Monthly Archive:: August 2012

Graco TurboBooster with Safety Surround Mini Review

The Graco Highback TurboBooster featuring Safety Surround is the latest variant of the very popular Turbo high back booster.  It is designed to fit children from 30-100 pounds in high back mode and from 40-100 pounds when converted to backless mode.  The main difference from the regular Turbo high back booster is the addition of Safety Surround.  This provides deeper side impact protection wings around the head and torso compared to the standard TurboBooster.  Otherwise, the new TurboBooster is very similar in dimensions as the standard model.  For example, it has the same maximum height in high back mode, so the tallest kids may have to use it in backless mode without the side impact protection until they pass the 5-step test.

This model also retains the other standard features, including two handy hide-away cup holders and height adjustable head restraint and arm rests.  A screw must still be removed to adjust each armrest, but unlike the standard highback model, the screws come pre-installed in a fully-assembled backless section.  Only the back needs to be attached out-of-the-box.  The original TurboBooster has been around for so long and has been so popular, there’s simply not much to add.  Newer versions of the original model have been updated to perform well in the IIHS booster testing and I would expect the Safety Surround version to do so as well.

The Graco TurboBooster with Safety Surround is available at Target in four colors shown below, Dahlia, Pearson, Rush and Harrington.  Like other Graco carseats, it is tested to meet or exceed all US standards in addition to the draft European side impact standard and Graco’s own side impact standards.

First Peek: Chicco NextFit 65 Convertible!

Today Chicco, USA unveiled their new prototype NextFit 65 convertible carseat at the Kidz In Motion (KIM) Conference in Orlando. We’ve been waiting for this seat for a looong time and it looks very, very promising!  *UPDATE – Chicco NextFit is now available for pre-order on Amazon! It will make its way to Canada eventually but US will get it first.

Some of the innovative NextFit 65 features include nine recline angle options; 2 bubble level angle indicators (one for rear-facing; one for forward-facing); SuperCinch LATCH tightening system which is so easy even my elderly mother-in-law could get a solid LATCH installation quickly and without effort; 2-position chest clip (more narrow setting for babies, wider setting for older kids).

Overall, it looks like a great new convertible and I’m looking forward to the final production model which we will be reviewing as soon as possible!

*Please keep in mind that all details and images below are preliminary.  This flyer was distributed at the 2012 Kids in Motion conference and may not be representative of the final version.


More info on the Chicco NextFit Convertible can be found on our update from the ABC Kids Expo.


Tallest Extended Rear-Facing Carseat? Try the Graco Size4Me 70!

My review of the Graco Size4Me 70 will be coming in the next few weeks.  Suffice to say that I really like it overall and it may well be added as one of our recommended carseats in the next update.  One of the few drawbacks of the Size4Me 70 was the 40″ stated rear-facing height limit, reducing the rear-facing potential of this very tall seat.

I am happy to say that effective immediately, this restriction is no longer in place and is retroactive to all Size4Me 70 seats already sold!  The new height limit is that the top of the child’s head must be at least 1” (2.54 cm) below the bottom of the red head support actuator when using the seat rear facing.  The head support may be placed in any of the adjustment positions provided that the shoulder harness is positioned at or below the child’s shoulders!

This change will make the Size4Me one of the very best models to keep your child rear-facing as long as possible all the way up to the 40 pound rear-facing weight limit!

2013 Infiniti JX35 Review: Carseats + Safety + Luxury = Win?

There aren’t a lot of options for luxury SUVs with 3-rows of seating for large families.  The 2013 Infiniti JX35 Luxury Crossover SUV tries to set the bar in terms hi-tech and luxury features, but to get them all, it comes at a steep price of over $55,000.  That’s well above its entry level price of around 40 large.  Perhaps the closest competitors we’ve reviewed would be the Acura MDX and Buick Enclave.  The MDX is sportier, though somewhat smaller, while the Enclave seems similar in performance if perhaps a hair larger than the JX.  So what sets the JX apart?  The most obvious factors are unique styling, a very comfortable ride, easy 3rd row access and the safety features included in the technology package.

