Radar Detector

        cobra xrs r7 radar detector xrs r9g gps-enabled detector

  Initially Published: 23 JUN 07
  Updated: 18 DEC 08

Both the Cobra XRS R7 and R9G are Potential Paradigm Shifters!

Cobra XRS R7, Cobra XRS R9G Radar Detectors Overview

view of R7/R9G from the driver's seat

POTENTIAL. That's the word that comes to mind after living with the Cobra XRS R7/R9G radar detector for a good number of weeks, now.

Again, thanks to Danny and Frank of Cricket Ventures (, I was able to get a hold of the latest flagship model from Cobra—the Cobra XRS R7/Cobra XRS R9G—when I traveled through Rock Hill, SC on the way to Atlanta, GA about a month ago. The new Cobra XRS R7 and R9G retail for $340 and $440, respectively. Street prices hover around $40 less than MSRP.

Upon opening the box to the new Cobra R7/R9G radar detector, it was very clear that this was not going to be an ordinary radar detector. In fact, to my knowledge, the Cobra R7/R9G radar detectors are the first of their kind—essentially being interior remote-
mounted radar detectors.

What Cobra has done is to separate the control and display functions from the radar and laser reception function with what may be the most innovative wireless remote control device I have ever seen for a radar detector.

This permits you the ability of operating your radar detector in a most discreet fashion.

The wireless control/display module called an RDU (remote display unit) sports a lithium-ion (LiON) battery that provides for many hours of continuous driving on one battery charge but can also be operated and trickle-charged when plugged into its accompanying cigarette power adaptor. It appears to take about two fours to achieve a full charge, perhaps a bit less, if powered off.

The primary radar and laser receiver called the MDU (main detector unit) is attached to an adjustable/pivoting black plastic bracket which can be velcro'd to the upper part of the windshield to the right of the rearview mirror and below any UV stipping that may exist to provide a clear line-of-sight to both the front and the rear. The MDU is intended to be power hard-wired into the headliner area with a fused power cable designed to do so, but can also be powered by an additional and very long cigarette power adapter that is also provided.

I chose to operate the Cobra R7/R9G radar detector with two cigarrette power adapters connected into a three-way portable adapter splitter, picked-up at Pep Boys for about $10 dollars.

The most visually striking aspect of the Cobra R7/R9G radar detectors is the beautifully back-lit and very readable multi-color display of the RDU that is about 3/4" by 1" in size.

The RDU itself is about an inch and a half in width by about four inches in length by about a half inch in depth and provides five nicely blue-back-lit flushed buttons. These buttons provide for changes of the dim/bright display, volume, city/highway-mode operation, manual muting, programming, and powering on/off at the simple touch of one button, unlike the multi-button combinations required to perform similar tasks on some other radar detectors.

The Cobra OLED multi-color display (also found on the Cobra XRS 9930 and a blue/yellow only version on the Cobra XRS 9830) allows for an infinite number of display possibilities—as compared to legacy LCD or LED displays which appear on every other conventional windshield-mount radar detector. The display can be changed from multi-color to Red, Blue, Orange, or Green allowing for an aesthetically pleasing install in just about every automobile interior.

Another radar detector that immediately comes to mind—whose physical dimensions would be well-suited for housing a similar-type display—would be the Valentine One. Can you imagine such a V1?

The Cobra R7/R9G's RDU is a very sorted out device as is the communication between it and the MDU. It appears to have a range of about 60 feet when in line-of-sight to the MDU. And despite most attempts, I couldn't get the RDU display settings out of sync with the MDU actual settings. The only way I managed to do so was by cheating. When I changed the RDU to city mode while out of range, the RDU retained its city display settings, even though the MDU was operating in highway mode. This is what happens when you have too much time on your hands.

The RDU will alert with four quick tones on initial power-up indicating the communication between it and the MDU failed (and two quick ones when it succeeds)—this will happen when the MDU is powered off. Additionally the antenna display icon will not show the orange/yellow radiating transmission signal. If the MDU is having a power issue, the display will also show the battery voltage to the MDU at zero volts.

