Today, many smartphones have cameras that are as good as point-and-shoots were only a year or two ago. In the automotive world the same thing is going to become both a battle ground and an enormous problem. The battle is going to be to include more and more converged systems. Think about the concept of having a cellular internet connected car just a few years ago. The issue is going to become how to allow these systems to age gracefully. Think about it, the super advanced navigation system in your new car? Think about how it is going to feel in five years, let alone ten.
With that in mind, a few years ago Escort must have looked at the dashboards of their current customers and realized that more and more of them had both a detector and a navigation unit cluttering their view. From there it didn’t take a quantum leap to come up with the idea for the IQ. The Escort IQ is a unit that appears to be a generation or two old windshield-mounted navigation unit. What separates it from the rest of navigation units is its ability to also act as a radar/laser detector. Escort’s core competency is making radar detectors, and as it turns out they are very good at what they do. The detector built into the IQ is sensitive, quick to respond, and with the support of a database of known traps, works wonders when arriving ticket free (and mostly false alarm-free) is a priority.
The detector part of the the IQ was new to me. In my private life I have never purchased a radar detector, but after having one in the long term F-150 EcoBoost I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to live without one like this going forward. The weird part about this is I am not a frequent speeder, but having a large GPS verified digital speedo, with a display of the current speed limit on your dash when all the lights and warnings fire provides a real sense of comfort.
Where the convergence of these two devices falls short is in the navigation unit portion of the device. When I said that it appears to be a generation or two old, I may have been being more than fair. It is more like first-generation of navigation units. The display is small (5″) by today’s standards and does not boast a particularly high resolution. The graphics are somewhat crude and the voice that is used is mechanical and clearly computer generated. With that said, the navigation unit will get you where to you need to go. Map updates are frequent and there wasn’t a time when it steered me wrong. It is important to note that since we received the IQ, Escort has released a refreshed software version that has enhanced its graphics. We have installed the update and it did help to refine the graphics, but could do nothing for the lack of resolution on the display, which is a hardware issue.
The larger issue is that today if you purchase a mid-range navigation unit it is thin, light weight, has a larger screen, and may even include functions like traffic updates. Until Escort rebuilds the IQ from scratch the screen on the IQ is going to be behind the times. The disappointment doesn’t only come from the resolution. The screen is a bit slow to respond to touches and entering a long address can get tedious. This is not a device you can use while driving, even on open roads you are better off stopping and spending the minute or two required to plug in your destination and then resume your trip. Again, once the address is entered the IQ’s navigation logic is solid and it always provides directions that effectively guide you to your destination.
So is it all bad news? No and somewhat surprisingly, I would recommend the IQ over any other non-GPS enabled radar detector for one reason. Since the database of speed traps, red-light cameras, and false radar signals is loaded into the IQ’s memory, false alerts rarely happen. If you have ever watched the Afternoon Commute on YouTube you might have noticed that when I drive press loaners the radar detector is constantly falsely alarming. When I am driving the EcoBoost F-150 it almost never happens. That is because we have been testing another detector that does not include GPS and it blares every time we pass an automatic door.
With the IQ, if you are driving down the highway in the upper ranges of speed and the bells and whistles go off you know that you need to reduce your speed and keep an eye out for the fuzz. The navigation portion of the device is far from modern, but if you don’t have navigation in your car it fills an important gap. So, the IQ will not meet everyone’s needs, but for the segment that needs backup navigation (remember lack of cellular data can leave your smartphone unable to provide guidance) and would like some more information about what is happening around them on the highway the IQ is worth a look. The IQ retails for $650 from Escort directly at http://www.escortradar.com/iq/.
Escort provided the IQ for the purposes of this review.