The bevy of optional TLA safety features is quite impressive and sets it apart from most competitors.  Trekkies will liken it to safety “Shields”.  The $2200 Driver’s Assistance Package (DAP) starts with a Back-Up Collision Intervention (BCI) system that saved my loaded AWD model from a rear bumper basher by braking before a car zoomed past me in a parking lot.  That car was impossible for me to see, due to the large SUV with dark windows in the spot next to me.  Intelligent Brake Assist (IBA) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW) will apply brakes if its radar detects that you are approaching an object too quickly.  Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC) with Distance Control Assist (DCA) keeps you at a safe speed and distance in traffic on the highway.  Blind Spot Warning (BSW) alerts you with a light if a vehicle is in one of the large blind spots and an audible alarm sounds if you signal to merge to that lane.

The $3100 Technology Package includes everything above and adds Lane Departure Warning (LDW) that alerts you if you stray over the yellow or white lane lines on the road without signaling a merge.  In addition, it has Lane Departure Prevention (LDP) and Blind Spot Intervention (BSI).  These systems go beyond warnings and apply gentle braking on the opposite side of the vehicle from the detected threat.  This slightly slows and nudges the vehicle the other way to further alert you without affecting your steering control.   Finally, this package adds front seatbelts that are pretensioned automatically when a crash appears imminent.  Unfortunately, you must also get the $2950 Deluxe Touring Package (DTP) to get the tech package, making it a $6000 option.  OMG!

Combined, these features could potentially lull an otherwise good driver by providing too much sense of security.  On the other hand, even I benefitted a few times in my one week test drive.  A tired or inattentive driver (not to mention a typical parent with a crying baby or whining kids in back) may find these features to be a literal lifesaver!  We had hoped to see a similar system in Volvo’s City Safety package on the XC60 we tried to evaluate one a couple years ago. If it’s anything like Infiniti’s system, it may be worth the extra coin.  On the other hand, these systems are not foolproof.   The lane departure system can give false alarms and the backing system can miss smaller obstacles.  So, these features are a great aid to good drivers, but should not be relied upon to take the place of careful visual checks and alert driving.  They are off by default, so they are easily disabled.

A brief comment on driving the JX35.  It’s a great cruiser for the family, but it’s no more fun to drive than a good minivan.  On the plus side, it’s quieter and more comfortable than most minivans and for a price, it’s loaded with just about every hi-tech feature you could want.  My main ding is visibility, which is mediocre.  The optional AroundView is the best camera system I’ve seen.  It mitigates the marginal natural visibility for the driver, but you have to buy yet another pricey premium package ($5,000) to get it.  The 265hp engine and continuously variable transmission are smooth and get it going quickly enough.  Fuel economy was reasonable for such a heavy vehicle.  The computer indicated 25mpg on a short road trip, but closer to 18mpg around town.  The EPA says 18 city/23 highway for the AWD version, 18/24 for the 2WD model.

On to child passenger seating.  How about that child safety seat feature you’ve seen in commercials?  The one where you can flip forward the passenger side of the second row bench seat to access the third row, even if a child seat is installed there?  Yes, it works and is probably the easiest system of its type in any SUV.  Keep in mind that the carseat must be installed with LATCH (rather than the seatbelt), something that may be possible only at 40-48 pounds or less, depending on the carseat.  Also, a rear-facing child seat won’t offer nearly the same access to the third row.  Here’s a demonstration, please don’t try this at home with a child in the carseat when you flip it forward!

Safety 1st Go Hybrid Booster Review – A Fantastic Product for Families on the Go!

I own the original version of this unique and highly-portable child restraint so I was eager to compare it to the newest model manufactured by Dorel. Since I love my old “Go” I wondered how I would feel about this new model. Would I feel the Dorel “Go” love? I’m happy to report that I do!  I <3 the Safety 1st Go Hybrid Booster!

What is a Hybrid Booster?

The Safety 1st Go Hybrid Booster is a highly portable, forward-facing only child restraint system.  It combines the advantages of a 5-point harness with the portability of a booster.  It does this by combining a backless booster with a flexible, almost vest-like upper body restraint system that requires a tether anchor to secure it and hold it in an upright position. Ideally, this CR is designed to be installed using the LATCH system that is available in most vehicles made since 2003. If you don’t have lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle but you have top tether anchors – you can still install this restraint using the seatbelt and the top tether but it’s not as easy as a LATCH installation. Actually, it’s a pain in the neck to install with seatbelt so I tend to recommend the Go Hybrid  only if you have designated LATCH anchors in the seating position where you will install this seat.