K40 RL360i Radar Detector Review

After not using radar detectors for years, I tried the K40 RLS2 portable radar detector, and was quite impressed with how far the technology has advanced. But the RLS2 is not the pinnacle of K40's electronic countermeasures technology - that honor belongs to the fully integrated RL360i.

(Full disclosure: K40 Electronics provided both units and had the RL360i installed in my car free of charge.)

The Differences

K40 RL360i instrument panel LEDs

Installing the RLS2 is as simple as sticking it to your windshield and plugging it into your lighter power port. But the RL360i is a fully integrated system. I already detailed what’s involved with the installation. In short, suffice it to say that it took a trained professional a full day to install one in my Subaru BRZ.

Ironically, there isn’t much to show for his day’s work. There is no LED display like the portable units. Instead, a pair of blue LEDs have been added to my instrument panel that are almost invisible when they’re not lit. The small control panel for the RL360i next to my aftermarket heated seat switches is the only visible indicator of something not entirely stock. Even this panel is optional – the RL360i comes standard with a wireless remote control. Set it up, stash the remote in the glove box, and it looks completely stock. No one is going to break into your car to steal your radar detector. Even if they did they wouldn’t get very far, as the components of the RL360i are spread all over the car.

K40 RL360i components

Aside from stealth, another advantage of an integrated system is that everything doesn’t have to be crammed into a small lightweight package like the RLS2. Each of the two antennas – the large black boxes at the top of the picture – is slightly larger than the RLS2 itself. They are also more sensitive than the RLS2, extending my range of radar detection. The better the range, the more warning I have, and the more likely I’ll be driving a reasonable speed by the time they get a lock on me. Yet tucked behind the front and rear bumpers, these antennas are invisible and out of the way.

Being mounted at the front and back of the car gives the RL360i a capability the RLS2 doesn’t have – directional detection. Are you approaching a speedtrap, or is a state trooper closing in from behind? This feature has long been considered the primary advantage of the Valentine One, but the RL360i has it too. The two LEDs in the instrument panel tell you what direction the radar is coming from – left for front, right for rear. In addition, the voice alert will say “Front K-band,” for example, so you’ll know without taking your eyes off the road. Even without voice alerts, which LED is lit and the type of beep the RL360i makes will convey the same information. I find the voice alerts easier to understand than the RLS2 thanks to the larger speaker – yet another area where the RL360i doesn’t require compromise.

RL360i completed front install

The other major advantage is how the RL360i handles laser. With a LIDAR system, you’re done the moment the operator squeezes the trigger. A standard detector will alert you to laser, but it’s already too late – if you were speeding, it’s already game over. But the RL360i can run optional laser defusers mounted in strategic locations around your car. Not only do these detect laser, they shoot back. This isn’t as dramatic as a Star Wars space battle, but it confuses the LIDAR gun, preventing it from getting a lock on your speed and giving you time to take it out of hyperdrive.

Have you ever aimed a laser pointer at a license plate at night? If you haven’t, try it sometime – it’ll light up like Las Vegas. That’s by design, to be an easy target for LIDAR. My laser defuser is built into an innocent looking license plate frame, which places it as close to the target as possible. If I didn’t have a front plate, a pair of standalone defusers would be installed near my headlights, which are the next most reflective surface on the front of the car. The RL360i laser interface module can run up to four defusers, but only this one was installed on my car.

Are jammers legal? When it comes to radar, absolutely not. Though this Vocativ article is about jamming cell phones rather than radar, the theory still applies.

Signal jammers are illegal in the U.S. because they can interrupt police and emergency communications. The devices work by transmitting radio signals that interfere with, or overpower, signals produced by authorized communications.

All true, and a very good reason for banning them. But laser isn’t radio – it’s light. It occupies an entirely different wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum. Therefore, the anti-jamming laws that apply to radar don’t apply to laser. But if you’re still concerned, you can run without a defuser, shut off jamming completely, or set the RL360i to stop jamming after 10 seconds. This will give you time to slow down before the LIDAR gets a lock on you without arousing suspicion of jamming.

