As I said in our unboxing video, we will not be doing a full review, because the new Frontier 85 model with Side Impact Cushion Technology is nearly identical to the original Britax Frontier 85 that we have already reviewed.  Instead, if you have read our previous review, I will just point out the major differences in the new version plus a few pros and cons.  The Britax Frontier 85 SICT is shipping now and has a list price of $339 (currently on sale for $242.99 at Amazon.com).  First, the review!

So, the major differences mentioned in the video:

  1. Side Impact Cushion Technology may reduce the forces for occupants and adjacent passengers in a side impact
  2. SICT makes the seat almost 5 inches wider at the shoulders and could make short belt path installs more difficult when routing the shoulder belt
  3. New 2-piece  cover is easier to remove, offers better access to the short belt path & owner’s manual storage pouch and also has a more durable fabric
  4. Use of the top tether is strongly recommended, but is now optional up to the 85 pound harness limit.  So, Britax instructions should no longer conflict with maximum top tether weight limits in some vehicle owner’s manuals*

 

A few advantages of the Frontier 85 SICT:

  • Potential for reduced injury risk in a side impact, especially in an outboard seat
  • Top harness height setting is very high (about 20 inches!), allowing taller kids to remain in the harness longer than competitive models
  • Booster height adjustment is also very tall.  Unlike some other products, most kids will not outgrow it by height until they can be seated safely without a booster
  • Three installation methods (LATCH, short seatbelt path, long seatbelt path), one of which should work in most vehicles.
  • 9-year lifespan

A few disadvantages:

  • Like any high-weight limit combination seat, it is heavy and bulky.  The side impact cushions make it very wide so it takes up a lot of room.  You may not be able to fit a passenger or another carseat next to it in many vehicles, unless you have wide seats, like the 2011 Honda Odyssey in the video.
  • Seatbelt installations can be more difficult than average and may be incompatible in a few vehicles, but typically result in a secure fit in most vehicles.
  • Relatively expensive

A few other notes- The new covers are not compatible with the original Frontier 85.  The new guidance regarding the top tether use is not retroactive to the original Frontier 85.  Also, here is the video for long/reverse belt path installation that I mentioned.  You can find the official product page for the Frontier 85 SICT at the Britax website.

The new Frontier 85 SICT is a nice improvement from Britax.  In theory, I think the external side impact cushions have the potential to reduce the risk of injury in side impacts for both the occupant and an adjacent passenger.  Britax claims they can reduce side impact crash energy up to 45%.  The new cover design and fabric are also great, so hopefully we will see more pattern and color offerings in the future.  If you have enough room in your vehicle, it’s a great choice for kids 2 years and over.  With impressive height/weight limits and a 9-year lifespan, it really will be the last carseat they ever need!  When you consider that, the sale price as low as $242.99 at Amazon is quite reasonable.

* We always recommend top tether use, unless it is clearly prohibited or limited by one of the owner’s manuals.  Some manufacturers and agencies endorse arbitrary or unpublished limits on top tether use, sometimes well below the weight ratings of the child restraint system.  Due to inconsistent guidance, regulations and instructions, it is almost impossible in some cases for parents to determine when they can and cannot use the LATCH system.  Please check your vehicle and child restraint owner’s manuals carefully for such limits.