Veil Guy shows you the Cobra XRS R7/R9G RDU, but struggles a bit to power it off.

You may be wondering now, as I got to thinking, what happens to the MDU if the RDU is either off or out of battery power.

Fortunately, the MDU can and will function on its own with voice and tone alerts without the presence of a working RDU. One minor quibble—and I don't know how to get around it really—is what happens when the RDU is off when the vehicle is started and the power is restored to the MDU. The MDU will announce a "system ready" to inform you that it is on, but the RDU will still have to manully powered-up to get the display working. Not a big deal, I guess, but if the RDU is engaged with Smart Power Mode, the unit will automatically power-off in five minutes after the MDU has lost its power to appropriately conserve battery storage capacity.

For my first time ever using a radar detector, I encountered a bonafide alert other than a radar or laser source. Cobra appears to be uniquely able to identify an approaching emergency vehicle and alerting to it when the vehicle is equipped with light strobes. In my case, I happened to be stopped at an intersection around town when the Cobra XRS R7/R9G alerted to an approaching emergency vehicle. Sure enough, a few seconds later, an Ambulance can rushing through the intersection. It nice to see that a radar detector, when actually given the ability, can assist a driver in being more safe and more alert to the surrounding conditions. I wish related systems (either SWS and/or SA) would be implemented more to improve highway safety, but that's another story (and it's already been told).

Also in the name of safety and driver attentiveness, the Cobra has the unique ability (called Speed Alert) to have a speed-setting pre-set by the driver and when that speed is exceeded, the radar detector will alert the driver, with a door-bell-like chime, to that fact— a nice touch.

The volume of the speaker which is housed inside the MDU and facing downward is much improved over one of its predecessors, the XRS-9700—being much fuller and louder at is maximum setting. The Cobra XRS R7/R9G can be programmed to auto-mute as well and can be programmed to augment their alert tones with a pleasant and clear feminine voice.

After driving about 1000 miles or so over the course of the last month with this new Cobra, I have managed to get a pretty good feel, I think, to its performance.

As exciting and cutting-edge all of this packaging is, I was left wanting in the radar reception department. Unfortunately for drivers like myself—who live and drive in states which utilize X-band and K-band police radar to a large degree—Cobra appears to be continuing their trend in de-prioritizing the importance of X and K reception in preference for Ka. An older model XRS-9700 appeared to perform quite a bit better on X-band and a bit better on K-band, as well, than the newer Cobras.

My sense is that a number of manufacturers are doing this to one degree or another with certain models. I believe Mike Valentine uses the term 'backsliding' to describe this operating mode. While that may be a benefit to drivers who only see Ka and laser used by traffic control and who only receive X and K from door-openers and the like since they'll receive less "falses" as result, it is also a detriment to drivers who require their radar detectors to maintain maximum sensitivity to both X and K to protect them from bonafide speedtraps that use them. In one day alone, the Cobra's missed two real K-band encounters. One miss appeared to be a quick-triggered blast of instant-on K in NY for which our reference radar detector—the Beltronics STi Driver—briefly alerted. Another miss occuredwhen a PA state trooper was facing the opposite direction in the centermedian strip of I-84 running instant-on K.

K-band is quite prevalent in states such as PA, OH, NY and X-band still pervades NJ and makes it appearance on occasion in Ohio and South Carolina. If you routinely drive in these states your interests may be better served with another radar detector that is more sensitive to these older but still heavily-used police radar bands. The Whistler Pro-78, Whistler XTR-690, and Beltronics Vector 995 are exceptional performers for my money and the Beltronics RX-65 Pro and STi Driver and Valentine 1 are absolutely stellar in X and K band reception, although they are pricey in comparison.

