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Midlife Crisis Car or Family Truckster? Or Both?

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hellcatQ: What has 4-doors, goes 204 miles per hour and can 3-across with LATCH in the back seat?

A: It’s the 2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, of course.  The ultimate head-turning midlife crisis sedan that safely seats almost any family of 5.  Well, okay, maybe the updated Tesla Model S with “Ludicrous” mode is in the discussion, but who wants silent when you can let the whole downtown know you are passing through with the rumble of the massive V8?  Almost as distinctive as the original Hellcat!

 

I didn’t have time to pile in more carseats, as I was too busy revving this finely crafted machine to 115 mph on the track.  But don’t let that scare you like it did me! The back seat is pretty nice for carseats; it’s wide, has 3 full pairs of LATCH and no pesky seatbelt/LATCH crossover issues.  So, go ahead and put that rigid LATCH seat in the center, rear seat!  Sure there are deep bolsters on the rear seat cushion and seat back that can interfere with some wide carseats, but they will come in handy when you are pulling some G’s around hairpin turns with your teenagers in the back seat!  No worries in letting them drive, either.  Just hand them the black keyfob that limits output to a mere 500 horsepower.  Or enable “Valet” mode secured by your secret PIN code and your young driver will have to suffer with significant performance limitations and an inability to override traction or stability control;-)

2015-charger-gallery-srt-08But even with the red keyfob, there’s no reason to worry about the 707 horsepower or 650 lb-ft. of torque from the 6.2L supercharged HEMI V8.  This sedan stops on a dime with Brembo 15.4″ front and 13.8″ rear brakes, while Bilstein-tuned handling keeps it firmly on the road.  Of course it has plenty of airbags, a backup camera, bluetooth hands-free, lane keep assist, blindspot/cross-traffic alerts and a frontal collision warning/mitigation system.  Plus, you get a driving school course included for your $65,000 (includes destination charge and gas guzzler fee).  Don’t let the sticker shock daunt you, there’s also the very capable SRT 392 or the R/T Scat Pack with optional Technology Group for safe, suburban driving around $45,000 :-)

Sure, these are all RWD vehicles, so if you must have AWD with your midlife crisis, then consider the Grand Cherokee SRT. This one was surprisingly agile and fast on the track as well.   Not only does it do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, a top speed of 160mph and brake from 60-0 in 116 feet, but it tows 7200 lbs.!  This was a great day at the track with some awesome vehicles.  If you buy an SRT, I can only imagine the included track experience class is equally fun, so be sure to sign up.

And as for the Hellcat, did I mention the 0-60 time of around 3.5 seconds and the 11 second quarter-mile* capability?

*No children were subjected to excessive acceleration in the making of this blog

SRT

Thank you to Fiat Chrysler America, Midwest Automotive Media Association #MAMATrackSchool, CGI Motorsports (Thanks, Phil!) and Gingerman Raceway for this great event- it was a blast!

 

CarseatBlog’s Anniversary Amazon Prime Membership Giveaway

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By now you probably know this Wednesday, July 15th, is Amazon Prime Day! Tons of great deals for Prime members, supposedly more than on Black Friday. We’ll be updating the carseat and stroller deals here at CarseatBlog all night and day, so please stay tuned. But what if you aren’t a member? Well, of course there is a 30-day FREE trial. It’s a no-brainer! Try it out, score some great deals on Amazon Prime day and please use our link to support CarseatBlog when you do! Then you may cancel  before 30-days if you don’t find all the other perks to be worth the money.

But the perks are a great reason to stay a member. You get free 2-day shipping on most items stocked and sold by Amazon.com. Plus there are tons of free streaming TV shows and movies, millions of free streaming songs and select free books each month on Kindle First. Not to mention early access to lightning deals at Amazon and shoes at Myhabit.com, so you can score those all year long before they sell out to the public. Maybe $99 is still too much? No worries at all, we’re giving away one free Amazon Prime Gift Membership just in time* for Amazon Prime Day! And now’s a great time to give the gift of prime to someone else as a special Thank You!

