So, I’ve been itching for a new seat. My husband, while noticing the various seats stashed around the house and garage- and forgetting that his truck was seat-less at that moment- challenged my desire. I was quick to remind him how nice it is to have extra seats when one of us unexpectedly takes the “other” car or a kid pees through two seats in one day- both of which had just happened that week.  I reminded him that all my seats were purchased at significant discounts.  Then, there is the issue that my Radian won’t go in the third row of my Mazda and the Recaro is about to expire. My reasoning was falling on deaf ears. I was worried he was contemplating about drugging me with Benadryl to cure the itch. Then, it came to me: the blog NEEDS a review. It would be a service to all mankind- or at least mommykind- to do a review. I added the ammunition that I haven’t bought a car seat in (drumroll please) three years. I reminded him of the new toys he’s gotten in the last three years. He smiled. He caved. I didn’t even have to get out the poochy lip.

So, the object of my desire- what is it? A $300+ seat that I had yet to lay eyes on? Nope, I wanted a Graco Nautilus.  See, it’s a seat that all my kids could use- though I won’t put my 18 month old in for a while yet it since he’s much safer rear-facing. My 3.5 year old can use it harnessed and my 7 year old can use it as a booster seat. It fits in any back seat in my car. It has the world’s coolest cubbies and cupholders.  The Nautilus Elite model I’m reviewing has an MSRP $229. You can get the standard model for $139- $179 or less depending on cover style and how much bargain hunting you are willing to do.  Darren’s First Look Review can be found here.

The Elite version has a few nice extras. It has lockoffs, which are great for anyone installing in an older vehicle without locking seatbelts or in a vehicle that may have problems with tipping or other rare but pesky problems.  It also has adjustable headwings that pivot in or out depending on your child’s head size and preferences. My daughter loves headwings that are cozy- but my son likes a more open seat- so it’s perfect. The Elite version comes in two cover choices: “Gabe” and “Monti,” which is shown in these photos. The height limits, weight limits, and dimensions of the seat are the same as the standard Nautilus.

My first surprise with this seat was that my 7 year old fit harnessed. It shouldn’t have shocked me since she isn’thuge (47″ and 55#s) but it makes the seat so much more versatile. She’s been in a booster full time for just under a year, but she rode harnessed in it for a few days just for me. You can see she has at least two inches of torso growth left in the harness which is impressive.  She said the seat is very comfortable and padded. As expected the cup holder was a hit even though she has one where she usually sits.  The fit as a booster was wonderful, even with the wacky shoulder belt position in the third row of my Mazda. She will be writing her own mini-review for the blog soon.

After a few days of watching his sister ride in the seat my 3 1/2 year old (32 lbs) was ready for his turn. It sounded more like, “Mommy, I want to ride in THAT seat now. My turn!” He fit really well and liked the extra padding. I like the padding for extra potty accident protection. One pad is much easier to wash than the whole seat! I also love how the belly pad makes it easy to get the crotch strap buckled by preventing it from getting stuck in the seat under the child. His shoulders are right at the second slot fromthe bottom so he has tons of room in the seat. He’s used to a plush and pricey Recaro Young Sport, so the fact that he says this seat is comfy is saying something since he’s my picky child.

 My preliminary experiment revealed that a standard Nautilus cover does fit on the Elite, although there are no holes for the buttons that adjust the headrest on the standard cover. So, it looks a bit like a toddler about to get a new tooth, minus the low-grade fever.

All in all, I love the Nautilus- and the Elite version has some nice features that would definitely be worth the extra cost for some people. I would highly recommend the Elite for anyone who may be installing in an older vehicle without locking seatbelts or anyone that likes the adjustable headwings.