While Ka-band sensitivity appeared to be superior with the Cobra R7/R9G from the rear as compared to the earlier Cobra XRS-9700, the performance from front Ka-radar didn't appear entirely consistently better than the XRS-9700 and sometimes lagged a bit, although we understand that both the Cobra R7 and Cobra R9G have been built on a newer platform. Performance appeared spotty with Ka. A couple of instances either model did not alert to a quick blast of Ka at 34.7 Ghz when I made repeated passes to a New York state trooper who was running instant-on Ka. In each case, the Beltronics STi Driver alerted to the brief presence of Ka.

A number of times, the margins of difference were not nearly as large—relative to the performance Beltronics STi Driver. Where the ultra-premium radar detectors seem to really excel is in their reception ability to off-axis police radar and police laser. In these instances, the differences in the Cobra's as compared to the STi Driver were much more noticeable. The same goes to a degree to the Whistler Pro-78 and Whistler-690 relative to the STi Driver as it does to the STi Driver relative to the Valentine 1. Differences in reception performance appear to be masked when facing straight into the antenna of a transmitting police radar gun especially if the terrain is flat, relatively unobstructed, and is low in humidity. That's why tests in the desert, while informative in their own right, don't really bear out these real-world performance differences which are extremely important in actual practice.

Despite the apparenty reduction of sensitivity to Ka-band, the XRS R7/R9G routinely falsed to weak Ka signals while driving on the highway, while the more sensitive STi Driver stayed quiet. Improved filtering [with the STi Driver] is, no doubt, the reason. Interestingly enough, the older Cobra XRS-9700 while retaining similar, if not slightly better, reception ability to Ka, appeared to false much less than the Cobra R7/R9G.

Cobra's bias [towards Ka] is evident in that it is the only band which is not user-defeatable by programming. X, K, and Ku-band reception can be turned-off, but not Ka.

I really like the tri-City mode of these new Cobra models. Cobra is the only detector company, I know of, which allows the driver to easily alter the alerting mechanism to both X and K sources specifically for driving around town. There was a time that X-ruled the day but with the advent of decreased production costs of K transmitters, now K-band outnumbers X-band. It's nice to see a company acknowledge this and move away from monochromatic ciy "filtering/squelching" [of X-band] which has reduced value in today's driving climate. A Valentine One can also be programmed to have its logic and advanced logic modes accomplish a similar task.

As with the Escort Passport 9500i, the signal-ramp (signal-strength meter) appears in need of some tweaking. In the Cobra's case, it is difficult to tell the proximity of a radar source as a maximum-strength reading doesn't appear to be attainable. I even found myself unable to reach a maximum-strength reading (level 5) even when facing—at point blank range— a bonafide radar source.

What this means for the driver is that it is difficult to determine the severity of any given threat. Until Cobra addresses this issue, my recommendation is to take every alert seriously regardless of the signal strength reported.

Does the Cobra XRS R7/R9G provide a level of protection from police radar and police laser [especially when used with VEIL]? Yes.

Would I trust this radar detector—at hyper speeds—to the same degree as I do the ultra-premium radar detectors or even the Whistler Pro-78/XTR-690? No.

For the drivers who purchase [or the young salespersons who sell] their radar detectors from Circuit City, Best Buy, or other mainstream electronics retailer, that won't matter much, as I doubt, many belonging to this demographic don't drive much in excess of 15 mph over the posted speed limits with their SUVs, minivans, and econocars.

For them, these radar detectors will provide enough reaction time in most circumstances to be well-worth the purchase. The level of knowledge and understanding of this group tends to be lower, in my opinion, than that of the hardcore types (you know who you are or you may be on your way to becoming one if you are reading this) of owners of the ultra-premium category or who would be making their Cobra purchase from one of the specialized radar detector e-tailors.

Not much later after a call from a friend of mine—who, too, is a police radar/laser lunatic—telling me about the number of times he has seen other owners of Cobra radar detectors have their radar detector positioned and/or oriented in an incorrect position (which severely cuts down the performance)— did I notice a passed driver in a black Nissan Sentra driving with a Cobra angled upwards by about 10-15 degrees from horizontal. Unless he was expecting to get clocked by a passing satellite, he was oblivious to his self-induced handicap. If their owners only actually read and digested Cobra's informative owner operator manual, this wouldn't happen.

