I can remember the station wagon we had when I was a kid, with its bench seats and not much else. Pop open the hood and there was an engine. Just an engine. Nowadays cars have a dozen computers and so much tech that the engine compartment is solid and you can’t even see the engine block, let alone work on it yourself. Heck, in high school, my buddy and I took apart the engine from his Nissan 280Z, got the heads rebored, put it back to together and it actually started and ran!
Now I’m not complaining, because so many of the advancements in vehicle tech have been a huge boon, including improved gas mileage while lowering emissions dramatically. And in the passenger area, well, we’ve come a long way from the push-button AM/FM radios with one tinny speaker and an internal temperature control that ranged from blue to red, with no actual temperature specified. Now the latest cars are an altar to the gadget gods, with Bluetooth, 11 speaker surround sound, a navigation system that has a better screen and more power than your favorite computer tablet, and car seats that can remember who’s sitting and adjust appropriately.
But there are still weaknesses and problems with even the most modern vehicle, one of which is external to the vehicle, and one of which is an inevitable factor of any engine the relies on an electrical battery to start up. Which is where Cobra Electronics comes into the picture, with its powerful Escort Max 360 radar detector and Cobra JumPack – Tiny but Mighty portable power pack. And they both turn out to be darn helpful additions to your vehicle, whether you’re driving a classic ’74 VW van or a 2016 Kia Soul.
Let’s start with the Escort Max 360, because it’s definitely the cooler gadget. Here it is, stuck to my front windshield:
If you look closely at the screen, you’ll see that not only is it showing that I’m current driving at 35mph, but that the system has detected a Ka band speed radar and that it’s a “two bar” strength (so not super powerful). More importantly, look at the arrow on the right side. Pointing down translates to the radar signal being behind me. Yes, it’s smart enough to quickly identify a signal whether it’s coming from in front of you, behind you or on a side (read “speed trap”).
But where the Escort radar detectors really rock is when you pair it with the Escort Live app on your smartphone. It then accesses a crowdsourced database to warn you of speed traps other people have reported in your area. And on your Apple Watch too. Check it out:
The Escort Max 360 also detects laser devices, the most modern of the tools in the modern highway patrol or state trooper’s kit for catching speeders. I know, it was just a few years ago that I managed to earn a speeding ticket for not slowing down fast enough going from a 55mph zone to a 35mph zone. With the Escort, it would have warned me that there was a cop ahead and helped me pay closer attention to my speed.
Indeed, I’m going to be giving this particular unit to my daughter, who will shortly be driving cross country to head to college. She’s a good, safe driver, but I see this as a smart insurance policy, a device that’ll help her avoid speed traps, red light cameras and more. She needs to spend her money on books, not tickets, after all!
And speaking of insurance policies, the other device that Cobra sent me was the slick little JumPack, a separate battery that’s smaller than a paperback book but has enough juice that it can jump-start a car with a dead battery. Here’s what it looks like:
As you can see, it’s small, very techie looking, and includes the little black and red cables you need to hook it directly up to your car battery, or, in my case, the battery of a friend’s car that unexpectedly died.
Ready to recharge it? It plugs in via a microUSB connection to whatever charger you have handy and will hold its charge for months and months. Toss it into your glove compartment and next time your car’s dead it’s a matter of a minute or two to get it started! Perfect for my daughter when she’s on the road or sitting in a college parking lot, anxious that she’ll end up late for class.