(Update: Laser jammer/defuser use is restricted by some states, but very rarely enforced. Error codes on police laser guns are a common occurrence and because most police officers approach speed enforcement as a “waiting numbers game”, they don’t chase down vehicles to inspect them to determine if they are equipped with a jammer that caused the error code. You might also consider using the Pulse Transmit function, which will jam for 10 seconds, then stop. This gives you time to slow down to the limit, and gives the laser gun a valid reading, reducing suspicion that you have a jammer.)

Operation

K40 RL360i front alert

I’ve already used the RLS2 for a few weeks, and the RL360i operates quite similarly. Both detectors seem to share the same fundamental “operating system,” for lack of a better phrase, so there was no learning curve for me this time. The control panel on my center console was much easier for me to operate. I’d mounted the RLS2 at the top of my windshield, which meant I couldn’t see the buttons on top of it. I learned to operate the mute buttons by feel, but now I have easy access to all of the RL360i’s controls.

After installation, Jamie Page, owner of Boomer Nashua, helped me configure it. At his recommendation, we turned off X-Band completely, since the band is no longer used for police radar where we live. We also enabled the Quiet Ride feature, which mutes all alerts if you’re driving below a preset speed. We set this for 25mph, mainly to mute false alerts while driving through mall parking lots. Visual alerts through the instrument panel LEDs are still enabled. Beyond that, I leave the RL360i in highway mode, with none of the other filters enabled. The fewer filters you use, the more sensitive it is to radar, but also to potential false alerts. Use what filters you need to eliminate falses in the areas where you drive, but don’t use more than that. The menus are easy to use to reprogram the RL360i to meet your particular needs.

How well does the RL360i work compared to the RLS2? Seeing is believing.

[brid video=”42582″ player=”4063″ title=”K40 RLS2 and RL360i Review”]

I stand by my original statement that radar detectors NOT cop detectors. A roadside conversation with an officer of the law the other night proved that point to me. It was in the center of a small town, and a building blocked both my view and the radar around the right turn I made. The RL360i went off the moment I saw the cop with my own eyes. Combine that with my misunderstanding that the speed limit was 30 when it was actually 20, and the LEDs on my instrument panel were not the only blue lights I saw. Fortunately, he gave me a verbal warning, and I did not have to take K40 up on their ticket-free guarantee. Though I appreciate their guarantee, considering the situation and the fact that radar can’t go through buildings, I don’t blame the RL360i for not alerting me in time.

Is It Worth It?

Subaru BRZ

Boomer Nashua, who installed my RL360i, quotes a price of $1,799 for purchase and installation. (I found lower prices online, but they were through unauthorized resellers that K40 does not recommend or support. Check their dealer locator to find an authorized installer.) The similar Escort Passport 9500ci will run you $1,999.95 before installation.  The portable RLS2, meanwhile, sells consistently around the internet for $399.  That’s the same as a Valentine One, and slightly less than the popular Escort Passport 9500ix for $449.95.

I could buy a 707hp Dodge Challenger Hellcat for $64,195. Or, I could buy a 485hp Challenger 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker for $43,795. The Hellcat is obviously the most powerful and nicest Challenger, but 485hp is still more than you need to transform your back tires into a lot of white smoke and black stripes on the pavement. It’s still an extremely well equipped car – it’s just not a Hellcat. But I could afford a Ford Fiesta ST to drive in the winter with the money I’d save by not buying the Hellcat.

I feel the same way about these detectors as I do about the Challenger. There’s no question in my mind that the RL360i is the best detector K40 makes. Its performance and extra features are superior to the RLS2 in every way. But I’m not someone who requires the best of everything. I try to get the best product at the most reasonable price. I bought a BRZ Premium instead of the nicer Limited, because most of the Limited’s added features weren’t features that I needed. Similarly, if I was spending my own money, I’d probably buy an RLS2 rather than pay the premium for the RL360i. If I was a habitual speeder or trying to set a new cross-country speed record, I would absolutely splurge for it. The extra protection would be worth it to me. But for my personal needs and driving style, I wouldn’t be able to justify the extra cost. After using both systems for a while, I feel like I’d do just fine with the RLS2, rather than the $250 RD950 with fewer features. But for someone with a heavier foot than me, or who wants a fully integrated detection system instead of a portable, I would not hesitate to recommend the RL360i.