When the Cobra is connected with the GPSL model (Global Positionin System Locator). a number of signficant performance enhancements are added to the base Cobra XRS R7 model—becoming the Cobra XRS R9G.

Like the Escort Passport 9500i that preceeded it this past January, the Cobra XRS R9G adds satellite-assisted geopositioning ability to the radar detector. the Cobra XRS R9G allows its user to store up to 1,000 additional Location Alerts in addition to a preloaded database of known automated enforcement locations by GPS LAT/LONG coordinates.

Like Escort, Cobra will also be making software available to allow R9G owners to download updates or to make changes to the database. The GPSL module itself/satellite receiver has no external controls to it and connects directly to the MDU with a solitary little cable. Like the MDU, the GPSL must be mounted on the windshield in close proximity on the upper portion of your automobile's windshield while maintaining a clear line-of-sight to the sky. Unlike the Escort Passport 9500i, the Cobra XRS R9G does not provide its owner with the ability to permenately squelch-out known stationery false locations.

The GPSL requires a bit of additional windshield real-estate. Could Cobra minimize this additional "bloat" by modifying the MDU's bracket slightly to allow for direct attachment of the GPSL to the top of the MDU thereby eliminating the need for the interconnect cable?

The capabilities afforded by the Cobra R7/R9G RDU displays put these radar detectors in a class by themselves—picking up where the Escort Passport 9500i left off. The GPS-enabled Cobra XRS R9G or XRS R7 w/GPSL can display a compass, actual speed of vehicle, and lattitude and longitude display of degrees/minutes/seconds on both axes. These were just the features I was wishing for with the Escort Passport 9500i.

When the Cobra XRS R7 w/GPSL or XRS R9G has established communication with the above GPS satellites, a transmitting satellite icon will appear in the lower right of the RDU's display.

It is my understanding that Cobra is in the process of building a detailed database of known automated enforcement technologies—including red light and photo radar cameras—currently deployed throughout North America.

Like the Escort Passport 9500i, since this technology is so new, I wouldn't expect that this database to be complete, as yet, especially with the more sparsely populated areas of the country.

We drove through parts of southern New Jersey (Deptford, Swedesboro) and the XRS R9G managed to identify only one of three intersections equipped with redlight cameras. But like the cellular networks that have spawned across this contintent over the years, I expect Cobra will do an exceptional job at doing so just as they have done in Europe with the acquisition of Performance Products Limited's GPS enabled technology—marketed under the Snooper brand—in the third quarter of last year. The RDU does provide a mini-USB data port for connecting to a PC, although at this time [without the software drivers installed], the system doesn't automatically identify itself to my Windows-based computer.


At any rate, these new radar detectors, the Cobra XRS R7/GPSL and Cobra XRS R9G have, I believe, the very real potential to signficantly change the paradigm of radar detector utility, again. Even with some reception deficits, the innovative design of these detectors results in two very compelling products.

When Cobra's North American database is completed, their software is released, and if they would tweak/improve their radar reception performance, they have the potential to produce two absolute killer, and I do mean killer radar detectors—regardless of the price point—radar detectors that could permanently alter the landscape of the radar detector usage paradigm, for the better. I am going to keep my fingers crossed and a watchful eye on the future of Cobra's new product line.

These are exciting times for our industry.

Happy and safe motoring!

The Veil Guy

Purchase with Confidence at these Trustworthy Sources for:

Cricket Ventures

Related Reading:

Cobra XRS R10G, XRS 9960G, and New GPS-Enabled Detectors

Whistler XTR-695 Preview
Whistler Pro-78/XTR-690 Review
Beltronics STi Driver Review
Escort Passport 9500i
Valentine One Review & Tribute

How to Avoid Speeding Tickets with your Radar Detector
The Ultimate Radar Detector Review
The Ultimate Laser Detector Review
Summary Radar Detectors Buyers Guide

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