1699.95, plus installation, the Escort 9500ci uses some pretty cool technology to provide its users some attractive features.

What’s the installation like?  That’s probably the one thing that customers struggle with, where to mount the control pad and the display.  Here are some cool mounting options for the Escort 9500ci display and control pad.

Escort 9500ci display installed inside the rear view mirror of an Audi S4.

This is an example in an Audi S4.  In this particular vehicle, we removed the compass/temp display inside the rear view mirror and replaced it with the Escort 9500ci display.  The result is a very clean integration of the Escort 9500ci display.  Using the factory mirror is not an option for every car.  Some vehicles have the auto dimming circuit board imbedded between two layers of glass without any cutout for any display.  If you don’t have the type of mirror that will allow this, or have access to a professional installer who can do this for you, check out Radar-Mirror.com.  For around $500, these guys can sell you a replacement rear view mirror with the display installed or they can install the display for you in your existing mirror (you will have to send in your mirror and Escort display).

Mid City Engineering offers an integration accessory for the 9500CI to display in your instrument cluster.

The lucky drivers of select Mercedes models have the unique option of interfacing their radar detector into their instrument cluster display as shown to the left.  Mid City Engineering offers options for both Escort and K40 systems.  Prices for the interface range from $450 – $750.  For a complete list of compatible vehicles and pricing, contact Mid City Engineering.

For those of you working with what came in the box, here are a few installation pics to give you an idea of alternative display options as well as control pad mounting locations.

Some display mounting options including inside a sunglasses holder, flush mounting into the headliner or flush mounting into another panel on the dash. As you can see, the control pad is nice and small, so you can almost always find a nice mounting location for that in any car.

Escort 9500ci being mounted inside a sunglasses visor.

Escort 9500ci display flush mounted into the headliner of a Porsche Cayenne.

Example of Escort 9500ci Control Mounting Location

Example of Escort 9500ci Control Mounting Location in an Audi Q7

The pros of the Escort 9500ci:

  • It is an all inclusive system, it comes with every sensor you could possibly need.
  • It uses pretty advanced technology to eliminate false alerts as well as to alert you to possible speed traps, speed cameras and red light cameras.
  • As reported by my customers and my own personal experience with both systems, it has longer range and more sensitivity than K40 systems.

The cons of the Escort 9500ci:

  • Because it is all inclusive, it is pricier than other options.
  • Because it is so sensitive, it may be more susceptible to false alerts.
  • The display and control pad inside the vehicle cannot always be concealed in the most stealth manner.

The K40 offers more flexibility when it comes to pricing, options and stealth installation.  K40 offers two different radar options and two different laser diffusing options.  Let’s say you like the idea of a stealth radar install, but you don’t want to spend $1700 bucks on a system.  Well let’s think about this for a minute.  Where are officers most likely to be aiming their radar/laser guns when you see them enforcing speed limits?  The front of the vehicle as you are approaching them.  So if most speed traps involve officers aiming a radar or laser gun at your front bumper, why not save some cash and buy a front only system?

K40 allows you to do just that and custom tailor a radar and laser shifting kit to your specific needs.  Offered a la carte, you can purchase a front only radar, also known as their RL200 and a single laser diffuser, also known as an EX.  Both parts together will run you around $1100 plus installation.  If you want front and rear radar, you would want to get the RL360.  If you want two laser diffusers (either one for front, one for rear, or both for the front), you would need the EX-2 in addition to whichever radar system you go for.

The major attractor for K40 is the installation, it can be truly stealth.  Controlled via a wireless remote control, with visual alerts from one or two LED’s (depending on if you do front only or front and rear), and audible alerts from a speaker hidden under the dash, you really can’t see any evidence of a radar/laser detection/shifting system being installed.  Take a peak at a recent install we did in a brand new Mercedes SLS AMG.

SLS AMG K40 install

I swear there is a radar sensor and laser diffuser mounted under there.  Scroll down for more images.

Only the best will do for our local Mercedes Dealership.  This picture was taken post install.  The laser diffuser can be seen if you really look for it on the bottom, center section of the mesh grill.  The radar sensor in the front was hidden behind the upper plastic portion of the front bumper, see below.

Hidden radar detector in the front bumper of a Mercedes SLS AMG

Hidden radar detector mid-install in the front bumper of a Mercedes SLS AMG

In this particular Mercedes, we did a front and rear radar.  Check out the stealth radar sensor installation in the rear.

Stealth install of rear radar sensor in trunk lid of Mercedes SLS AMG

Mid-install of rear radar sensor in trunk lid of Mercedes SLS AMG

All of our radar detection and laser shifting installations are tested with our own radar gun and laser tester to insure reliability and accuracy.

Rear K40 radar install Mercedes SLS AMG

Rear K40 radar install Mercedes SLS AMG, sensor mounted inside trunk lid.

The install of Escort sensors is basically the same.  The real stealthiness is in the interior of this vehicle.  For the minimalistic K40 display, you have to mount your front and rear indicator LED’s and under dash audible alert speaker.  One of my husband John’s favorite places to hide these LED’s is inside the grills of dash speakers.  When the LED’s light up, they reflect off the windshield, similar to that of a heads up display.  It’s very cool looking.  Here’s a picture of him mounting the LED’s inside the driver’s side dash speaker grill assembly.

K40 LED light install in SLS AMG

K40 LED light install underneath dash speaker grill in SLS AMG

K40 also has their own GPS feature.  You can mark your own known locations where you’re likely to get tagged.  This is a great feature for things like known speed traps, speed cameras and red light cameras.  K40 is definitely less sensitive, but this leads to less false alerts.  I remember the 1st two months I had my system, I didn’t think the sensors were working properly because it NEVER went enough.  Then one day it finally did, and it was accurate and surely saved me a ticket.  So being less sensitive than Escort is not necessarily a bad thing, it leads to less false alerts.  Less false alerts means when your detector/shifter finally goes off, you pay attention and respond promptly.  A quick response and correction of your speed is the best way to avoid a ticket.  With fewer false alerts, your response time is likely to be better with the K40 than with the Escort 9500ci.

The pro’s of the K40:

  • Very clean display installation, wireless remote to control the system i.e. minimal display
  • Less sensitive which means you should have less false alerts which means you’ll probably make a quicker correction when it does alert you
  • Can purchase and install systems a la carte which helps keep costs down
  • K40 will reimburse you if you get a speeding ticket!
  • Allows you to mark your own known locations for speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras, etc.

The Con’s of the K40:

  • Less sensitive
  • Lacks GPS database built in for known locations of speed traps, speed cameras, red light cameras
  • Lacks technology built in to block out repetitive false alerts

As you can see, both systems have their own unique benefits.  It’s really up to you as a consumer to decide what features are more important to you.  Please remember, having one of these systems installed does not give you a license to speed.  You still have to pay attention to your surroundings and have some common sense.  Your radar detector and laser shifter can’t always save you from a ticket.  If you are cruising along at 110 mph in a 65 mph speed zone, don’t expect your laser shifter to bail you out as you approach that state trooper with his laser gun.  How quickly do you think you can respond to the alert and slow down?  Probably not quick enough to avoid a ticket.

What’s your experience with the Escort 9500ci?  K40?  What system do you prefer?  Thanks for reading and drive safely.

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1 comment for “Escort 9500ci vs K40, what’s the better installed radar detector with laser shifting?

  1. LT
    October 15, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Great write up with vendor agnostic opinions. Thanks much

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