 

Giveaway: (CONTEST CLOSED)

To enter, please leave a comment on this blog and then click on Rafflecopter to qualify yourself. For extra entries, follow the Rafflecopter instructions and visit our Facebook page and/or tweet about our giveaway!

Winner must be a resident of the USA or Canada for receipt of the Amazon.com or Amazon.ca Prime Gift Membership.  Only one prize will be awarded.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CarseatBlog editors are not eligible. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count. We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason. The contest will close on July 14th, 2015, on or around 8pm EST, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter.

Please note: If this is your first comment at CarseatBlog, or if you are using a different computer/device or a new email address, your comment may not appear immediately. It will not be lost; it may just take a few hours for it to be approved. Thank you for your understanding and patience as this is the only way we have to reduce comment spam.

*We will attempt to notify the winner via the email address provided on on or before July 15th, 2015.  Email delays and technical difficulties may delay prize delivery. We do not guarantee that the prize will be awarded or delivered in time for Amazon Prime Day, July 15th, 2015, but we will do our best to notify the winner immediately.

Convertible Carseat Ratings – June 2015 Consumer Reports Update

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Britax Marathon ClickTight, Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Graco Contender 65 Score High Ratings for Convertible Carseats

CR rockIn June, Consumer Reports added new models to their convertible carseat ratings.  A few newly tested products did quite well, with the Britax Marathon ClickTight and Boulevard ClickTight topping the overall ratings.  The Graco Contender 65 also did quite well overall, just above its competitors in the budget “Best Buy” category of highly rated models.

With new weight limits on the LATCH system of attaching carseats, seatbelt installations are back, especially for heavier forward-facing children.  So, we love the ClickTight system for super easy seatbelt installs, and the Boulevard CT (Our Review) and Advocate CT also offer exceptional rear-facing height limits and appear in our Recommended Carseats list.   We also share concerns at Consumer Reports about a possible harness issue on certain ClickTight convertible models.  While new models are revised to address this concern, we still advise parents to check the harness system periodically to verify.

It’s important to point out that this round of ratings is based on crash test results using their previous testing methodology (30 mph, FMVSS 213 standard bench, testing with 3-point lap/shoulder seatbelt or LATCH and no blocker plate). Convertible seat testing with their new crash test methodology is underway, but those results will not be published until some time later this year. For more info on Consumer Reports’ new crash testing program please see our previous blog on the subject:

The Safest Infant Carseats? New Crash Protection Ratings and Methods from Consumer Reports

Currently CR evaluates carseats on several points, including fit-to-vehicle, ease-of-usage, price and crash test performance. We can’t comment on specific scores but after our meeting with CR last year, we do have a general idea of how their ratings are assigned within these categories.

They break down the convertible carseat ratings into 3 categories:

  • Convertible seats rated to 40 lbs.
  • Convertible seats rated to weights higher than 40 lbs. (what we call “higher-weight harness” convertibles)
  • All-in-One seats that can be used rear-facing, forward-facing and also as a belt-positioning booster.

In the updated over 40 lbs. category, the Britax Marathon and Boulevard ClickTight models top the ratings, followed very closely by another of our Recommended Carseats, the Chicco NextFit.  After that, the rest of the Britax convertible lineup – Britax Advocate G4, Britax Boulevard G4, Britax Pavilion G4, Britax Marathon G4 and Britax Roundabout G4 all perform well. The Graco Contender 65Britax Roundabout G4 and the Evenflo SureRide were rated as “Best Buys” because they offer good value for their price but they also received good scores in all categories.  The Safety 1st Advance SE 65 was also added to the ratings with a very good crash protection score, but a middle-of-the-pack overall rating.

