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Car Gizmos

Track your stolen car in real time Add to ...

Of course, the ideal is that your car never gets stolen, but if it is here's a device to help police catch the thieves.

Escort Entourage CIS

$399.99 + $30 activation fee

$15 monthly subscription

Available at: Syptronic Security, Kromer Radio, Spytech, MightyGPS, GPS City, GPS Central, Centurion Alarm and Lock and Lordco Auto Parts

The Escort Entourage CIS is a marriage between Escort's GPS location system and Calgary-based Blackline GPS's online tracking software.

The tracking is in real-time using a mapping tool that piggybacks off Google Maps, and allows the owner to arm or disarm the module, as well as ping it for regular updates. Tracking can also be simplified on an iPhone or BlackBerry by using Blackline's free Blip Plus app.

The module itself has an embedded satellite GPS and GSM/GPRS antenna, meaning that it can be hidden and still hold a connection without line of sight. Once it moves out of range, the last known position is recorded online. When tracking, the vehicle's speed, location, time and a few other details are posted, and the device reports the vehicle's location in 15-minute intervals.

Apart from managing everything yourself, the web-based interface also allows you to include friends or family by adding their e-mail addresses or phone numbers, so they can receive the same notifications you do. This might prove handy in times when you're on vacation or just as a precautionary measure.

Once your vehicle moves from its predetermined safety perimeter (which you can't actually redefine), it immediately messages you to let you know the perimeter has been breached. If your car has in fact been stolen or towed, you can do continuous tracking online to ping the device every 10 seconds for up to 10 minutes to find out where it's going.

Ideally, the Entourage should be hard-wired into the car to make it more inconspicuous, and Blackline GPS provides some DIY help for that. But if you're not sure how to do it, you might be better off having it installed by the retailer you bought it from. Placement is a bit of a challenge, depending on your car's layout, but in my testing, the best spots were usually under the driver or passenger seat, in the glove box or even in the trunk.

The Entourage also comes with an RFID key fob that you can use to automatically arm the device when you leave the car, or disarm it when you get in. It's good to have on your keychain, but adding more for other drivers becomes expensive at $60 a pop.

Two tracking issues that creep up are that the module can't make contact when steel or metal surfaces are in the way. This is one reason why the trunk may not be the best option for every vehicle. The second is that parking garages and tunnels cut the connection, which may be a problem for condo dwellers. But once the vehicle emerges from underground, the Entourage is back online and begins recording its location again.

In the end, the Entourage won't actually stop your car from being stolen, but it may give you the opportunity to help police catch thieves red-handed. It's a pricey proposition when you put all the costs together, especially if you want to use them for multiple vehicles, but the peace of mind it provides might be well worth the money, considering the alternative.

Disclaimer: Although we looked to compare the Quebec-based Boomerang system to the Entourage, the folks at Boomerang will be giving us a newer product to review some time this year.

Lamborghini: $400,000. Ferrari: $350,000; Spano: 500K Euro and Bugatti Veyron: $2.6-million

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