So, what is the “BEST” or “SAFEST” convertible carseat?  We are asked this all the time as Child Passenger Safety Technicians and it’s worth repeating the answer.  The BEST carseat is the one that fits your vehicle (installs tightly), fits your child (is appropriate for their age/weight/height), and that you can use correctly on every single ride. And of course it needs to fit your wallet too. The best carseat is not necessarily the most expensive carseat you can (or can’t) afford. And it’s not necessarily the carseat that matches the rest of your nursery collection or the one that everyone raves about online.  While no one can say which is the “SAFEST” carseat for any particular child or vehicle, if you’ve selected the “BEST” one for your own situation and install and use it correctly, then it will provide very good protection for your precious cargo.

While we think our Recommended Carseats list is a great place to start when shopping for the BEST carseat.  The seats on our list aren’t going to work for everyone and every situation. Remember – what works best for *your* child in *your* vehicle might not be the best choice for your sister or your neighbor or your friend, and that’s important. For example, a loosely installed carseat or one where you can’t easily adjust the harness to be snug on your child is not safe. A convertible carseat that doesn’t fit rear-facing in your car is not going to be the best choice for your child either.

The Ultimate Rear-Facing Convertible Carseat Space Comparison – Size Matters!

You can find Consumer Reports’ newest ratings on convertible seats at their website, www.consumerreports.org. Unfortunately, you have to be a paid subscriber to see the full ratings report.

Bicycle Helmet Ratings: Giro, Bell, Schwinn and Scott

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Comparison of Safe Bike Helmets for Older Kids and Adults: Bell Piston Review, Giro Revel Review, Schwinn Merge Review, Scott ARX Plus Review

In our previous blog on bicycle helmets, we covered some of the statistics involving brain injuries to cyclists.  While serious injuries are not uncommon for adults or kids, fatal injuries tend to be much more likely with increasing age.  That’s not only a big deal for tweens and teens, but especially for parents!  But how do you pick a helmet?  Here are a few tips:

  • Select one with a CPSC certified label.  This means it passed basic requirements and testing.
  • Make sure it fits correctly.  If it is too hard to adjust or doesn’t stay in place correctly, it may not be in the right spot to protect well after shifting around during a long ride.  Most helmets should fit snugly and should not move much front-to-back, side-to-side or twisting.  Have a question?  Try shopping at a local bike store and have an expert help you!
  • Select one for comfort.  If it is too hot, or pokes you or gives you a headache, you won’t wear it and it won’t protect you.  Ventilation and padding differ greatly and it’s not always the priciest models that are the best ones for you, because everyone has a different head and preference.
  • Choose a helmet for cycling or one labeled for dual or multi-sport use. Models specifically for other sports like skateboarding may not be as suitable for cycling use.
  • Select one you like.  Fashion may seem irrelevant for safety, but if you aren’t going to wear it, it won’t protect you.  Styles vary a lot, from motorcycle style with drab colors  to ultralight racing models with fancy designs.

Much like carseats, independent testing is difficult to find.  To my knowledge, only Consumer Reports® has done additional safety testing of select models in the USA.  Their ratings of 22 models are available to subscribers online and can be found in the June, 2015 issue of the magazine.  I don’t know if their testing is consistent with industry expert analysis, but much like carseats, it appears to be the only independent testing out there.

Consumer Reports also tested youth helmets.  Their top choice was the Bontrager Solstice Youth at $40, available online and at local bike stores and Trek stores.  For tweens, teens and adults, you probably need an adult sized helmet. Below, I have quick reviews on a few budget models that were recommended in CR’s ratings.  In addition to being best buys, all three received very good impact absorption scores.  All three have dial adjustments that ratchet to tighten and loosen the helmet.

Quick Reviews:

Giro Revel (Left), Schwinn Merge (Center) and Bell Piston (Right):

HelmetComparsionSide HelmetComparisonBack HelmetComparisonInside

I recently tested four helmets, ranging from $15 to $150.  Do you need to spend a fortune to protect your head, or does a bargain model work just as well?